I recently had one of my oldest, closest friends fly out to visit me in LA. The type of long-term friendship that I consistently choose. Our bond feels unbreakable and in no way pressured by our history. As we have grown up and become more adapted, mature women, our connection has remained aligned. Most of our free time in high school was spent together; slumber partying, going out, even traveling to other countries side by side. Although personal space and time independently are priorities to me, my confidence our time together would be spent preciously and only overwhelmed by joy enabled a 6 night stay.
After our first day of In-N-Out, walking along the Santa Monica bike path, and dog meet Auntie bonding time, we floated into la la land and the conversations got deep. When you know someone for so long, and have shared your deepest darkest secrets, you’re brought to a place of vulnerability where the trust to share everything authentically yourself is guaranteed. Not to mention, we’ve been through plenty revealing stages of life together and seen it all; the good, the bad, the ugly. To be able to just be, no worry if your intentions come out right, if you’ll be misunderstood or wrongfully judged by something you do or say, is the most freeing kind of relationship. Life is already challenging enough, friendships should be rewarding. The longing to feel understood is comforted and at ease when you’re able to simply enjoy time with a friend and feel mutually inspired. Your friends should understand and respect your values as you do for them.
Although sharing similar interests, this friend and I have always been very different in many ways. She was straight A’s honor courses and pushed herself to study challenging material. I was mostly A’s basic courses and didn’t read a single book in high school. She’s the kind of person who would drop everything for a friend in need but be mortified if a friend does so for her. The kind of person who goes to Malawi with the Peace Corps and gets offered a scholarship to Law School because it’s just that obvious she’s going to change the world. I’m the kind of person who cherishes just how special she is and makes it my mission to ensure she doesn’t lose sight of her own charm.
My takeaway from how a friendship could work so well when the partnership involves two entirely different people is this: I am able to appreciate and understand her for who she is without questioning my personal characteristics in comparison. I am able to listen and learn from a different perspective without feeling pressured to adjust my own. There is an unspoken relief in appreciation without obligation for change. No added worry or desire. No lessened value with lack of individuality. These kinds of friends are treasures. Valued for their authenticity and admired exactly as they are.
As much as I may seem like I have the answers to living my best life, most of what living my best life means is never ending growth and learning. Although we might not always hold or fight for friendships with those who differ in beliefs, human interaction assigned truthfully to its purpose can secure a positive takeaway. It’s an important piece of self-development to have an interested, understanding mind and open ears when interacting with different kinds of people and new or unfamiliar perspectives. Every second I forget to listen, I am losing the potential to gain new intel, which is something I discuss further in my post Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn.
Growing up we usually have a more limited pool of people to choose friends from. It’s rare to find people we connect perfectly with in life, let alone from this designated group. We gravitate to friends for different reasons, whether they’re a “good time” to be around, they laugh at your jokes, or you have shared activities bringing you together. As we age out of high school and meet more people from different towns, countries, upbringings, we pick and choose our friends with different agendas. Maybe it’s more important to us now that someone understands our career choices. Maybe our definition of a “good time” changes from laughter and partying to stimulating conversation. The friendships we prioritize when it comes to spending our energy should fulfill our life in a way that suits our needs. Never stop pushing your boundaries and challenging your intellectual beliefs. Remain aware of your passions and stick up for what you believe in, but keep in mind that all sorts of people can be a good friend. Judge less the person you are friends with and focus more on how you feel about yourself when you’re around them. Some of the best friends you’ll have are the ones who offer you a whole new world.