Relationships are tricky creatures.
If anything, that is a drastic understatement. Each relationship is distinct, requiring different approaches and practice than others. I’m thankful for such an array – it prevents life from becoming too predictable or mundane and it always offers a challenge.
This twenty-something stage in life has brought upon a variation of a new phenomenon: making new friends. In my childhood, this was easy. Geographic proximity and common participation mandated my relationships. Friends were comprised of neighbors, classmates and whoever else happened to be involved in similar things. These trends continued throughout college. After college, things seem to have changed. It takes a little more effort to go out and meet people. They don’t show up in your classes. They don’t live on your hall in the dorm. They don’t ring your doorbell asking if you’ll play a game of ghost in the graveyard or capture the flag. They’re just out there.
Even once you find them, these relationships are different. They don’t know your past; that is, until you tell them. There is something lost; or else it is the recognition of something sacred. The people who filled the first two decades of my life hold a special place, one that no others can ever fill. We grew up together, for better or worse. We share the memories of shenanigans during recess in elementary school, high school football games, dance recitals, can’t forget those awkward middle school years, ridiculous crushes, prom (mine wasn’t quite the typical fairy tale…), graduation. And now we’ve scattered. Yet we’ll always have our common ground.
Given the variety displayed in my relationships, I’ve come to realize that each must be held to distinct expectations and valued as it is, not compared. The joy from each friendship is individual to that person; that is why they become so special and dear.
So where is all this coming from, you ask? Clearly none of these revelations are exquisitely profound or revolutionary. I think part of it is a nostalgic yearning for the understanding, love and joy of some of my far-away friends. They knew me, sometimes better than I knew myself, and yet they still loved me. There is an innate desire in us to know and to be known, to love and to be loved.
Another part is due to various people on separate occassions telling me that I care too much. My first response was always disbelief, how is that possible? Upon the repetition and explanation, it became clear. I strive to be a giver, an accomodator, an I-would-do-anything-for-you friend. And, as one dear older, wiser friend told me, to expect people to care as much will result in frustration and hurt on my end. Thankfully, that conversation has allowed me to step back and consider what is realistic in each relationship and when I’m setting myself up to dismayed. Not everyone will be a stay-up-until-2a.m. friend, and that’s okay. Whatever description suits them, it will be unique, marking their special place in my heart, in my life.
As I continue in my still somewhat-new place, the seeking and making new friends process has pressed on. Some who stood by me in the past are no longer visible. They remain dear to me, as their presence has marked my life at one time or another. Some who stand by me today are a bit unexpected. I’m so thankful for the unexpected.