When we’re young we need our family, whilst begrudging them a great deal, but we enjoyed and cherished our friends. We seemed to find more comfort with our friends. Remember the old saying, ‘at least you can choose your friends’.
But really, how much choosing happens? Your first friends occur mostly due to proximity and age – the other kids in the street and the kids in your class at school. Did you actively decide between one person or another in acquiring friends, especially in the back-yard? Didn’t you just get out there in the dusky haze of daylight savings and play all sorts of games until your parents called you in?
I know school days and torturous memories tell us finding and keeping friends at school could be a highly fraught experience. It seemed once you found your set, your little group you were fine. Your problems came if you ended up on the outer for some reason, or your little set was too small and when the others were away it was just you and no-one else would let you play. Yes, we’ve all been rejected, had days when we wished the school playground would swallow us whole. We’ve all been chosen last for the teams at school.
And sometimes that happens in life too. Once we leave school and move into the wonders and dangers of the world it can be hard to find your place again. How do you make friends when you’re older, how do you connect with others once the familiar and forced nature of childhood friendships evaporate?
I can think of a range of situations where making new friends is part of the scene and no matter how we may affect cool we all need to connect and belong, we all need friends.
Think back, how did you make friends –
At school – if you moved around a lot
At university or college
At work – in your first job
At work – in every subsequent job
At home – when you moved as a child, or when you left home and then got a place of your own – do you know your neighbours, are they your friends?
In clubs, or groups, sporting teams
I remember standing on the outside, watching people connect and make friends, be drawn easily and readily into an established group. I remember that from uni, from work, from various clubs and activities. I wondered, and I don’t think I ever knew, why some people just seemed to belong, while others struggled to make connections, even though there was nothing obvious in why one and not the other.
Now, I am a person with many friends, from most stages of my life and for that I am thankful and appreciative. I don’t struggle to make new connections but I think that is because I know myself very well, can suss out the sort of person I will find more likely to be my friend, make the necessary investment, but am in no hurry or desperate need to have friends, because, like many people my age, I have enough friends. Perhaps its one of those logical impasses, the more friends you have, the more you can have.
Some simple tips
Smile at people – it shows you’re open to friendship
Take an interest in others, talk to them, listen – remember key things about them
Take others up on their offer of friendship – to do something together
Get involved in activities – simply doing things with others can get the friendship ball rolling
Being prepared to take risks – the person you wouldn’t normally talk to might be the friend you need
Not needing friends – just being part of the scene
Being patient – others want to make friends too
Having friends is important. Having friends means people like you, want to be with you, value you because they want to, not, like your family, because they have to. Friends affirm us in ways that our family can’t, even if they want to, and that’s why friends matter. They tell us we are worthwhile, they want to spend time with us, make an effort to stay in contact, keep our secrets, set us straight on things, love us unconditionally but tell us when we’re being fools. Think of Bridget Jones and her mates, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Elle in Legally Blonde had friends who got her through her darkest hours, The Lord of the Rings centres on friendship, not to mention Friends itself. Yes, the celluloid world confirms the importance of friendship.
Friendship takes time; it grows slowly and needs care and attention. There are often false starts and breakages along the way. It can be a risky business. The loss of a friend can be as shattering as the loss of a lover. Friendship means patience, kindness, resilience, acceptance: working at it. All relationships need work and not necessarily the same amount at the same time – as long as you’re happy, that’s what matters. It’s a lot like love. In fact, it’s more like love than not – just as love is a many coloured, dangerous, terrible and wonderful thing, so is friendship.
It also does not matter for one moment how many friends you have, as long as they are true and real friends. I am not a better or worse person because I have more or less FB friends than you – in fact I might be in a better place because every one of them is someone I know and am happy to call friend. Remember too, you can find friends in your family – sisters seem very good at being best friends and husbands and wives get very fond of saying their other half is their best friend.
It seems it easier to keep friends once you’ve made them than to make new ones, so perhaps we should take as much care of our friends as our family. After all, we know that friends – real friends – are as important and special as our family. So, cherish your friends, get in touch today and see how they are. Show them you still care, remind them you’re still here, still their friend. (Images from Private Collection)