I’ve had a lot of practice making friends in my lifetime. I’ve lived all over the country – Seattle, Jacksonville, South Texas, Knoxville, the Lake Michigan area, Pennsylvania and Memphis. In each of those places, I’ve had to start from scratch in making friends. It’s not easy to do, and it can be disheartening at times. At all times, I’ve had to face rejection.
The first time I moved away from home was college. I went to Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond LA. I lived in a dorm, so I fairly quickly made acquaintances and had a group to hang with. It doesn’t mean it was easy to make friends, though. My first attempts taught me a lot about friendships. First of all, its a very tricky thing to be a roommate with a best friend. My first college friendship didn’t make it because we had difficulty navigating “living together” issues. And, of course, college friendships are based more on having fun and mutual interests than anything more substantial. My friend Angel was different. She didn’t even come back to SLU the second semester, but I was in her wedding, and we still remain friends to this day.
After I was married the first time, I moved to Jacksonville FL. The first really good friend I had there was Meagan. We are friends on Facebook now. I met her in the hallway in front of a Manpower office during the lunch hour. We were both just out of college, and we were looking for work. The office was closed for lunch. So, we started talking about how we were hoodwinked into thinking that if we got a college degree we’d have it made as far as gaining employment. We connected over that, and I took my first really big risk in building a friendship. I walked over to her before I left and said, “I think we have some things in common. I’m looking to make friends. Would you like to lay out in the sun or something sometime?” She said she would. We ended up having a great friendship until I moved away, and we slowly drifted apart.
I continued to repeat that pattern whenever I moved to a new place. I was constantly (and still am) on the lookout for people who:
I read a book early on in my life that taught me a lot about building friendships. It’s called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s an old book, but its principles still hold true today. It seems that people love to talk about themselves, and, if you are trying to make friends, help people to do that. It helps that I find people really interesting. I love to have deep conversations and understand what makes them tick. It amazes me how unique we each are. And, yet, there are things that are universal that we can all relate to. Of course, there are people I don’t like and don’t get along with, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fabulous people. They just don’t mesh with me. I learned long ago that I don’t have to be friends with everybody, but I do have to be respectful.
I’m pretty transparent, and, if you’ve read my blog, you can see that. I’ve found that people will reciprocate when I take a risk and open myself up to them. It’s a scary thing to do, and I’m always afraid of the judgment that might come into play. At times, I have been judged, and I have been rejected. But, for the most part, the truly wonderful people that I have met can related to whatever I shared, and we bond over that. And, to be honest, if I can’t be myself and transparent with you, I don’t need you in my inner circle. There’s no point in playing a part. I have to be me, and I want you to be you…..warts and all.
Friendships run their course, too, and I’ve had to be willing to let them die their natural death. Some people are friends forever. Others are friends while I’m in a certain location or job. I have some friends that come and go as we navigate life events. There have been a few friendships that I’ve tried to resurrect after they have run their course, but it just doesn’t work. When a friendship is done, it’s done. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love them anymore. It’s just a natural ebb and flow. That’s why its important for me to always be in “building” mode. I’m always interested in getting to know new people. They may be my next best friend.
For my 50th birthday, I asked all of my family and friends to give me something representative of their relationship with me. Some gave me gifts that reminded them of me…artwork, a homemade stone picture frame and a homemade yoga calendar. Some wrote me letters of what I have meant to them over the years. Others drew paintings, and kids drew pictures. One friend whom I met when she helped me through my divorce, prayed for me every day for a year. Several ladies from my Thursday Night Dinners bought me dining room chairs. Another friend, a cook, hosted a formal dinner party for me and 8 of my friends. It was the most fabulous thing I ever did for myself, asking people to show me how I show up in their lives.
Each person I have ever loved has added depth and intimacy and wisdom to my life. Some have brought pain, sadness or conflict. I have learned from them all. Each friendship is as unique as the individual. If I count you among my friends, know that I intentionally set out to get to know you. You are that special! It’s a reflection on you and my great desire to fill my life with wonderful people who inspire me. I work really hard to develop friendships. They give meaning to my life.