15 Lessons About Friendship I’ve Learned Lately
Hello from the snowy South Island city of Queenstown, New Zealand. I am writing this post from the airport lounge as I wait to board my flight back to Sydney after the most fabulous week away and some much-needed time out.
At the start of the year, I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be living back with my parents in Sydney or that I would have thrown away the career path that I’d studied and been so set on. It was three months ago that I left Auckland and I haven’t really given much thought to it since. I guess this week has been a great excuse for me to digest, dream and dot out a plan for moving forward.
In my introspection (which has become quite a rare occurrence), I’ve given a lot of thought to the whole idea of friendship. There are people I once spent every day with that I haven’t messaged in months, people from my past that I have reconnected with in such a beautiful way and brand-new friendships that are proving to hold as much substance and significance as the older ones.
Here are 15 lessons I’ve learnt about friendship lately:
1. THERE'S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRIENDS BY CONVENIENCE AND FRIENDS BY CHOICE
We all have friends out of convenience - the ones we chat to by the water cooler at work, the ones we turn to when the tutor says, “pick a partner” in class and even the ones we sit on the same table as during our school lunch hours. They are in our world already, so it’s convenient for us to be buddies with them when we’re craving conversation, wanting to get out of the house or in need of an assignment partner. Then, there are the ones that you’d set an alarm early in the morning to skype, drive across town to see and literally bend over backwards for. These are your friends by choice. That being said, there’s no reason people who are in your life conveniently can’t become your friends by choice too! I always love receiving messages, for example, from ex-colleagues, who are no longer paid to be around me all day every day but choose to put in the effort anyway.
2. THE NEW FRIENDSHIPS DON'T NEED TO BE ANY LESS SIGNIFICANT THAN THE OLD ONES
Being back in Sydney, I’ve probably made just as many new friends as I have reconnected with old ones. In what has only been a few months, I feel like I have known some of these beautiful souls for a lifetime. There are some people that you just click with, but you’ll never know if you’re trapped in an “old friends are the only true friends” mentality. Yes, it’s daunting, but to form new friendships, sometimes you’ll have to send the first message, start the first conversation or plan the first hang out. Don’t be scared to get out there or afraid to initiate. I love looking back at how I met Holly who, although I don’t talk to her every day anymore, is one of my closest friends and favourite people on the planet. Holly was in one of my classes at uni. We went around the class and each gave a brief introduction about ourselves. “Hi, I am Holly”, she said, “I’m from the South Island and I grew up on a skydiving drop zone”. I thought that alone made her probably the coolest person on the planet, but that was just the beginning. I asked Holly to hang out and I don’t even remember what we did. What I do remember though, is that night we’d planned an epic trip around the South Island together for the summer and a week later she’d booked a trip to Tonga with me too!
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ― Anaïs Nin
3. CHOOSE FRIENDS WHO INSPIRE YOU
There’s a saying that says “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”. Every day we are becoming more and more like the people that we are choosing to spend our time with. When I spent my entire life with Holly and her boyfriend George in New Zealand, I noticed their South Island slang creep into my vocabulary - it was pretty “buzzy” really. More recently, I’ve caught myself out saying “cooked” and greeting people with “sup lad?”. As hilarious as this accidental adoption of phrases and words is - it only scratches the surface in explaining how influential our friends really are. Not only do we begin speaking like them, but we start to think, act and live in ways that resemble them. It’s one thing to be inspired by someone from afar, to admire what they’re doing or the life you see them live - it’s another thing to actually talk to them. People will either leave you feeling inspired or drained when you leave their company. This is a great indicator of whether or not you should pursue a friendship.
