Sunday, July 29, 2012

Up on My Soapbox about Friendship

As a blog based in friendship, it is only natural that we talk about friendship every now and then. :)

I'm sure all of us know that friendship is great. It's beautiful, fun, engaging, and it's something that each of us needs in life. Where would we be without our friends?

If there is anything that I have learned through my life about friendship and relationships, it's that they all take time and energy and so much more from both sides. As they say, "Friendship is a two-way street." I have seen and continue to experience absolute true friendship. Anna is truly a best friend and I thank her for it constantly. I have a small handful of truly awe-inspiring and beautiful friends - they know who they are. But I've also learned that there are times when friends disagree, there are friendships that end, and there are friends that simply move on. C'est la vie.

However, it is our jobs as friends to put in the time and be there. This we all know. That's the easy part of friendship - hanging out and, well, being friends. The hard part comes along when time runs short, when friends move away, when life changes. These are the catalysts for the troubles of friendship.

And here comes the part of the job description of a friend that so many of us forget: 
Be understanding. 

So here I am, up on my soapbox - hoping that maybe a little reminding will help us all. The whole world needs to remember that we are all fighting different battles and that friends give us each strength.

If you want to the short version of the tome below, here it is: 
So for every human being out there: 
Please try to understand that we, as individuals, cannot be the centers of one another's universe, but we can be bright stars in one another's gorgeous night skies. Take pleasure in being a blessing counted with the stars and revel in every second you spend with your friends. Stop lamenting about time you don't get, quit complaining, and start rejoicing in the time you have; because believe me, there'll come a day when you too will have to say, "Sorry, not tonight," or "I'm sorry, I can't - rain-check?"


The long version:

Sometimes, actually often times, when life decides to get busy, it does so in almost every aspect: from work, family, friends, and everyday life to new arrivals, emergencies, excitement, and change - it all tends to happen in clusters and all at once. These bouts can last for hours, days, weeks, and even months, leaving little "free" time and these moments happen to everyone.
As relatives, friends, loved ones, peers, and so much more to the people around us, it is each of our duties to understand that sometimes people are busy and sometimes this busy-ness lasts for longer than anyone wants. It is our job as friends to support our friends and loved ones and understand that they have other things going on, good or bad. Be there and lend strength - that is what true friends do. 

In my opinion, a grown adult that feels personally persecuted because the people in their lives have intervals when they have less time than usual for him/her is one or more of the following: 
  • insecure about the relationships they hold
  • lacking compassion and empathy for the struggles we all face from time to time
  • lacking the amount of responsibilities/obligations that can cause moments and times like those
  • and/or, simply, selfish.
There are a lot of things a functioning, active, and responsible adult has to do, such as (but not limited to):
  • pursuing life goals
  • sustaining an intimate relationship
  • preserving friendships
  • protecting family integrity
  • fulfilling familial duties
  • fulfilling fiscal and civil responsibilities
  • attending to mundane, everyday tasks
  • making time for oneself. 
As a working, young but active and responsible woman, I wholeheartedly believe that each and every one of those things is essential to a healthy and fulfilling life. But sometimes, some days, some weeks, it can be a lot to handle all at once. You can't tell me you haven't felt that way before.
During those times, something's got to give. 

So here's the new challenge - What is it that gives?

I hope that we can all agree, that there are some things that are simply not negotiable (and for some things, nor should they be or would we want them to be). This list of things is different for everyone, as priorities are different for different people. For me, personally, the list is: family, work, certain daily tasks (like taking a shower, eating, sleeping, tidying, and caring for my pets), and miscellaneous obligations of adult life (doctor's appointments, car maintenance, home maintenance, helping the household make ends meet, etc.). 

So eliminating these non-negotiable items, we're left with: the pursuit of personal life goals, sustaining an intimate relationship, preserving friendships, and personal time. 

From my personal perspective, the first thing that always gives in every situation is personal time (for better or for worse). Any of my closest friends can attest to this. 

