Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blog Swap with Yvonne!

Hey there! So a few weeks ago, my college roomie and I were discussing a blog swap, and then our friend Yvonne approved of our conversation {read: innocently "liked" it on fb} and whaddya know, she got roped into volunteered to participate. Yvonne describes this tale with much more eloquence in her post, but the moral of the story is that she and I are swapping blogs for this little post about friendship. Enjoy! And to read my post, go check out Yvonne's blog

How has your approach to maintaining friendships changed as you've entered adulthood? How do you make new friends? How do you let go of old friends?

The Best Friend, Me, and the Girls from Across the Hall

About a month ago, the girls I lived across the hall from during our first semester at Berea - three doors down and across the hall from during our second semester - were discussing a blog swap on Facebook. It sounded cool, so I "Liked" it. Then I was in on it. And now, just Bek and I are doing it because life can be rough and we all must learn how to tumble.

With these life tumblings, rumblings, ramblings and travelings, relationships change. What I've discovered along the way, however, is that - as easy as it is to do - I mustn't allow the shadows to exterminate the light. Yes, this is totally a broader life lesson than one pertaining to friendship, but it matters.

"Friends are forever."

My friends and I used to play a game. Do you know what it was called? BS. That also happens to be my reaction to the idea of friends being a forever ideal. One of my most firmly-held beliefs is that everything with which and everyone with whom we come into contact influences and changes us in some way, however minute. This sounds simple enough, but it has a larger impact than you might realize on the surface. If this is true, then the forces at work in our lives are innumerable. People change over time, through experience, across distance, below the surface, and every fiber of their being has the potential to restructure and re-imagine their existence. That's awesome! The flip side, however, is that means we may no longer mesh in the way{s} we once did.

I can't deny that the Internet has played a gigantic role in my relationships. When I moved across the country in seventh grade, I emailed my friends in Arizona. In high school, I was lonely and discovered MySpace before most people did, met people in chat rooms, and eventually moved on to Facebook. Ah, Facebook. There, I have "friends" who watched me grow up, people I've known since I remember, my editor, former professors, people who have majorly influenced my life, and people who don't know me at all, but who "Like" my statuses now and again. That surface stuff doesn't matter, though. It's not about how many "Likes" or "Pokes" or the number that pops up in red for notifications. It's about the people, or at least it should be. So, although Facebook is my top friend-connector, it makes me a little sad. 

You see, I've never been particularly good at making friends. When I was a little kid, I was shy. When I got older, I was awkward. When I went to Berea, I made a couple of close friends. When I moved back here, I found everything changed. You see, I'm good at making a few close friendships, but I'm awful at face-to-face social interaction that's on that level in between Internet and annoyingly close friend. I've always had a hard time balancing how much to say, what to leave unsaid, when it's appropriate to say what I think, and when to bow out. I try hard, but I find it exhausting. I'm an absurdly empathetic person but a side effect of that is apathy. It gets to the point where trying is just too much. I had a group of friends built up before heading to Berea and went with the attitude that I wasn't going there to make friends, I was going there for education.

And I made my best friend - aside from that dear husband of mine - in Berea. She'll be the maid of honor in our wedding this August.

Without a doubt, the biggest help to me in maintaining friendships with all of the obstacles around us is technology. I'm sure people felt similarly when postal systems became increasingly regulated and reliable. For example I can text Liz, my maid of honor, a picture of a dress I'm thinking about buying, comment on a Pinterest pin on my wedding board, call anytime, Facetime if we're on WiFi, email in a moment, and chat on Facebook. And that's incredible.

The danger in these well-maintained friendships for someone like me - who has never been very good at forging relationships in the first place - is that it leads to a false sense of security. When people ask me about friends here in Valparaiso, I have to admit that I don't have any, really. I have a comfortable relationship with my editor, I have Tom, and I have Fox. It's kind of like a weird grown-up version of high school when my best friend was my cat, Tig. I talked to Tom online a lot, and I really liked to talk to my yearbook counselor. 

Not such bad friends to have!
Tig, 1996-2010; Fox, 2013-Current

I don't really make new friends. I work on strengthening older relationships. I write to far-off relatives - on paper, in emails, I call my grandpa every day and my dad almost as often, I get to know Tom's mom better. This isn't a bad thing - and truth be told, I don't know how I'd be able to balance all of these along with making new friends, but I think new friendships are important. I'm just at a loss for how to go about it. There are dating websites that are reliable, but I've sunk so low as looking online for friendship sites. I want to just hang out and drink a glass of wine and watch a chick flick and not bother Tom with it! I've recently reverted to an old standby with a twist - I flat out asked someone I know around here to be my friend. She's accepted, but we have yet to have a hang out session. I'm nervous; I'm confident it'll all be okay. 