4. IT'S OKAY TO HAVE FRIENDS IN DIFFERENT SEASONS
I saw this lady on the news the other day who was talking about how she believes that you shouldn’t be friends with people who have kids if you don’t. She put forward the idea that because you’re at different stages in life and can’t relate, you shouldn’t waste your time with their company. I couldn’t disagree more. When I first moved to the Northern Beaches, at sixteen, I didn’t know many people my own age so I hung out with women in their twenties and thirties, (shock horror - some even had kids!) I learnt so much from these lovely ladies who are still such huge role models to me. They had a whole new realm of experience and understanding and got me talking and thinking about things beyond schoolyard banter. Now, in my early twenties, people my own age are in all kinds of different, crazy and exciting seasons of life. Some of my friends my age have kids, some are married and some are paying mortgages, own beautiful Tupperware containers and talk about models of vacuum cleaners. Meanwhile, I’m single, living at home and dreaming of travelling the world! I think there is so much to be learned from these friends and, at the end of the day, they are still the exact same people who I’ve known and loved for years - even if their schedules and lives look a little bit different to mine.
5. IT'S OKAY TO HAVE FRIENDS FOR DIFFERENT SEASONS
People may come in and out of your life through the seasons but it doesn’t make your friendship with them any less significant. Circumstances can change and so can people. We can move cities, move jobs or just move on. Looking back at the seasons of my life, I’ve had different people around me that have helped me walk through them. This month, I was over the moon with excitement to be able to reconnect with my childhood best friend Ruby when we were both at Hillsong Conference in Sydney. Ruby moved to Brisbane when we were in high school and we don’t see each other very often but she will always mean the absolute world to me. She was there when I walked through some pretty tough times and even though we may not talk all that often or see each other every day, I will value our friendship forever.
6. IT'S OKAY TO HAVE FRIENDS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS
I’m such a big believer in community - humans made to do life that way. We can’t squeeze everything that friendship can provide us with out of just one person. We need variety of friends who we can share different things with and go to for different reasons. For example, I have a lot of friends that are super fun to hang out with that I just can’t relate to on a spiritual level. This doesn’t make our friendship any less significant, it just means I’ll open up to others more about these things. We need friends who inspire us to achieve our professional goals and friends who help us forget about work and have a bit of fun. We need the kind of friends that will devour a tub of ice cream with us and then the ones who are firm in encouraging us to get back on track with a healthy lifestyle.
7. YOU'VE GOT TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE'RE ALL DIFFERENT
Difference and diversity are what makes having friends so exciting. I love having friends from different cultures, backgrounds and upbringings with different personalities and stories. Sometimes though, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that maybe everyone isn’t 89% extroverted like I am and sometimes people need time alone. Maybe some people don’t enjoy exploring new places and trying new things but prefer familiarity and routine. Maybe some people just don’t get things from my perspective because they had a totally different upbringing. Friendship isn’t necessarily about “getting people” all the time, but realising that we are all so different and loving people for who they are, regardless.
8. FIND THE ONES WHO LOVE YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE
There is nothing more beautiful than someone who is completely and unashamedly themself, yet our society puts pressure on us to hide and conceal who we really are. A true friend will see through the fake smiles and the masks we put on every day to hide our feelings, our circumstances or our quirks. The friends who we don’t need to put on an act or play pretend around are generally the ones who stick around when we’re at our worst.
9. FIND THE ONES WHO AREN'T AFRAID TO CALL YOU OUT ON YOUR S***!
Excuse the expletive - but I cannot stress the importance of accountability enough! Friendship is not just about enjoying each other’s company but doing life together and bringing out the best in one another. In a friendship where you’ve built trust and you know that the person backs you 100%, it’s good to be open to receiving their advice and input. Sometimes we need the “No, really, how are you?”, or the “You know what, you were actually really mean and irrational in that situation”. Our friends can help us journey through our struggles or highlight the areas of our lives or character that we may be blind to. Oscar Wilde once said, “A true friend stabs you in the front”. Sure, flattery feels good, but we need friends in our lives who will be brutally honest with us. That being said, never let anyone judge you or speak into your life when they are carrying a spirit of spite, jealousy or nastiness. Choose the friends that you allow to really speak into your life wisely. Any advice or input should be out a loving place that wants to see you move forward. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with what they say, you’ll know their heart is in the right place and they mean well.
