“I am not going to be your friend because you are not nice to me” my 4-year-old promptly announced to his friend as they both continued to pout and play. Everyone there very well knew that indeed, they were going to be each other’s friends.
They will be friends as long as they are in the same class or until one of the parent, most likely non-verbally, communicates to the parent that “I am not going to be your friend because you are not nice to me” I mostly joke about the parental tiff, but you get the point.
We have ALL been there and sometimes we have handled conflicts with grace and courtesy, and sometimes we have learned what to do next time!
Friendships are Friendships – Childhood or Adulthood. Fundamentally, we choose and careful curate a set of people that we proudly call friends.
Then, enter Hierarchy:
My (work, activity, group, parent – insert anything you wish) Friends.
My BEST Friend.
Sometime in early childhood the idea of a single friend who is above all forms. It is beside the point that this best friend is a moving target because … well, it is accepted, assumed and expected that we evolve through childhood.
We want companionship.
We want to belong.
We want to converse about our interests.
We want to do activities together.
We want to plan vacations together ( Side Note: Do these plans every materialize? Asking for a friend)
We want to be wanted and we want to be with others.
We want reciprocation and respect.
We want knowledge.
We want laughs.
We want help and to help.
We want to get along.
We want to agree to disagree, gracefully.
We want joy from our friends and we want to give them joy.
Often, we want all of this from one friend or we want all of our friends to have all of this.
Read that again … doesn’t it sound like a lot for one person?
I love friendships and it is what I crave the most after my family. I am insanely grateful to have such friendships, so many of them. The power of surrounding yourself with uplifting, fun and a supportive crowd is phenomenal.
As a South Asian transplant who has spent 16yrs in India and 23yrs and counting in the USA …. I have not only experienced friendships but also ‘immigrant friendship’ which I can best describe as a friendship which is initiated, created, crowded and eventually either fiercely loved, ruthless judged but maintained, strongly disliked or casually enjoyed. As an immigrant, you leave home to make another place home. It makes one want to hold on dearly to anything that has a familiarity or reminder of home, including people. It becomes a friendship solely based on familiarity and not focused on a personality match, sometimes. Sometimes it is magic and sometimes a gimmick!
Until then here are my five learnings from this adult playground. These learnings come from my mistakes/my observations and not in any particular order:
Friendships are built on an open heart & open mind
The possibilities for friendship are endless but our ingrained bias limits us. While preferences are normal the ingrained bias could be worked on. Those invisible checkboxes that we need to check, limit us.
Let go of the checklist and the world opens up. Only you know your checkbox(es) but the most common ones, in my observation, are around race & age. Get over them and see how beautifully you get rewarded with varying perspectives that add to your life.
Friendships need respect, reciprocation, and room.
A large part of friendship is planning: To Meet up, To Converse and To do things together. It’s the small things: If you agree to attend, then participate. If you are invited or asked, respond in a timely manner. If you want to be respected, respect back. Friendship is not a free pass to be disrespectful and the moment you treat your friend as an option until ‘a better plan/person comes along’ – you are disrespecting the friendship.
Be there, if you can. If you cannot, make it clear.
Also, someone’s lack of participation is not about you. Not everything is about you! Friendship needs room to accept and decline participation in a friend’s life without judgment. In the end, it is for each individual to decide which friendships to nurture and which one to let live organically.
Friendships need more than gossip
I could have worded this to read – Friendships need substance but it will dilute what I want to articulate.
I am not beyond a respectful chuckle or two about someone with someone else. The gossip I refer to here is the kind that is used as a basis to form a relationship. That kind that defines your friendship and that is the only type of conversation material that friendship thrives on.
Also, if someone is talking to you about someone in their absence. They are talking about you in your absence to someone.
Friendship needs substance – it could be funny memes, politics, pop culture and anything …… just not negative judgment, all the time.
Friendships are not created equal
It is natural to connect with people based on our current phase of life. It is also OK to connect with people for a specific reason. Rather than lament what the friendship doesn’t give, just accept it for what joyous purpose it serve and nurture it just for that.
Not everyone has to be your everything – with some I enjoy conversations over wine and with some, I want to take a cooking class! Enjoy what your friend brings to your life and make peace with that much, it’s enough and it’s lovely.
Friendships have phases
Allow your friends the time to be in their phase and expect the same from them.
Sure, I would love an uninterrupted adult conversion but my 4 year old has a differing view. So, unless I get him a a playmate the chances for my conversation are slim!
We tend to gravitate towards friends in a similar phase of life and we miss the other ones. One day both of us will find a way back. Just give it time. If we don’t find a way back then let’s just cherish what we had!
A whole lot of fun & love sprinkled with some practicality builds some solid friendships — these are ones I have and I am so very proud of my friends! Thank you for being my friend!
“A friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be.” – Winnie the Pooh.