Before I unroll the carpet on the topic of discussion, I want to start by noting that I have been quite lucky in having a set of really good, quality, well-rounded best friends. I’ve known them since middle and high school, and can call on them any time. They are there for the highs, lows, and daily, mundane chit chats. I’m a better person for knowing them and can honestly say that I don’t mind the long journeys or pricey flights that allow me to see them.
During my first ten years in the world I lived in eastern Europe, in a small country whose closed borders excluded any form of diversity. Everyone was encouraged to get along and feel like a member of the community so I was never short on friends and family. I remember celebrating my last birthday there by inviting my entire 4th grade class to my house.
Once I arrived to the US friendship was this scary, calculating, hard to grasp process, because most kids either knew each other from their neighborhood, after-school activities, or class, but it always seemed to be based on a shared hobby. I came from too far away and did not share any commonalities, except physical location. It was a few years before my parents were comfortably adapted to the American culture and understood the importance of engaging me in school clubs or summer camp. During that time I was a really shy kid, not knowing whether my peers would like me, whether they’d recognize that I’m not a native, or whether they could relate to anything I liked. But as I said before, I was lucky, and became close friends with two girls that have now become amazing ladies and are still my best friends. It was their friendship that sustained me through all the changes that middle, high school and college (including life!) can bring.
Soon, I graduated and headed out to graduate school, all on my own without knowing a soul. Although my close friends were only a phone call away, I wanted to form local friendships, have someone to explore the new town with or collectively share how much we missed home. I did meet a few people, established good friendships with a couple, but I realized that the definition of friendship had shifted somehow. I felt like I couldn’t divulge everything about me like I was accustomed to. There’d be times when what I expected out of friendship, didn’t happen.
After graduate school I started my first job at a small non-profit, and it was an office populated by 8 women. Suffice it to say that we, for better or worse, spent time with one another, either visiting each other’s offices or getting a drink after a long day of serving the community. We didn’t have very much in common except for work, didn’t really make plans independent of work but had created some type of bond. This was new for me – work friends.
A few years later the doc and I moved to a new city for a couple of years where I embarked on a second degree, and it was time for new friends once again. What I began to realize with time is that forming genuine friendships can be a challenge. I would meet different people through class, work, or volunteering, but the friendships (for lack of a better term) sustained in that confined environment. It’s a challenge for me I have to admit, because I’m the kind of gal that’s always up for a good time or an adventure, so I’m always quick to suggest an idea that involves hanging out. I like sharing, hugging, making fun of myself, crack jokes and go out dancing like I’m still in undergrad. But I found out not everyone is the same way, and I’m not sure why that is, the guarding, the barriers that are sometimes created. It was difficult sometimes, not knowing who to call on a whim for coffee or a long run.
This past June we moved once again to our current location, only this time we knew a couple in town. The transition was a challenge for various reasons, but for me, the thing that I was really hoping for is the possibility of making some good friends, especially because we will be here for a while. I thought that meeting with other docs’ spouses would provide some common points, if nothing else, adjusting to a new town or hubs’ unsteady work schedule. It started slow but I eventually began to make new friends, yet they all seem to be categorized. There are my book club friends, running friend, filler friend, wine friend, doc’s intern friends, and so on, but it’s been a challenge getting to that point where I feel completely at ease with someone. I’ve come across someone that I felt was a great person, but then learned more about their character and realized I assumed too quickly without considering all the facts. And that hurts. Finding out someone is not as genuine as they initially appeared.
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I’ve gone on for so long with this topic because I find it so important for women, especially at this point in my life. I’ve experienced that feeling of ease that’s shared with a friend that just gets you, that respects, supports, listens, and encourages. Someone that may disagree with your views and has enough confidence to voice her own because she knows we can both learn from each other. I know that in some ways current culture supports large numbers (# of Facebook friends, blog followers, pages viewed, “likes” collected, etc) but it’s always short-term, fleeting moves that fade quickly. It’s always easy to send out an email and invite everyone you can think of, but what about the quality of the time spent together?
One of the things that still amazes me is the way that friendship has been redefined via blogging. Through emails, scheduled meet-ups and daily comments I have come across some really friendly and kindred spirits. Stopping by each other’s blogs, leaving friendly criticism over flattering dresses or overpriced shoes, we’re there with good intentions, tuning in to learning more about each other. It’s a comforting feeling and one I enjoy contributing to.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Does anyone else see a change in friendship as time goes on? Do you have compartmental friends?
Thanks for reading 🙂