On friendship

In the past four years I have made, lost and maintained more friends than at any other time combined in my life. It’s been exhausting, not to mention expensive! Ok, truthfully, most of the expensive part is attributable to diving expenses and/or Disney trips, but it is generally more expensive to have friends than not. Whether its dinners out, parties in, movies, shopping trips, party/life event gifts…the list goes on and on.

At times, I feel like I have lost myself.  I have spent more time in the last 4 years worrying about pleasing people and about what people think of me than at any other time period in my life. And I’m pretty much over it. Wait. No, not pretty much. I’m done.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed a lot of the times I have had with people. But as I prepare to move on to the next phase of my life, I have no illusions that people that I would have considered close friends here, will likely disappear. And that’s ok.  I have moved many times in my life, and it’s just a natural thing.  Maintaining a true friendship requires effort. It’s two sided. It’s really no different than maintaining a romantic relationship. I have often said that finding a true friend is just as hard (harder?) than finding a partner.

I recently read an interesting memoir called MWF seeking BFF – My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend – http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11104030-mwf-seeking-bff. I was particularly attracted to this because the author was living in Chicago and doing this project at the same time I lived in Chicago. (And I often remark on the fact that I made one friend in Chicago the entire time I lived there – I felt like Chicago was very insulated and not open to outsiders but that’s a topic for another post). I felt a lot of the ways the author did, but the author was mainly focused on the fact that she did have very close, lifelong friends she had left behind when she moved from NYC to Chicago for her husband. Virtually alone in Chicago, knowing hardly anyone in town to call on a lazy Sunday for brunch, or for a quick after work mani/pedi, left her bereft and feeling very disconnected. Emotions with which I can definitely relate, especially as it relates to my time spent in Chicago.

Then, after moving to South Florida, we quickly fell into a group of people through a meet up group that were interested in kayaking. And then we started diving. Diving in South Florida is an amazing and life changing hobby. And it did.  It changed our life in so many positive ways. We met so many people in the dive community, which is fairly small and intimate. Especially in the spearfishing category. Diving is split between those who hunt and those who don’t.  And sometimes those two groups don’t mesh well. The point of telling you all this is to show how, in natural cycles, friendships can ebb and wane. Some of the friends we made when we first started diving ended up going in different directions, to photography, to tech diving. We lost touch. And the kayak friends, on a large level, felt abandoned because we devoted all our weekend free time to diving. We’ve struggled to continue with those friends, but life often gets in the way. Which really goes back to my original point that maintaining a friendship requires mutual cooperation and desire.

And then 2016 happened.  You know what I’m talking about.  The repercussions are still echoing through the land today. Social media exploded and countless numbers of so called friendships collapsed. I was unfriended by so many people I lost count.  And, while I didn’t specifically unfriend anyone, I basically stopped following almost everyone, even if they agreed with me politically because I didn’t want to get embroiled on their pages.  I ended up with a newsfeed comprised mostly of cute kitten videos. (This is not a bad thing). My point is that many of these friendships were not able to survive this political climate – leaving one to wonder, just how solid were those “friendships” to begin with? And the answer is – not at all. Facebook has its merits, but providing a forum for a real friendship isn’t one of them. In my life, it’s a way to keep up with various acquaintances; which can be interesting and has its place, but doesn’t really leave me fulfilled or feeling genuine connections with anyone.

Finding someone with a positive emotional connection that is sustainable is tough. At least with a partner, you have a physical connection. When you meet someone you are attracted to – physically or emotionally or both, there’s a click, something inside you that says “hey, this person gets me”. But I’ve learned the hard way that an initial attraction doesn’t necessarily translate into an actual friendship. Too many times to count I have walked away from an encounter thinking that I had just met someone that I could really be friends with. And then…nothing. Or maybe there was an initial flurry of contact and then a subtle fade. Or – and this one happened a lot – a great initial connection and then, with a little more time spent together, you realize that first impressions can actually be wrong  – and this person is a douche. This one can hurt more than others, especially when you have invested yourself into the relationship and you feel like you were suckered, or you question your judgment because you made a really wrong decision about someone. Or how about that person that needs or wants you for something, and once that something is complete, disappears. No more friendly banter texts, no more sharing cute memes, no more comments on the FB posts…yeah, those happen too.

I have never had a hard time making friends, on the surface I am pretty friendly and outgoing. I have a problem maintaining friends though. I’ve given a lot of thought as to why this is. And on some level I acknowledge it’s my own fault. At the end of the day, if there’s a choice between being at home or being out with someone, home is going to win almost every time. And when I’m home I mostly want to be alone. I want to sit on my couch, or on my deck and do my solitary things. I don’t want any other person in my space (except for my husband. He gets a lifetime pass :)) And when did the phone go from being the sole point of my existence to a nuisance? When I was young, a ringing phone was an incredible thrill. Now it’s something to hide from.  Is it me that’s changed? Or have I stayed the same and the world has changed around me?

As I tie up loose ends here in South Florida, I reflect on the time spent here. And I determine that overall it’s been very worthwhile. I really wouldn’t change a thing about it. Ultimately, I can see how my time here has served to keep me moving forward.As a direct result of my time spent here, I am getting to move to a place that I have wanted to be my whole life (even without knowing perhaps that this is the specific place that fulfills all my desires). Had we not moved here, these opportunities would not have been available. And diving will remain with me for the rest of my life. I may not devote all my time to it now, but I will look forward to branching out into different aspects of diving that will be available to me in Roanoke.

And I will have memories that are priceless. Whether I ever physically speak to or see any of my friends here again, each one has touched my life in a special and valuable way. Each one has changed me. Each one has taught me something. Even the bad ones. I have no regrets.