turns out, you can't be good friends with everyone (aka the hardest lesson i've learned this year)21 Sep 2016
i’m sure this lesson is a composite of many different things i’ve read and heard and learned from people wiser than me. but over the course of the last two years (and really mostly this year), it’s become very clear to me that it’s actually a terrible idea to try and operate at the same level of friendship with everyone.
there was an episode of some podcast (i’m thinking it was a ted radio hour) where they were discussing the failure of community in retirement homes. the operators of the facility tried everything to get people to make new friends. when they finally figured out why people weren’t interested in the community-building activities, it boiled down to one simply quote:
“realistically, there isn’t enough time to make another life-long friend and i’d rather spend time with the few i have left than try and make new ones.”
that lesson has really stuck with me.
additionally, as i continue to build out my personal system, it’s clearer and clearer to me that “the trouble is you think you have time” (jack kornfield’s fake buddha quote). so, i’m still looking for the balance, but i’ve just come to settle in the reality that i can’t be close with everyone. and there are actually some really good benefits to knowing that and acting on that knowledge.
the upsides of this lesson:
- i am now several years into relationships that (i hope) will be with me for the rest of my life. in pragmatic terms (which isn’t actually how i evaluate relationships), the value of a conversation with someone who has known me for years, is WAY more meaningful than a million conversations with people who barely know me. of course, that doesn’t mean i avoid new people and it doesn’t at all mean i don’t love new people in my life less, but i don’t give them the same priority. it might sound harsh, but if you think about it, it’s actually pretty straightforward and logical.
- going deep with a few friends means i actually have people i can count on. when i come to town, or need a hug, or need a couch to sleep on, i know who’s in my corner. always. i heard about a study the other day that discussed how many americans didn’t feel like they had one real friend they could count on in an emergency. of course, that’s a very particular stat, but still, the point is that putting a conscious effort into your friendships is beneficial.
- i have learned to feel 100% fine saying no to random hangout meetings. i feel fantastic about saying no most of the time because i know that i’m making sure that, by conserving my energy, i can show up fully for my close friends.
the downsides of learning this lesson:
- often i have to say no to people i love.
- sometimes people get upset when i don’t want to hang out with them.
- i generally have a weaker sense of everything that’s going on around me.
but still, all that said, i’m pretty confident in my belief that friend time (and all energy) is limited. i’m committed to not wasting it on vague social networking. of course, i still meet new people and stuff, but my priority is my close friends. after i’ve made time for those folks will i fit in random stuff.
being conscious (and explicit, at least with yourself) about who your inner circle might sound mean, but it’s actually sane. i often think social networks (facebook, twitter) have made us forget that we actually need close friends and friendships.
it’s really sad that even though many of us are more “connected” than we’ve ever been, we feel more alone than ever before.
the fix is easy: pick your friends and commit. it’s not pretty (based on our current societal norms), but it’s healthy. and good.