The following is dedicated to the people in my life who have made life worth living. Yes, always, but most importantly recently.
Something I have discovered recently is that I have one of the most valuable and enviable things a human can possess – true friends – people who are worth celebrating and who celebrate me in return.
*Gag* ok, yes, I get it… That’s a sappy statement, to say the least, and I guess I didn’t discover it recently as much as it has been intensely and continuously reaffirmed during this difficult time. One of these sappy-moment-inducing friends recently sent the above image, in a group chat, in response to the fact that our group is celebrating almost 10 years of friendship. It was our “friendaversary” that caused me to think about the decision making process that goes into choosing to stay invested in someone’s life. Not necessarily in the form of a romantic relationship, I have definitely been thinking about that A LOT recently, but in the form of an honest-to-God, this is me, deal with it or gtfo, but if you like it then lets get a beer, friendship.
If you think about it, friendship is one of the most beautiful things in the world because you are mutually agreeing to put up with someone else’s bullshit in order to receive the warm and fuzzy feelings that come with tolerance, acceptance, and even love. Yes, a friendship should be the foundation for any romantic relationship, but really, it’s a literal foundation for life… To be sought even without the guarantee of the fun perks that come with romance. To me, friendship is the support infrastructure you stand on when all of the ones you have carefully constructed over the years collapse. Because no matter what in your life is crumbling, those people who are emotionally invested in you should always provide you with a safe and solid surface to stand on… the military-grade concrete, reinforced with Rebar, and maybe some magic too, just for good measure… And a little whimsy (Being the daughter of an engineer, I am all about structural integrity, in case you couldn’t tell. Thought I don’t think he would approve the use of magic due to OSHA regulations).
Reaching this conclusion was not easy for me; I took the long, scenic route, to realization. I grew up in a military family and therefore I moved, with my dad, mom, and brother, every 2 years or so. All told, by the time I was 18, I had moved 11 times. The first thing people say when I share this tidbit is, “Wow, that must have been hard.” But I am not sure something can really be considered “hard” if you didn’t know any other way. Regardless, I love the way I grew up. I was able to have experiences that other people can only dream of having. It’s only as I get older that I realize I missed out on certain “typical” experiences that others have, which determine how one interacts with others in “civilian life.” So while I will never regret my upbringing, these realizations have caused me to re-examine my approach to life now that I have a more constant place to call home. I am not claiming to have been emotionally stunted, just that a different life requires a different set of eyes and reactions.
The biggest realization, and then lesson, for me was that many people don’t view their family as their best friends, like I do. Best friends, to many, are outside people that they CHOSE to make close. That whole concept of choice was a fascinating thing to me because in many instances, my family, for good or bad (mostly good and never bad enough to hold grudges about) was and is my everything. As I grew older and attended school, played softball, and got involved in clubs, my social circle grew and I formed attachments to people who, at the time, I would call friends. But as it was in the confusing and oh-so-prehistoric time when personal email was just becoming “a thing” and Facebook was only for college students, it was hard to remain close to anyone once I was several states away (physical ones, not just mental ones).
Finally, from 13-16 years old I lived in Italy (2003-2006) and the friends I made there I remember with fondness. I am even fortunate enough to maintain valued and necessary relationships with a handful of them. Though we did *finally* have social media and email when I had to eventually depart, there was still the pesky business of an ocean separating us. It’s important to maintain relationships with people who mean something to you but it was still a lonely time shuffling through a new place with none of them physically present. My family continued to be my constant. The people who would never leave and who I could rely on no matter what.
I had high hopes for my next stage in life because I was finally going to be able to set my own terms when it came to outside relationships. Thankfully, my situation did not disappoint. College is full of firsts for basically everyone, but my most significant first was the formation of a core group of people I could rely on who were not related to me by blood. A group that did not come and go because their parents had to move. A group that only MAYBE had an expiration date four years down the road (and thankfully, it didn’t, our friendship has a Twinkie grade expiration date – AKA never). These same friends are the ones I am celebrating my friendaversary with. These friends, among other people, have become family. That is the important distinction for me… People always say “you can’t choose family,” making it out to be that family is hard, something to be dealt with and endured. Well family is hard, but it’s worth it. Friends are the family you choose because, good or bad, they are there no matter what. That’s the ideal family, and I am so glad to say mine has grown over the years. I will always have those related to me by blood, but I am privileged now to have a few additional individuals I am honored to call sister, brother, aunt, uncle, etc. by virtue of love shared and time invested.
The fact that humans are naturally social creatures, that we crave contact, does not mean that socializing comes easily to all of us. I struggle with my relationships on the regular (thanks to the beautifully shaken, not stirred, mental cocktail of anxiety and introverted tendencies, on the rocks) with feeling like I have any kind of place in society, much less my social circle. As such, I am really not great at letting people “in.” Sure, I am open and honest, but when it comes to the real and deep things… I struggle to share them without feeling like I am asking too much of someone by requiring some participatory response. Who wants to listen to me? Hell, most of the time I don’t!
My usual suspicion is that everyone hates me or I have done something wrong or too awkward to stand, something that will alienate the people I love. I am trying to move away from this operating theory, that’s actually part of why we are here, but it’s easier said than done. That being said, these insecurities are actually why I feel entirely comfortable setting standards for those I allow into my life. Only certain people are actually worth the overall mental skirmish it takes for me to allow the lifestyle intrusion of someone else’s thoughts and feelings on my reality; well, on my anxious existence really… If someone causes me undue anxiety and is just too hard, they’re really not worth the effort for me to pursue. Sorry, not sorry, that’s just how it is.
The friends who are worth it, (and despite how it may sound, there are many) they are my everything; and I will work tirelessly to prove it to them. We have been there for each other through thick and thin (though I am definitely not claiming to have ever truly been thin, but that’s another issue). We have laughed together, cried together, gotten absolutely hammered together and done some combination of the two… And that’s just recently. With each additional minute of our friendship, we become closer, more ingrained in each other’s lives, and better resources for every whim and need.
In this minute, this hour, this day, this week, this month, this year… In retrospect and in perpetuity… This is my ode to you. My celebration of you. You who are here for me as I am here for you – eternally and without question (ok, the only question would maybe be about the availability of bail money or whether or not the bar serves bourbon). We have fought and come back stronger, we have drifted apart and then sailed back into the right port, we have experienced the best and worst together… You have gotten me here, to day four in a row without outright sobbing… You know who you are*…
*These simple words are not enough, but they are what I have for now. I love you. And even more importantly, I appreciate you.
Photo Credit: Unknown