Your friends have more to do with who you are today than you realize.
Friends are something that I’ve too often taken for granted. I acknowledge my guilt in this area, and have been trying to better understand why this is. Could it be because I spent the majority of my life living in the same town, with a rotating but pretty regular cast of friends? Is it because I’m by nature an introvert and am at my most comfortable when alone and engrossed in my writing or art?
Whatever the reason for my past lack of friend-love, I’ve changed my attitude over this past year. A lot led up to this change of heart, including my wife and I moving to a different state and starting over with no friends or acquaintances nearby, as well as my mom dying after a 9 month struggle with Leukemia. So, I guess it really comes as no surprise that I value my relationships even more than I used to, and I’m more open about letting my friends know what they mean to me.
In thinking about the new friends I’ve made, and the old ones I’m still close with, I realized several things. One is that my friends tend to be all over the place in terms of personality, hobbies, occupation, gender, political views, etc. But one thing that is constant is that there is something we have in common that allows us to connect and grow as friends.
I visualize it like those Venn diagrams we learned about in school. We’re each separate, on our opposite sides, but when we come together we discover that there are some things that we have in common. And while I always kind of recognized this, as I’m sure many of you do, what I’ve only realized recently is that this also applies to our behaviors and our “takeaway” from the relationship.
For example, when I spend time with my friends, I always leave feeling a little more whole. It’s true that in many ways there’s nothing any of us have to give the other but our time and proximity. We’re all broke and busy, so the time we choose to spend on one another shows that there is value in our coming together. I leave my world, they leave theirs, and we meet somewhere in the overlap between the two, where we get lost in the things we share. The things we share in that time are the things we have in infinite supply. It’s not energy – we’re often running low. It’s not jokes – we don’t always have them. It’s just us and the aura from our chemistry.
And the “takeaway” for me is what these friends reveal about myself. Again, it isn’t necessarily that they are like me, but that I like who I am when I’m around them. That Venn diagram isn’t just showing an overlap of what we have in common, but what we could have in common.
Have you ever noticed that in some of your closest relationships you start to pick up their mannerisms, language, and habits, and vice-versa? You start to unconsciously take on the traits of your friends or partner that the fit and feel right to you. It’s not that you are becoming them, but that you are exchanging traits that fit with your personality. That middle section of the Venn diagram then shifts from what you initially have in common, to the little bits of each of you that fit well (and often fill a void or need) in the other. That center is kind of like a magnet, pulling all the positive things from each of you into a common space that you can all then share.
I make an incoherent joke. My wife laughs. I look at her and think we’re on the same page. From our first date forward, there’s been an attraction between us. I thought the initial attraction was love in its purest form- the unadulterated allure without the baggage of history of the noise of disagreements to come- something shared, silent, and all-consuming.
But now I wonder, when did we get here, to this particular chapter we are now in? We seem so much more in sync now than we were then. My initial attraction to her was very much my negative to her positive- the magnetism of what was in her that wasn’t in myself, and (I like to think), vice-versa. That initial attraction was a catalyst, more like disintegrating stitched that pulled us together for a temporary time until the actual bond formed. And we did bond. We’re still bonding. Sometimes taking steps backward and tearing the bond slightly apart, but always ending up more connected than before.
Similar to this bond with my wife, it’s no wonder that similar bonds occur with friends over time. They pull from my world, and I pull from theirs. And in the middle, we develop our own private culture. The more time we’re there, the more invested in the worth of our relationship and the more that shared center grows. The more we bleed together, the less we wish to stay in our own solitary, little worlds.
So the next time you find yourself telling a story in the style of your partner, or choosing to have a jam session with friends instead of obsessing over a problem at work, be grateful that these people are there to keep you on your toes and help you be better version of you.
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