Friendship

My early childhood was spent in separate households, as my parents divorced before I was cognizant enough to know what a typical family dynamic was, much less really process it. I spent evenings, sometimes a day or two with aunts and cousins during the week while my mom went back to school and every other weekend with my dad, where we’d rent movies or video games and order pizza. Additionally, both my mom and I moved a few times that I can remember and my dad moved a fair number of times within a span of 10 years. In retrospect, it wasn’t really an ideal situation, but I was happy enough at the time and think I actually turned out pretty well given the circumstances.

Regarding the impermanence of some of the places we lived, I almost wish I could make a comparison to third culture kids, but I really can’t as new homes were always generally close enough to prior homes and always in North Carolina up until high school. Even though I grew up in the culture of my parents, the household changes were enough that I pretty much had to deal with entirely new or different groups of friends/peers every two to three, sometimes four years. It wasn’t until we left NC entirely, when my mom, step-dad and I ended up in a suburb of Chicago, that I actually started to form friendships that have lasted longer periods of time. It’s still simultaneously fascinating and baffling to me to think that I have friends I’m close to and have known for 10-15 years or so that haven’t drifted completely away as per the norm during my formative years.

There are a number of kooky results that come out of this kind of lifestyle in those formative years, but the concept of friendship really is the one that stands out most to me, at least right now anyway. As a kid, all I wanted to do was be friends with as many people as possible, but at some point, I kind of gave up on this and was generally hopeless as I figured what was the point since life was going to take me just far enough away that I wouldn’t be able to keep in touch. I didn’t just let it happen either, I did really try and keep in touch with ‘best’ friends after I or they moved and it just never worked, so why bother?

Moving to Illinois was quite a shock as the high school cultures of the Chicago suburbs are far different than the slightly rural ones of Raleigh, NC. I’m not sure exactly what happened or if the intensity of the change was enough to dislodge something in my brain, but something happened and some of the friends I made then are still friends today. Really good friends even.

Sometimes I try to examine it to determine a root cause of the shift in my mind even though I know it’s a futile effort. I’m a bit OCD, so I like to have things  in my mind ordered with causes and effects fitting into boxes for proper mental filing. It might seem like the most annoying thing ever, but really it’s kind of helpful even if I never determine the root cause for anything that’s swimming around in my head. It still forces me to think and examine and reexamine me and my life and that’s never turned out for the worse so I don’t mind.

One thing I’ve discovered is that I make friends really easily. I just like people and if you like people then people tend to like you back. The most social dancing I do in terms of meeting people is trying to be less friendly because it’s probably a bit off-putting when some nerd is all, “hi, I’m charming, how are you?” I think there’s a certain gullible quality to my demeanor that’s so non-threatening that if I randomly come up and say hello, there’s no reason not to say hi back and start talking. I’m good at talking too. I talk way too much most of the time. Anyway.

Another thing I have determined over the years is that I haven’t done a 180 and I do still live by the idea that there’s a good chance that friends today can fade away tomorrow. I don’t cling to friends who have moved or otherwise fallen out of touch because it’s a two-way street. If both parties aren’t in it to maintain contact, it just isn’t going to happen. I accept that even if it sounds a bit sad, I’m better for it as I’m not trying to spend every free moment chasing something that changed the moment the dynamic itself changed.

I’ve also determined over the years that the really close friends that I have also change with life and all that comes with that. We’re all growing and those of us that are still growing with or around each other are more than able to maintain friendships and have them grow tighter. Sometimes, those are the friends that I might not talk to for months or perhaps years, but when I do, it’s like we’re picking up a conversation right where we left off. I know I’ve read about this idea before from other people, but the first time I realized it was something that applied to me too was quite awesome.

That reminds me. I need to track down Norm.

Something that I’ve realized recently is that I have some internal strife with regards to how I regard my friends. They’re all friends, but what kind of friends? How do you categorize friends that are close but not as close as those other friends who are, in themselves, different friends? You can’t have just friends and if you don’t have just friends, then there are differing ways to differentiating them internally. How do friends become the ones that you randomly call to hang out but not the first ones to call if a car breaks down? Is there a name for that kind of friend? What is it? What about friends you play games with occasionally but don’t see them in any other context? Are they less of a friend than ones you see more regularly? What about a friend who you have little in common with? There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be your best friend, is there? What the hell does it mean to have a best friend anyway? Can you only have one? Wouldn’t it pollute the entire meaning of “best” if you had multiples? What about the other aspects of friends that I’m not thinking about at this exact moment?

Augh, these are the things milling around in my brain and it drives me crazy. Sometimes I calm down long enough to think that there shouldn’t be anything more to it than friends are friends and you don’t have to over think it you goofball. And really, when it comes down to it, your friends are your friends and nothing else really needs to be said about it, but then I think that might be disingenuous to the friends that I have and I go back to trying to figure out how to categorize them all so that I can properly recognize the ones closest to me, even though I also rationally understand that it still leaves some friends on kind of the periphery of the friend-chart. If I can, I’d like to propose the new word friensanity as I’m sure this isn’t something that happens just to me.

This whole cycle can be kind of debilitating sometimes but it does at least serve the useful purpose of keeping my friends at the front of my mind and either continuing to or finding new ways to appreciate them. And when it boils down to it, they’re all my friends and they must think of me as a friend too. You can’t get much better than that, right? Right.

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