Expanding horizons: On Friendships built on Differences

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Have you ever met someone that you have nothing in common with and it bloom into a friendship? It’s an interesting situation, and I mean that in the best way, these people can help you grow and widen your horizons, but they can also just be interesting people to discuss things with.

I think we’ve lost a lot of the art of being friends with different people. We like to surround ourselves with replications of ourselves. We like to know what kind of advice we’re going to get. We like to do our hobbies with other people who like our hobbies. Even if we don’t mean them to be, our friends tend to be very similar to each other. But they don’t need to be, we can have friends from all walks of life with all sorts of different hobbies and ideals. We might not get the joy of hearing our opinions spoken back to us, but we can learn about different ideas and we can fall in love with different activities, or types of music, or books.

We grow when we’re introduced to new and exciting things, but we also are mammals completely dependent on having support systems and being loved. We can find that love in company with all sorts of people.

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The timeline of getting over someone:

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I think we’ve been trying to figure out how long it takes to get over a relationship or friendship since they started falling apart, which is to say, since the beginning of time. If you Google how long it takes to get over someone you’ll find answers like “half the time of the relationship” or “18 months” and all kind of other answers. None of us want to submit to the fact that it’s different for everyone, no one wants to talk about the relationships it took years to get over or the friendship loss from six years ago that you’re still bitter about.

It’s tough, but there isn’t any timeline.

It’s tough, but there is good news in that, and it’s that whatever you’re going through is normal. You’re normal. That always brings a big sigh of relief.

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Cutting the cord with negative friends:

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I used to have a friend that leaned towards the negative side. She always had a lot to say about people, things, events. It was all bad. Nothing was above gossiping. I put up with it for a while because I still enjoyed the company. I enjoyed when we went out to do things. At my worst I’d play into the gossip a little, at my best I’d change the topic to something else.

The friendship didn’t go up in flames, or maybe it did on her side, maybe I’m the object of that negative gossip now. I wouldn’t have a way to know. What I do know is that despite red flags that this wasn’t the healthiest friendship I continued it till one night. That night we went to dinner, a normal occurrence. I remember walking out of the restaurant and saying goodbye. I felt awful. I was in a bad mood. I felt drained. I had gone in in a good mood and left a mess. After all the red flags, somehow that shift of mood told me that this was the last time I was going to dinner with her. So I went home and I put a lot of space between us until communications halted.

There are times in relationships were we need to bare our friends burdens. When our friends are going through hell they sometimes need to unload. We do it to them and they should be able to do it to us. Depressed friends need support, you can’t just drop people when they get negative about the things in their life. It’s when that negativity continues and spreads to all aspects of life once the circumstance improves. It’s when life gets better for them and they still want to trash on everything and everybody. It’s when the the conversations of others go from “they wronged me” to straight gossip.

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A combination of others: Absorbing traits of those we engage with.

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You know when you’ve been hanging around a friend for a long time and you start to pick up their slang words or their facial expressions? It happens subtlety, you normally don’t start to notice it until it’s pretty ingrained. Then suddenly it’s part of you, not just part of your friend.

These things happen to all of us and they happen on the regular. We absorb traits from those we are around the most. Sometimes it’s simple, like a phrase, sometimes it’s more complex. An example of that would be my growth in ambition. My fiance Chris is ambitious, and I’ve always teetered on the line. I’m ambitious about a few things, but for the most part good enough is good enough, but as we’ve been together my ambition has been growing. I want to do a better job at things that normally wouldn’t matter to me. I want to spend more time planning my actions instead of going with the flow. It’s a lot bigger personality change than gaining a phrase, but it’s a positive one.

Not all the things we gain are though. We gain peoples negative traits just as easily as we gain their positive ones. If we hang around a friend who is a gossip, chances are we’ll become a gossip before too long. It’s in our nature. We partake in something, we hang around something, and before long it’s a part of us too.

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Friendship: Beautiful but often temporary.

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We like to think that everyone in our life is there forever, and it’s true with family, but with friends it’s normally not the case. We love the concepts of best friends for life and we don’t like to think about the fact that most people only end up passing through. It sounds terrible to say that people are temporary, but yet, their time in our lives often are.

As I was making the guest list for my wedding I found myself thinking back to high school. I thought I’d have a different group on that list then I did, if you flash forward to college, my list would still be a little different. I’ve lost a lot of people over the years, and most of them fell off naturally. It’s not something I think about often, after all, I’ve gained a lot of people too, but some of the people I lost I thought would be around forever. I never thought it was naive to think that, but clearly it was. It got me thinking on how I view friendship and how I should.

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The risk of falling too hard into a niche:

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We love our niches. We’ve been told to seek them out since we were kids. Find your people and everything else will fall together! And I’m not saying that our people aren’t important, in fact, they are one of the most important things in our lives. All I’m saying is that we don’t want all our people to be exactly the same, just like we don’t want all our creative work to be the same, or all our habits to stay exactly the same.

We’re human beings, we don’t make progress or grow if we just do the same things over and over again.

If you find people who are too much like you, or only enjoy work that is exactly like the work you create, you’re not going to change any. You’re not going to be pushed to grow, you’ve never going to need to step outside of your comfort zone. You’ll create a beautiful little bubble around you and you’ll never be challenged. It might sound nice in a lot of ways, but without being challenged we will never achieve more than we are now. Without being pushed outside our comfort zone we’ll never learn that we do better work there. We’ll never learn that our people weren’t helping us but holding us back. We’ll never know that we can be more.

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Loneliness: How to try and beat it.

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I saw someone post about being jealous of the characters on Sex and The City for having a close group of friends, it had well over 500 likes, under it were a lot of comments and jokes about being lonely. I see posts like this often, I hear comments about it in person too. People talk about how isolated they feel all the time. They talk about the fear of losing deep and meaningful connections and settling for quick chats. There’s been articles published about the loneliness ‘epidemic’ sweeping across the western world, and debates on if social media makes it worse or better.

I understand it, not because I would define myself as lonely, but because I can see the type of connections I used to have verses the types of connections I have now. My boyfriend excluded, I don’t have a best friend, I haven’t had one since I was in high school. I have friends, and I love them all dearly, but I don’t have one that I rush to talk about almost everything, and I certainly don’t have one that I talk to everyday. Maybe this is part of growing up, maybe we’re meant to trade some of these connections in for ones of a different kind. After all, we get busy, we’re working, we get in romantic relationships, we might just not have the time or energy to be buddies like we were in grade school. I honestly believe this is true, but I also believe that there is more going on here than just that.

I think that as a whole our society is becoming more isolated. I believe that as with most everything, most of this is our own doing. Sure it’s hard to meet people, but I think the real problem is that once we meet people we never get close to them. So how do we change that? How do we move on to being more social?

  • Change your idea of social events: It’s becoming more common to be an introvert than an extrovert and I’m not surprised. We’ve made all social gatherings a production. It’s parties and concerts and shopping, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. It can also be two people sitting on the couch catching up or making cookies at home. Social events don’t have to be energy draining, and when they aren’t, we tend to make more room for them because they aren’t taking up our down time but rather adding to it.

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