Friendship, especially as you enter adulthood, is a strange beast. In my case, my main social group still largely consists of old friends who will always be friends. However, that dynamic is shifting as we have less and less in common. And in some cases, they’re more important to me than I am to them because my circle is smaller. At the same time, newer friendships, at least for me, are not as deep as those I formed in my oh-so-formative teen years.
The ever-fabulous Sarah of Yes and Yes posted on the concept of a friendship detox not long ago. I LOVE the idea. It goes something like: true friends are the ones who would seek you out should you delete your Facebook account, not respond to texts, basically fall off the face of the modern earth. (Again, not speaking for anybody else, but the number of people I can confidently say yes to on that count is uncomfortably low.)
The other point brought up was the need to surround yourself with uplifting people. In other words, friends who support and encourage you, act as role models and basically inspire you with their presence.
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by incredibly intelligent and talented people both professionally and personally. I do have a couple of friends who still haven’t found their groove, and that’s fine too. So it goes, I guess – you have friends at a similar level, some achieving at a higher one, and a few who look up to you. The golden mean at work.
What happens when that rule is upset and the balance thrown off, though? I suppose I’m fortunate in that I like T’s friends. But it’s always seemed to me, in almost all cases, a friendship not of equals. From my point of view, his closest buds take more than they give and always seem to be needing rides somewhere or to borrow a few bucks. I laughed when he recently told one of them that the reason I don’t like hanging out with their particular group is because they’re dropkicks. It’s true – I don’t have the patience to tolerate them for long – they’re entertaining, but quite frankly, dumb as wallpaper.
I hit him up about that – because it occurred to me that not only is he almost entirely surrounded by no-hopers at work (the type who are content with a pretty basic lot in life and are unlikely to go anywhere) but in general. By the way, hinting that someone could do better friend-wise is way more awkward than hinting they could do better romantically.
His response was thought-provoking, to say the least. Those friends are loyal. They reply to texts straightaway. They don’t have much but are generous with what they have when they have it (it’s always feast or famine on payday). They make good sidekicks, I suppose, and maybe it’s nice to feel like you have your life more together than someone else.
And they understand his family. Being cut from the same class cloth, they aren’t fazed by the inevitable drunken ugliness that ends every family occasion that we’re obliged to attend. It’s all familiar ground to them. Unlike classier, more accomplished friends, who wouldn’t bother coming to the next one, having been scared off.
(Although I probably wouldn’t bother with his family either if I didn’t have to – and is that reason enough to write me off? – I know what he means about those friends; they’re more good-time acquaintances now than real friends, whose lives have drifted far from the axis of ours.)
It seems to me too, that sometimes male friendship ebbs and flows. Friends he used to spend a lot of time with he rarely sees now, partly because we don’t live in the same neighbourhood, and partly because they’ve taken to more expensive pastimes like trips away for skiing and fishing. Although on second thought, that’s probably equally applicable to female friendship.
Can you thrive without friends who inspire you, or can you derive it from other sources? To what extent do friends define you?