Last night I found myself looking through every single tagged photo of myself on facebook, not because I'm consumed with myself (because as I was forced to remember, my junior high and high school years were not good to me look-wise), but mostly out of a boredom so great, only doing something such as absentmindedly clicking little arrows over pictures would cure. As someone who has had facebook for a long time (since 2007!), many pictures of me have surfaced over the years. As I looked through, I began to notice something, friends coming and going, months without a tagged photo of me, different types of photos appearing, and it really got me thinking about friendships. First of all, I am the type of person who knows a lot of people, but I am very good friends with a select few. I tend to invest deeply in just a handful of people. From being a military kid, I learned fast my relationships had to become deep quickly because I didn't have much time with people. I never lived more than three years in one place until I moved to Oklahoma the second time around. Then I lived there for five years. As one can imagine, I developed deep friendships with a group of people, and then continued that friendship for much of my developmental years (last end of elementary to middle of high school). Because of that, once I moved to Alaska, it was hard for me to make new friends because I was not only tied to people now thousands of miles away, but I had also forgotten how to create a bond between myself and another human. Coupled with that and my introversion and shyness around people I don't know, I've felt basically everything on the friendship scale.
That's a little bit of background on my friend experiences. One thing I have learned through my friendships is this: you have to be willing to invest. That is a given, I hope, but you really have to make a conscious effort. For me, I literally have to think to myself, "I want to be that person's friend, therefore I have to talk with them and hang out with them and potentially feel awkward for a period of time. But I'm willing to do that." For some people, it seems like they just have to blink and everyone in the room is instantly their friend. But sometimes it's hard. Another thing I've learned is that the other person has to be willing to invest. I've had friends who I never fully felt comfortable with, and they weren't willing to compromise for me like I had been for them. If a person is not willing to give the amount of effort that you're giving, then you probably shouldn't be friends with that person. I'll have to warn you though, it will hurt. A lot. A lot a lot. If you're like me, you'll end up crying about this for months and you'll spend entire summers alone wondering why they don't like you and what you could have done differently and what's wrong with you, but trust me, I would much rather go through those feelings than feeling awkward and left out while I'm hanging out with people who should make me feel the opposite.
At the same time though, friendships can't always be skipping through fields of flowers. Like any relationship, they're tough and take a lot of work. You have to keep in contact. My old friends and I used to swear that we would grow old together and be crazy old ladies and be in each other's weddings and be friends forever, but then I didn't keep in contact and they didn't keep in contact, and eventually everything faded away. That is one of the saddest things. I still hurt because I think, "Did they really care about me?" (Of course, that's also me constantly over-analyzing everything.) But sometimes I wonder if they think that of me. I see their updates on facebook, and they are just ghosts of the people I remember, pixels of memories I had from years ago, memories that are a little blurry like a dream. And all I have to hold on to those memories are photos or status updates, but they don't seem real. So I'm begging you, if you have friends that you've lost contact with, please message them, send them an email, text, call, anything. I would give almost anything to be able to create new memories with people who are now confined to my computer screen and the one sided conversation known as the facebook newsfeed. Who knows what could happen? Maybe you guys will end up having wheel chair races at the nursing homes after all!
Now in my life, I'm finally surrounded by a beautiful group of girls, and I'm so excited because I get to live in an apartment with them this fall! College was such a blessing for me. Going into it, I was scared I wouldn't make any friends, because I was still unsure how to create deep relationships quickly and I knew people would try to create their circles within the first few weeks of attending. Living in close quarters with someone helps tremendously (or awfully, depending upon how compatible you are with the other person), because it forces you to get to know each other quickly. If a college environment isn't in your immediate future, I would say being deliberate is the best way to go. Be kind to people. Ask questions. That's one of my tools that I took into college. People love talking about themselves, so if you ask a lot of questions, it gets you out of talking and allows you to learn about the other person. Actually listen to them. In this day and age, too much time is spent thinking of what you're going to say next, ways to not make things awkward, pondering for minutes or hours over texts to decide the best wording. But I try to really stop and listen to what the other person is saying, and if I'm curious about something, I ask. Even if it's a very personal question I ask it anyways, because then a level of trust is established and the friendship can grow from that. And above all else, spend time with someone you can love. I think humans have the capability of loving any human they come in contact with, but there are some people who are more compatible than others. You tend to know soon after a few conversations whether or not a friendship will work. At the same time, let those conversations determine your pursuit, and not things that you've heard or even seen. My friends that I made in college, if I had known them in high school, I would have never been friends with them. Popular, sporty, beautiful, insanely smart and talented people ... I wouldn't have been brave enough to even talk to them because of how different they seem to be. But that's the beautiful thing about humans--despite our differences, we are all pretty similar.
To my old friends, I love you, I miss you, I think about you a lot. I hope one day we can be reunited. To those who decided not to be my friend, I'm trying to forgive you. I hope for nothing but happiness in your life. To my current friends, may our group facebook message never end, and may you all be in my wedding. And may we all have enough money for a friendship reunion every year, because you bring more joy into my life than you will ever know.