So I’m kind of a cynical person. I think sometimes it’s good for me to be proven otherwise. After a slew of bad experiences in High School, I kind of believed that most people were only nice as a social gesture. It got you places with people to be nice to them, so you were nice.
The backbiting, the gossip, and the realization of just how empty those relationships were made my cynical. I tended to be apart from a lot of people; I had a large group of people that I considered friends, but few that I might ask to go do something with me. A lot of the time it was because I was afraid they would say no, or only go unwillingly. I had that experience where a friend told me she couldn’t hang out with me because her mom said no (or some reason like that), and then I found out that she had gone and spent time with other friends. It made me feel unwanted and uncool, so I tried not to ask people to do things with me. I heard a lot of gossip about how person a hated person b, but then they’d be really nice to person b’s face. It made me a bit paranoid that people were gossiping about me behind my back, even though they were nice to me.
I’m not saying that I didn’t have any friends in high school, but in many ways I didn’t fit in with my peers. I hated the gossip, the relationships, and the general shallowness of high school.
Now I’m sure a lot of this was high schoolers learning to be people, my own social awkwardness, and my penchant for overthinking things, but it led to my previous belief about people being nice for their own gain.
I’m not naive enough to think that I was totally wrong (hence my inner cynic), but since coming to college, I’ve met a whole lot of people who are nice for no other reason than because they are just dang nice people. Again, I’m sure that part of it is because as people mature they often leave behind silly and immature things, but it has also been really nice to have a number of real, true friends. My freshman year, I was haunted with an unsureness about whether three of my roommates actually liked me or were just tolerating my presence (particularly my suite mate). It drove me to spend as little time as possible where I lived and down to La Casa Picante, where my sister lived.
Because every time I went, there was somebody there who was happy to see me. And it wasn’t always my sister. Not that she wasn’t happy to see me, but I’d often walk in the door and have one or more of the other girls be just thrilled to see me. And be very vocal about how happy they were to see me. They were women in all shapes and sizes, at many different points in college, and even one who had a career. I made birthday cakes, did hair for bridal photos, got all gussied up for Princess Nights, and made general mayhem with them. We were all terminally single (ie, no dates in recent history; two of us had never actually been asked on a date and another hadn’t been on one in five years), so we complained about boys together and had fun teasing each other. It was really the first time in my life I felt completely accepted by a large group of people that wasn’t my family.
I’m embarking on my fourth and final year of college in the fall, and I’m still friends with these girls. I’m closer with some than others, but we still see each other. We still chat. In this past week we got together three times to celebrate summer and two birthdays. They’re not perfect, sometimes they drove me crazy (especially when I lived with them my sophomore year), but when I think of these women, there’s no doubt in my mind that they love me and think positively of me. It taught me how to extend the love and loyalty I’ve always had for my family to my friends.
I guess, as a continuation of my last post, part of growing up is learning how to be a real friend. It’s helping somebody move even though it’s finals week. Driving people to the airport when it’s inconvenient. It’s teaching somebody how to budget, and talking about things that make you angry in a (semi)rational way.
Amy and I were recently chatting about good friends. She noted how our family doesn’t feel the need to hang on to kind-of friends and acquaintances. We know what real friends are, and are content with the ones we have. The kind-of friends and acquaintances in our lives pass away, but our friends stay with us.
I think that knowing how to be a good friend helps make a strong marriage. Building positive relationships takes the same tools whether it’s a sibling, spouse, or friend. Open and clear communication helps a friendship as much as a marriage. Supporting them in their hobbies, reading the things they write, going to movies with them, calling them on the phone, all these types of things are equally applicable to any relationship. It’s been on my mind lately as I’ve had friends dealing with bad friends and abusive relationships. It has made me grateful for the lessons I’ve learned at college, and for the true friends that I have. It’s made me especially grateful for Kyle, who is my best friend.