10. FRIENDSHIPS ARE INVESTMENTS
The other week, some friends and I went to the casino. We weren’t there to gamble away our fortune (or in my case, lack of it), we were basically just there to people watch. Amidst the colours, lights, pokies machines and poker chips, my risk-prone personality became obsessed with the idea of creating money from money. Don’t worry, I haven’t developed a gambling addiction but I have started reading up on the share market. Good friendships, I’ve discovered, are quite similar to shares. You have to put something in to get something out of them. They start with taking a risk and require investment in order to grow. Of course, this doesn’t mean buying your friends, but it does mean sowing your time and energy into building something that holds great value. This may mean taking phone calls from a heartbroken friend when the only drama you want is on Netflix or choosing not to be flaky and sticking with your plans even when you really can’t be bothered. With both friendships and the share market, there is always the chance that you will lose in the end, but don’t let that put you off. Unlike gambling, investing in the share market is a calculated risk. It requires being a little bit smart about what you’re investing into. You don’t want to be pouring your heart and soul into toxic friendships that will give you no return on your investment.
11. A SPIRIT OF JEALOUSY AND COMPARISON WILL POISON A FRIENDSHIP
To want what someone else has got or to feel a bit of “FOMO” when you see people doing cool things is a natural human instinct. In fact, sometimes these feelings will motivate us to actually go and pursue those things. It’s when these feelings turn bitter and resentful that it becomes a serious issue. When we are comparing ourselves to someone we are deciding in our minds that we are either better or worse than them. This then determines how we treat the other person and ourselves - out of feelings of superiority or inferiority (both equally as destructive). When we are jealous, we miss out on the joy of celebrating one another’s achievements and successes, which is such a fun part of friendship. We are meant to do life with people, not against them!
12. FRIENDSHIPS SHOULD BE GIVE AND TAKE
Friendship shouldn’t be just be one person investing and the other constantly withdrawing. There’s an old saying that says “friendship is a two-way street”. When it is one-way it can seriously drain the emotional energy of the person doing all of the lift to maintain it. It’s important that we try not to take others time and generosity for granted, but also to realise when we are being taken advantage of. That being said, friendship isn’t always a 50/50 balance. There will be times when we have to carry a bit more of the weight and other times where we will be the ones reaching out for help and support - which is totally fine as long as the scale isn’t constantly slanted in one direction.
13. YOU CAN'T TRUST EVERYONE
Developing friendships that aren’t surface-level but meaningful and significant requires a degree of vulnerability. While it’s important to be open, you have to be very careful with who you’re sharing your personal problems and information with. Recently, I was surprised to learn of a friend who had been talking behind my back - but I really shouldn’t have been. When I looked back at the conversations that I’ve had with this person, I’d say she has spent at least 99% of them gossiping. Not only is it totally draining to listen to but it says more about the person doing the talking than the people she is talking about. There’s an old cliché that’s almost always proven right - if someone is talking bad about others to you, they’re probably doing the same about you to others. This person is still a great friend in other ways and I don’t feel the need to cut her out completely but I definitely won’t be trusting her with anything I wouldn’t want the world to know.
14. YOU CAN'T EXPECT EVERYTHING
Friends can offer us a multitude of different things - support, help, encouragement and advice to name a few - but we can’t put unrealistically high expectations on others. We have to realise that as awesome as someone is, they’re still human and we can’t project god-like expectations onto them when they have their own life to manage too! It’s equally as important to establish healthy boundaries in friendships where you feel like someone’s expecting a little bit too much from you.
15. FOCUS ON BEING A GOOD FRIEND, BUT DON'T FORGET BE KIND TO YOURSELF TOO
Investing time and energy into friendships doesn’t feel like a chore to me, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I feel so energised and revitalised after spending time with good people. But as important as it is to be investing in friendships, it’s important to be looking after yourself too. This is a particularly hard one for me. I’m still trying to learn that I can’t look out for everyone else and neglect myself in the process. I can’t be as extravagantly generous as I’d love to be when I’m not looking after my own savings, I can’t tear myself down using the same words that I try to convince others that they are worth more than and I can’t exhaust myself trying to solve everybody else’s problems and forget to take care of my own.