Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Friendships: Choosing 'em for a Lifetime?

So I've been thinking a lot about friendships--in the last few weeks, in the last few years, ha, ok really I always think a lot about friendships!

Generally speaking, I've always been one to be fairly selective in my friendships. As a young kid, it took me a long time to make friends, even or maybe especially with all the moving around we did in the military. In those awkward late elementary and middle school years, I could never seem to find a decent friendship niche. And in high school, I was always friends with the boys (less grudges, less petty judgment, and I was perpetually that girl with a boyfriend anyway....), until I finally landed in with a randomly thrown together group of 3-4 amazing gals. Those gals still speak to my heart, even if I only get to see most of them at max once a year and maybe talk twice more than that...and that's if we're lucky. Some of us have drifted and become other people, we don't always agree with the choices the others make, but there's something about the fact that no matter how much time passes, our hearts still speak the same language when we get together again. (Hence why I'm looking forward to scooping one of these gals up and hitting the road to visit another in Arizona....)

My year in Argentina pushed me way outside my usual self, but the few friends I made there (even with the language barrier) and I still have similar interests to this day. I've also continued to maintain contact with them and my last two host families (including my 11 host siblings total!). In college, again, I struggled to find new friends. I've never been much into the party scene and in general, I was a pretty determined and idealist college student. Luckily another of my closest gal friends from high school married a guy from high school who was going to college with me...and while the three of us are very different, we shared some of the same friends for the first two years (and that gal is one of my best friends and more like a sister to me than any of the rest). Then my last year of undergrad I moved in with a few wonderful gals, and was able to bond with a couple of great gals from my social work program (including my gal N!).

The most continual fun I've ever had occurred with a solid group of people VERY different from myself who I met during my first grad program. It was one of the first times I was ever the life of the party and really let my outgoing personality show through. It was an incredibly fun year, taught me a lot about myself, made me lose some of my other like-minded friends, but all things together the people I met and who I was during that year were definitely more seasonal than anything else. My second grad program again found me struggling to meet people who I really connected with....but my second year of the program (mainly due to a few select classes and my GRA position) allowed me to establish bonds with some great gals I'm still in touch with today. Somehow there's been something about grad school and my employment opportunities that take some of the guess work out of finding similar values---you already know that you have stuff in common and it's just trying to figure out if the rest of your lives and values are similar enough.....

Being an enlisted military spouse who was highly-educated, professionally-minded, and pretty liberal was again a major challenge, as it was rare to find others with similar opinions and values....and I so desperately missed my like-minded gals and supportive guys from back home. I again had to attempt to push myself way outside my comfort zone and deny other aspects of myself in order to interact socially and I was so relieved when I finally landed a job with several other like-minded coworkers. Yet there's also something about the military family....that the few other milspouses that I did connect with (Heather & Katie--you two being some of them!) will forever be close to my heart!

One of the things about me is that while I'm incredibly selective in my friendships, I'm also extremely loyal once I let you in. I usually have to see that people really are who they say they are and that they're loyal in return...but then I have the tendency to really stand by my lifetime friends over the test of time, even as our lives divulge into different paths. I think some of the reasons I'm so selective in who I want as my friends however, is that I hope to cut down on losing friends when paths do divulge because if you have enough in common then different life circumstances shouldn't really matter AND because I want to be accepted for who I am, which means free to be opposed to certain lifestyle choices/behaviors and able to speak/live freely about the values that I hold.

All of this comes to mind for three reasons:
1) I recently read "Why is it Hard to Make Friends Over 30?" in the New York Times and had posted it on Facebook---only to have several people comment that they were in complete agreement. The funny thing about this is that while I agree with the article, I also find that the issues presented (proximity, interests, current life stage) are things I've used in the context of selecting friends for a long time. I definitely can see how many of these issues are more of an issue as lives divulge and schedules change however. I'm also realizing that around 30 seems to be another time when there's a push toward larger professional goals...and with that can come a change in behavioral/life expectations (more to come...).

2) One thing that my separation from Tall D has again reminded me is that 40 minute distance from friends does matter. Originally it was a complete adjustment for me when we moved back from Louisiana to find that the friendships that I'd so dreamed about rejoining in Portland had grown in different directions and that having half my friends live across the city also meant that I'd rarely get to see them. Although the few friends I had on this side of town, also had lives of their own and not much room to add me/us back into them..... Thus our move back was much more lonely than I'd ever imagined. My friends have been incredibly supportive during the separation, but I've also again come to realize that I'm probably at a stage when I do need to make some new connections that are located more on my side of town!! (Which is probably one reason why it's been so convenient to hang out with Tall D AND one of the reasons why I'm so stoked about my new coworker friend T!)

3) And lastly...One of Tall D's and my biggest issues is a difference in how we socialize and in how we approach friendships. While I'm incredibly selective and loyal, Tall D is more up for seasonal, good time friendships and he's more protective in letting people get to really know him. I on the other hand, like to have friendships that I can "be real" with and I tend to lay my life/values/opinions out for those that are regularly a part of it. I also don't really enjoy having to explain why I believe the way I do or feeling like a weird-o for believing the way I do, which is probably why I generally choose friends that have similar values, behavioral choices, and viewpoints. I don't know that either way is better than the other....but it's hard to have common ground when he and I view something so important from such different lenses...and it's always made me apprehensive about how to "be" around Tall D's friends and some of his family. Additionally Tall D is definitely more of a good time individual, while I'm somewhat *ahem* maybe snobbier in this realm. I definitely like to have an overly good time a couple times a year, but the rest of the time I prefer to keep things pretty low key. I'm pretty mindful of trying to maintain a professional/responsible demeanor most of the time. Blame it on how I was raised, blame it on being a (slight) control freak, blame it on professional aspirations, blame it on this sense of what I think is "right"....but it's just how I am and I really don't think there's anything wrong with it. And for better or for worse, I've always pretty much avoided continually socializing with those that view it from the other side.... While I definitely hope it's not the case, in some ways it'll be pretty ironic if the end of us as a couple is somewhat based in an inability to mesh on the socialization scale....especially since he's honestly one of my best friends....

So what are your thoughts on friendships? How do you select who your friends are? And how do your spouse/partner/other agree or differ on friendships/socialization? I'd definitely love any comments!

1 comment:

  1. I actually have very few friends and it is by my choice. When I was in high school I had a series of events in my life (that is the easiest explanation!) that caused me to really be myself. I decided that if people didn't like who I was, they were not worth my time. I value my time immensely, and so I really didn't put a lot of time into people that I didn't click with. Probably the wrong way to go about life, but it has worked for me :-) My best friend from high school is still my best friend, and I have a wonderful sister-in-law that I have great relationships with.

    As far as like minded people - i just don't see them in my area. Maybe they are here, but I can't seem to find them. I have an easy time finding very crunchy people (like myself) but then they are so liberal and not very welcoming of my very libertarian ideas. And then I have other people that have my very libertarian ideas, but are convinced I am a losing it because I am concerned about the environment and don't want to eat meat. I swear, I just latch on to the most extreme views that contradict each other :-)

    But, I have found a great community of people online that seem to be open to my craziness, and I find that even though most of us are no where close to local, it works. Does that make me a big nerd? Probably. But, I will take my few close friends, and then the community I have made online over acquaintances that I am not real with.

    As far as my husband goes...he had a million friends in high school and college, but after we got married and had kids it has narrowed down quite a bit. I think in some ways he would love to have all those people around him again - but I think that is mainly because we have a 2 and 4 year old, and everyone needs a break once in a while :-)

    Can my comment be any longer?