Art of Growing Up - Friendship
Being in high school is weird. Having friends in high school is even weirder. Assuming all of you are fellow RVA students, being home-schooled and juggling ‘real life’ can be difficult enough. Throwing friendship into the mix, virtual or otherwise? I can imagine it makes things a lot tougher.
I personally don’t have this problem; I don’t have any ‘real’ friends. And for a long time, I used homeschooling as an excuse for that. After all, I’m not surrounded by kids my age for 8+ hours a day. In fact, the only time I’m with teenagers is when I’m work. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t think these factors are why I don’t have in-person friendships — I don’t think I’m built for them, at least not right now. That probably sounds really sad or like I’m lying to myself, but I have my reasons. And, obviously, I’m here to explain them.
1. Finding people you have things in common with is hard.
I’m not sure if this is a small-town thing or just a real-life thing. Regardless, I have yet to meet someone that thinks the way I do, likes the music I do, has the same hobbies as me, etc. You get the point.
2. I’m an introvert.
Again, this probably sounds like an excuse. Being an introvert and having friends aren’t mutually exclusive; you probably know an introvert with a decent crowd, or you may be an introvert with friends. But when you spend 20 hours a week, up to 8 a day talking to people, sometimes I just want to be alone.
3. I don’t really know what ‘friendship’ means.
When I was younger, I used to model my idea of friendship off of what I saw on TV. And unsurprisingly, television displays the ‘ideal’ version of things — you hear characters talk about how they’ve known each other for years, and how they tell each other everything. I’m no longer in touch with anyone I went to elementary school with, and I’ve never trusted anyone enough to tell them everything about me.
Does that really mean I’ve never had friends, though? Or have I just never had one of the many possible friendships?
Friendship is one of the most difficult but rewarding things a person can have. Having friends as a teen is really hard, in case you didn’t know. For half of high school, our parents have to chauffeur us and our friends around town and that gets old fast. We also don’t have a ton of money to spend, which makes doing things with friends difficult. There are so many reasons why having friends can be difficult but rewarding, but I’d like to discuss what a friend means.
What does the word “friend” mean? Well, this word means something different to each of us, both in the friends we choose and how we interact with our friends. For instance, some might say that comfortable teasing is a sign of true friendship while others might say eating off each other’s plates is the sign. I personally know I have a true friendship with someone when the conversation never ceases. My introverted self sometimes finds it hard to keep conversations going, so when I am relaxed and natural in conversation, I have found a soulmate.
There are varying levels of friendship. I have some friends with who I could spew my soul to, but others only know what I’m doing over the weekend. Those friends who know me inside and out have proved themselves over and over and they are special people to me. I have intentionally picked my deepest friendships; I have weighted relationships with people who have proven themselves to be good human beings. Don’t become friends with people who treat others like trash and be intentional with the true and raw relationships you harbor.
We have often heard the words “good” and “bad” tagged onto “friend,” but what does that mean? A good friend is someone who encourages you, loves you for you, and enjoys your company simply for the joy of spending time with you. A good friend is someone who listens, understands, and laughs at the inside jokes. In order to be a good friend, sometimes you have to sacrifice your wants. You must listen without offering solutions because unless someone asks for advice, they probably don’t want it. You have to pay attention to your friend’s likes and dislikes. Aside from having a good friend, it is possible to have a bad friend. This friend will exhibit selfish behavior, talk over you, and never compromise. They might tease you to the point of insecurity or make you uncomfortable. Bad friends not only treat you poorly, but they might exhibit bad peer pressure. Although it’s been implied, I’ll echo myself: don’t be a bad friend.
So, I guess the age old question still stands: how can you be a good friend? It’s easy to be a good friend to someone you respect, so find decent human beings. Once you find a decent human to call your own, pay attention to their personality and what makes them tick. When you find out their favorite food is Chinese, you can take them out for Chinese. If you find out that your human is an introvert, it’ll be easier for you when they don’t crawl out of their cocoon for days. Do you see what I mean? This shows that you pay attention and that you care. Another thing you can do is listen. I cannot stress this enough. We all need someone to listen from time to time, both about our problems and our ramblings. I think the best way to be a good friend is to treat them with the golden rule in mind. If you treat your friend with love and kindness, you’ve already exhibited good friend behavior.
Don’t stress too much about being a good or bad friend; so long as you treat others with kindness, you should be fine. If you stress too much about it, you’ll probably become a negligent friend. Chances are if people like to hang out with you, you probably are an excellent friend.
As Kayelona said, there are many different forms of friendship, and there are many types of friends you can be. I clearly agree with this — you may have noticed that I used the phrase ‘in-person’ or ‘real’ friends to describe why I don’t have any. Well, it’s because I have friends online.
I’ve known my best friend Ella for over 2 years now, and surprisingly, we didn’t meet through school. We met on a social media website, and we quickly bonded over the interests we share and the traits we have in common. But just because we’ve never met in person, people are quick to judge and assume that we can’t actually be friends.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that friendship isn’t what bystanders tell you it is: friendship is what you and the other party make of it. You can make friends in easy settings, like work or school, or you can bond over something deeper. When it comes down to it, though, one type of friendship is no more valid than the other. As long as you put in the same effort and feel comfortable around your friend, the relationship you share is real and valid.
I think it’s really cool that Lauren has been able to find friends online. Our society is changing and so are our friendships. The structure of our friendships has changed from a hundred years ago. The types of friends we can meet have also changed. People of older generations may try to tell you what the definition of friendship is, but only you can decide what that looks like for you. Although there are many different formats of friendship, the goal is to form a deep human connection and it doesn’t matter where you meet people or how you interact.
Until next time…
K + L
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