When we are children, friendship is an easy thing. We find someone we take a shining to on the playground, walk up to them and declare them to be our friend—more or less. There are times it doesn’t work out so easily, but the ability to make (and un-make) friends seems a lot simpler when we are children, like so many things in our lives.
As we get older it becomes a lot more complicated. We have to take in account things like similar interests, lifestyles, schedules. What will we talk about? What are our political views? Will this person fit into our existing social circles? Do we care if they don’t? If the person is of the opposite sex (assuming you are heterosexual…same-sex if you are homosexual) then you get into a whole host of additional questions. Can you actually be friends or are you “friends”? (I wish I could in this text based medium draw out the “friends” in a lascivious way my dear friend Kat does…it would have so much more effect…and amusement.) What if one of you has interest in more than friendship and the other does not? Is it wise to explore a platonic friendship or to steer away? How many shades of the rainbow are there in the world of Friendship anyway?
My answer to that these days is simple: As many as you can imagine.
The truth of the matter is that there is no clear cut definition of what makes a friend or how you define a friendship. There’s a philosophy that people come into your life for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime. I believe this with all my heart, having experienced all of the above—of course I haven’t yet lived my Lifetime, but there are a few people who I am fairly certain are here to stay!
Living by this philosophy makes it a little easier to let friends into my life. Perhaps that new person I met has come in for a simple Reason—to get me coffee. Kidding. Although coffee sounds good right now. But perhaps they are here just to help with one of those FGEs that we get to experience, make our way through and then move on. They may be a great person, but they just don’t really stay in our life for an extended period of time for a variety of circumstances…and that’s okay.
Then there are the Season people. They stay around a bit longer. Like that fellow mom or dad at your kids’ school. You were incredibly close and did a lot together for a while. Maybe you learned a lot about yourself from them like I did. Maybe you were able to show them a little something about life and love and family that they weren’t used to. But there comes a point where again, you drift apart. You may even make a stab a rekindling the friendship, but something has changed and it just doesn’t feel the same…and that’s okay.
Finally there’s the Lifetime friends. These are the people you can call at 3am for bail money. Or, more likely, are sitting next to you in the jail cell. These are the ones who are always there for you. Who pick you up when you fall, but will also knock your ass down when it needs to be taken down a peg. The ones who love you for who you truly are – and sometimes in spite of who you truly are.
Here’s the interesting thing about the three groups…you never know where someone will fall in them. There are people you think are there forever who are a flash in the pan. There are people you meet who you are certain you will not have much in common with that you turn around a couple of decades later and they are your best friend (shout out to my best friend in the whole wide world, Monique—I wouldn’t be the woman I am without you. Thank God, Allah, Buddha, the little Baby Jesus and anyone else you worship that I am blessed enough to have you in my life!) But if you never open yourself up to the possibility of what someone COULD be in your life you might be blocking yourself from the experience of a lifetime.
Now that is not to say everyone is worth of a space in your world. There are some people who should absolutely be kept at an arm’s length. There are those who you welcome into your world who are not worthy of you and should be cast out. However there are also people who may make mistakes—as we all do. That is where I tend to believe in second (and sometimes third) chances. I know the old saying says ”Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” and that perhaps I tend to be naive when I give people more than one or two chances, but I also think there’s a reason why in baseball it’s three strikes before you’re out.
My point with all of this is simple—similarly to my thoughts on dating, in friendships there should not be in your mind or heart a set book of “rules” to follow. You should enter every new one with an open spirit. You never know where it may take you.