And, honestly, making new friends is a scary prospect. It means putting myself on the line to be judged as a friend. It means explaining that Tom and I are married, but our wedding isn't until August. Oh, and it means fudging up the guest list. And cleaning the apartment in case they stop by. Don't get me started on how I wouldn't be able to handle it if they were allergic to cats and wanted to spend time here... The point is that I'm currently petrified by the idea of forging new relationships, but I'm pleased with reconnecting to people from my past. 
People are surprising

Ironically, technology allows for some of the most cathartic exercises I know. "Unfriending" someone on Facebook. Deleting that someone from your phone's contact list. It's so freeing. It can also be really sad. I don't often lost friends by any dramatic means. Usually, it's sort of a continental drift - slow, almost unnoticeable, until suddenly we haven't spoken in a few months. Blessedly, however, I'm happy to report that my most favorite friends and I are on the sort of terms that allow for this. One of the greatest joys of friendship is the ability to pick up a conversation months later and to interpretive dance in the same crazy way you did a couple years ago. There are times, however, where rifts form - instead of a gentle move away from one another, a violent volcano of emotion and hurt erupts and your friendship is left in the balance. I have lost some people I considered true friends for reasons I don't fully comprehend. In these cases, I can deal, but it bothers me to be thought poorly of and to think that they're badmouthing me for things beyond my control.

Friendships, in my estimation, are meant to be friendly. Friends, however, aren't, necessarily. They're meant to be honest. They're meant to be brutal. They're meant to be mirrors of ourselves. They're meant to help us change and grow. They are meant to enlighten our lives. When they cease to do this, it's no wonder that we drift away to other things, people, interest, places, etc. It's not bad to move on, but I think it is imperative that we look for the good in all of these things. A friend may be "unfriended," deleted from your contacts, and no longer in your life, but what about all those pictures together and the memories you share with that person? We mustn't let the present state of the relationship tarnish our reflections on the past. 

Yesterday, I was driving to Target to pick up some necessities {and some wedding gifts for a friend} and started humming the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold." While I was in Target, it came on the radio. The same thing happened when I was in Bed, Bath & Beyond. This song holds a treasured memory in the second row of my high school's can, coming home from an away game in Wisconsin, sharing headphones with one of my closest friends, and listening to some of their greatest hits because her dad loved the band and she did, too. I haven't spoken to that girl in about two and a half years now. We didn't part on good terms and it eventually got to the point where I had to stop trying for my own wellbeing. That's a painful thing, but Lord help me, I was overjoyed when I realized that I've gotten to the point of being able to listen to the songs we used to rock out to and watch the movies we loved without getting bogged down in the sorrow of a dead friendship!

I am who I am. You are who you are. I am not who I was yesterday and I won't be the same me tomorrow. Things change.

This is a lot like the part in Forrest Gump when he returns home following "just" five years of college, his tour in Vietnam, and tenure as ping-ponger extraordinaire and says, simply,

"I'm home, Mama."

"No s***, Forrest," I have a tendency to say in a fantastic Alabaman Sally Field impression.

When it comes to friendships and friends, it's simple - friendship, at its core, is amazing. For years, I've thought that the most amazing thing about friends is that they choose to love you. Your parents and your family are almost obligated to love you - it's hard to resist instinct - but there are people in your life who love you unconditionally for no reason other than that they love who you are.

So here's to the friends you get close to after moving across the country from them, to the friends we made out of necessity, to the friends who wrote us off, to the friends who never turned away, and - my favorite - to the friends who'll answer you at any time of day or night!

You are loved. 

Thank you, Yvonne! That was lovely. Thanks for swapping blogs - let's do it again soon. 


  1. I, too, have a hard time forging friendships and it took me awhile to understand that I can hold on to the friendships that I've had for 25 years and still make new ones. Not many and it takes work, but I'm richly blessed by the few friendships I have. I'd rather a few than a lot of unstable shallow ones. I have many friends on FB, but that seems a category all in FB friends. I think I need to ask someone out for coffee...

    1. It's one of those weird lifelong lessons that I keep having to relearn with every life change and twist in the road or - to stay with Rebekah's Slinky analogy on my page - turn in the stairs of life. Sometimes we need a push and sometimes sometimes our relationships need to be untangled or the kink needs some serious unkinking. I'm thinking coffee might be the way I go for hanging out with that new friend.

  2. Ah, SO true! I've realized how very different "knowing" someone online vs. in real life is recently, and boy is getting to know people for real so much different! I really like it, even though it's hard. It's so true how you have this weird sense of security online, but in person you're so much more vulnerable. What a good reminder to work hard on these relationships!