After spending several months now with only my parents and dogs as company, I’ve done a lot of thinking about friendships. I left behind many close friends and many more acquaintances in DC, and have yet to make new friends here in California, although I’m highly anticipating meeting people as soon as I make my next move.
In the fourth months since I’ve left, I’ve heard from some friends quite frequently, through texts, emails, online chat, or even handwritten letters (my favorite!). Other people that I thought would be in touch, I haven’t heard from at all, and it’s disappointing, and truthfully, hurtful. And then there are others still that have surprised me by checking in with me, and giving me updates on their lives – people I wouldn’t have thought to hear from.
With change in location and plans always comes change in friendships. Some are to be expected, some are disappointing, and some are refreshing. But more than just accepting that friendships come and go, is accepting the substance of those relationships, and coming to terms with the fact that some of them are surface, fleeting, or specific. I read a blog post this morning about how with the evolution of digital networking, our “friendships” may seem to be deep and wide, but in fact, so many of our connections aren’t really connections at all – they are just people we met once, or perhaps even if we spent more significant time with them, they held a specific purpose in our life at that moment: they were the friend of a friend that was always at brunch or happy hour, or the former coworker that you were friendly with, but no longer see since you left the organization.
And then, what about all of those close friends that you spent hours with, over wine or beer, at celebrations and summer outings…what of them? It suddenly hits me that I don’t really know anything about these people, and nor do they know anything about me. Sure, I may know what they do for a living or that they play kickball on the weekends, and they may know what I do for a living and that I really like Corgis, but not much more. It hits me that one of the reasons I was ready to escape DC is that so many hours were spent talking about stuff that doesn’t matter, and a lot of it was negative. Commiserating about work. Gossiping about friends. Idle chatter about stuff happening in the city. It was like this giant juggling act of getting together with people because that’s what’s expected of us, when much of the time, we didn’t even really want to do it. I can barely count all 10 fingers as I think about the friends that I had real, deep conversations with – about books we read, and how our families and history have made us who we are, what our dreams are and where we’re going, our deep-seated fears and our moments of pure happiness and accomplishment.
Some of what I’m saying may piss people off, people that I hung out with. And that’s okay. I’ll say first that I’m grateful for all of my friends, no matter how close we were or weren’t – because life is full of all kinds of friendships, and some are deeper than others. But more than ever, as I spend week after week figuring out what I want to do with my life and figuring out what’s really, truly important to me, I’m not afraid to shed some layers I don’t need, and I’m not ashamed of expecting my friends to be the best they can be – authentic, caring, supportive, adventurous, and true – to me, and to themselves. Friendship isn’t about judging, and it’s not about trying to fix someone else’s problems. It’s not selfish, and it’s not about convenience. So I’m going to do my best to be the friend that I would want to have, and not focus on the relationships that give me more heartache than joy.
There is so much more to life and to friendships than to talk about work and people on Twitter day in and day out – because there is so much more to each of us as individuals, and we all deserve a chance to really be ourselves in front of our friends.