So next, it's: pursuit of personal life goals. 
At this point in my life, this is a priority. I am a new college graduate entering my career field. Pursuing my career goals is something that will not give, not now, anyway. I will put in the time to apply to jobs, update and adjust my resume, write cover letters, attend interviews, study for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (so I can pursue becoming a professional engineer), and anything else that might help. Later on in my life, as I mature into the career field and settle down to start a family, this will become less of a priority but right now, it takes up a lot of my limited "free" time (I work 44 hours one week and 36 hours the next as my work schedule and it does limit my time, contrary to some belief). 

That leaves: Intimate relationship versus friendships - the age-old dual. 
How long have men whined about missing bro-time because their man has got a new girl? 
How long have women complained about missing their gal-pal because of the new beau in her life? 
I'd first like to remind all of us that anyone who finds themselves in a meaningful relationship does, out of the nature of time itself, have less free time to spare for some things that it may have been used for in the past. It's a balancing act. 
It is important to remember that couples need time to themselves to grow and sustain a lasting relationship.

I personally am happy for my friends and kind of like it when they take time for themselves - even if it means fewer visits with them. I will gladly sacrifice some of my friend-time to see my friends find love.
But I realize that this is not how everyone feels - I believe there is an innate fear that once our friends find love, they're never gonna look back. But that's not how it is, a true friend will rejoice with you and share their happiness with you. They will look back - they'll remember that you were there when they needed you and they'll know you'll still be there to celebrate in their love.

But for many, there is still room to complain. I mean, some people truly don't look back, some relationships aren't completely balanced - in fact, I'm sure many aren't; and this is where that fear comes from.
Ideally, there should come a point (after some adjusting and transition time) where a balance is found in which everyone is satisfied and happy. This state should be balanced more often than not and only come off-kilter when changes happen (which, unfortunately can seem fairly often).

I strive for this balance. Having been in a relationship (I've been in 3 relationships total) for almost the entire time since I was 15 (I am now 22) and having each of those three last at least one year and six months with my current one at 3+ years (indicating that none were "flings"), I can confidently say that I am good at balancing my relationships and my friendships. 

But, alas, there are a few who disagree.

Now, I take this kind of thing seriously and to heart. It pains me to think that any of my friends may feel that I am deliberately not making time for them, especially when I try and the effort is not recognized.
It truly pains me.

However, I do take solace in the fact that the majority of my friends do not feel this way, only a few.
So, I mustn't be the terrible friend those few claim.

And truly, I believe that I make the same amount of time for all of my friends - with the small exception of best friends. But the issue lies in the fact that some friends need more time than others, I can't divvy up my friend-time evenly and make everyone happy...

Having said that, I believe that I am making a strong effort to balance my life and, though I will try my best to improve these relations, I understand that it might turn out to simply not be enough.

In the end, I stand by this statement:
A true friend is understanding. 
This is the whole reason a person becomes friends with another in the first place: because they understand each other (at least to some degree). If a friend cannot or refuses to understand, even with your best efforts, then perhaps they are not as close or as good a friend as they could be.

In my life there are a lot of forces that don't understand, that show little ability to picture life in my shoes... I depend on my friends to be the understanding ones. And I try my damnedest to understand each of them and to see life from their perspective - I am their friend after all, it's my job. My closest friends are my closest friends because they understand and not only that, they love me no matter what. 

I mean who doesn't love those friends that they can go forever without seeing or talking to and when you meet up again, finally, nothing has changed? Who doesn't love that? That, to me, is a great friend. 

THAT is true friendship. And I offer it to each and every one of my friends, each of them get it from me. I am always saying, "Oh no, next week works too!" or "Just let me know when you're free." But, as they say, "Friendship is a two-way street," sometimes I need some understanding too. We all need understanding from our friends. That's what friends are for. 

So for every human being out there: 
Please try to understand that we, as individuals, cannot be the centers of one another's universe, but we can be bright stars in one another's gorgeous night skies. Take pleasure in being a blessing counted with the stars and revel in every second you spend with your friends. Stop lamenting about time you don't get, quit complaining, and start rejoicing in the time you have; because believe me, there'll come a day when you'll need some understanding too.

- Jenny -

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