The Whiny Jew

Complaints and Oberservations on American Culture

Peak Friends

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Friends are the family you choose. — Jess C. Scott

I love this quote. If brevity is the soul of wit, this phrase perfectly captures the meaning of friendship for me in one small tweetable phrase.

I have noticed steadily over time, perhaps since 9-11, that the fabric of society has changed, if not declined. People are less connected despite the internet and social networks. While people today on average have 300 Facebook friends, like me, I don’t feel connected with them at all. I do have curiosity about the people I’ve rubbed elbows with in my past, and Facebook helps solve that need, but that does not make them close friends. It’s obvious that people today are chasing things, money and happiness, but no one seems truly happy.

I’m a sensitive soul as my wife says and often quips that “I should have been a women.” Yikes. Leaving that for the moment, I love having good friends; people who I care about and who care about me. People I can have an honest conversation with and not be afraid they will dump me if what I say or do bothers them. It is unconditional love in a sense. I have never had many friends at one time, but the ones I have, I have cherished. My analytical side tells me that if one quality friend is good, why not have 10 or 100 quality friends? Realistically, that seems impossible possible. We don’t have time in the day to make and maintain so many deep relationships. Or do we?

What is a friend (to me)? They are someone I enjoy sharing time with, hanging out with, eating with, experiencing life with, watching movies with, talking with, hiking with, sailing with, etc. (My wife is also my best friend—still!) A true friend will not judge me or leave me. They are there for me in time of need. I can call them at any time of day and they are happy to hear from me, put work aside to talk with me. While I don’t want to spend 24/7 with friends nor can’t, I would be happy spending an hour a day with them.

How do we make friends? Sometimes, it’s love at first site. But more often, friendships are formed from shared interests and through work or study. Sometimes it’s hard to know why people come together as friends, that there is no formula for knowing who makes a good friend. And I think that’s what makes friendship so special—and rare.

Friendship is clearly a two way street though and must be maintained I’ve found. One of my best friends is a dentist about three hours drive from me. Because of the distance, I don’t see him often, but we communicate via chat and occasionally by phone. I wish we could spend more time together in person.

And yet I’ve had other friends that have come and gone. One of my best friends from childhood, drifted away as an adult. Despite many attempts over the past ten years to reconnect and stay in touch, he has never responded, and this hurt me. Because of my paranoia, I often worried about what I did to cause him to shy away. I could not think of a reason. Not knowing why is agony, but perhaps there is no reason, but simply that people naturally fade away sometimes. I’ve come to accept this painful truth. I view the loss as pain because I’ve shared so much of my childhood with him, that our friendship is now just a memory and not something we can continue to develop.

The long passage of time really does sever relationships it’s interesting. Funny how close friends from childhood don’t often maintain into adulthood. While I’ve reconnected with several from elementary school, we meet up out of curiosity to see how we’ve turned out but the friendship is gone. We’ve moved on with our lives.

Another dear friend of mine from college committed suicide in 2000. We had so much fun together and hung out a lot before that. He was in the prime of life at 35 with a new wife and daughter. It was inconceivable that he would do this. I wish I had gotten a chance to try and help prevent that. RIP, friend.

My wife is my closest friend. And despite now a long life of ups and downs, some baggage, there is still love unbelievably! I can’t imagine anyone else I’d want to spend my life with. She refers to me sometimes as a comfortable old shoe—how romantic. I think without that baseline friendship, we might not be as happy together in marriage. And very truthfully, she is the friend I chose as family.

As I’ve aged, I feel it’s become harder and harder to make and keep close friends. As we age, it seems like time moves faster and we have less and less of it to devote to friendships. More of our time is spent making a living or trying to enjoy it with the friends we already have than making new ones. It’s sad.

At parties or get togethers, my wife and I have both noticed that people almost never ask us about us. Either they don’t care or they are socially inept. We find we are the ones asking about and talking about them. It’s rarely reciprocal. And that’s not bad, it’s just sad. Connection occurs when there is two way interest. So we conclude we are not interesting to people which we can take in a negative way, or just accept that it’s not personal and they are just insular, self focused. I worry I’m not popular because I’m not rich or have had a particularly fascinating life, or am famous. but this is certainly a good test of character. It seems to us that people are overly concerned about status, wealth, and popularity.

As an experiment I thought, I wondered if it might be possible to try and meet someone new in town every day and attempt to meet them for lunch and get to know them. I’m a lunch guy. It’s quite a challenge. I’m shy. It’s hard for me to reach out and meet new people. I’m always afraid of rejection or embarrassing myself or that I’m boring. But I do have value to offer.

But back to the trend I mentioned above. I do remember it was easier to make friendships before 9-11. People while growing up, seemed to have more time and interest to connect. People were more interested in me. They would want to get to know me, ask me questions. Today, no one asks questions about me when in conversation which are mostly topical but meaningless and shallow ultimately. I find I’m the only one trying to get to know them, but  they don’t reciprocate. Not that I mind, it’s just sad that no one has the interest in getting to know me. I no longer take this personally. I think it’s a symptom of our times or of aging. People are insular, focused mostly on themselves these days. Maybe it’s their way to deal with the world today.

Our relatively new married friends are 30 minutes away and we see them quite often, usually once a week or two. We share some things in common. They are older than us and they don’t have kids, but the wives share the same profession and he and I share passion for food (dessert), music, movies and science fiction. We often go “glamping” together which is fun. They are perhaps my closest friends now because we share concern about each other’s lives beyond the superficial entertainments of life that initially connect you. We share stories about our work lives, private lives, concerns about the world at large. If I need their help, I know I can count on them, and they know they can count on us.

Where am I going with this? Friends are important because they help you through the journey of life. They are mirrors that help us see ourselves more clearly. They are people that help connect us to the web of life. They are usually close in time and space, and we lose touch with them when we venture outside this connecting bubble.

 

 

 

 

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