Making friends when I was little was easy. I was “friends” with most of the kids in my class. This seems to be the case for my 4-year-old daughter too. She even calls her classmates, “friends.”
Now, making friends is a bit like going on dates. It’s awkward at first, and it requires some give and take. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking, because I want to be liked. Don’t we all?
A few years ago, I was at a beer fest, and I noticed the guy in front of us had a pretty cool tattoo — a tribute to the band 45 Grave and the movie, “Return of the Living Dead.” I whispered to my husband, Dave, “That guy has a cool tattoo.” We exchanged glances, and took a chance — striking up a conversation with him and his wife. They turned out to be wonderful people, so much like us in many ways. How lucky we were to meet them. We spent most of the fest chatting them up, and exchanged info when we parted ways. Before we next met up with them, Dave and I nervously debated — “What to wear?” “What should we talk about?” “When should we next ask them to go out?” Spoiler alert, none of that really mattered. We got along swimmingly from the moment we met, and we’re still friends today.
I was remembering this experience because our friend-iversary with that couple is coming up. When I think about the fact that in my 30s, with 2 kids, I am still able to make new friends who are caring and kind, and also culturally and intellectually stimulating, I feel genuinely fortunate. I’m not special — what have I done to deserve such a gift?
I want to be the kind of friend who has a generous spirit, who gives as much to a friendship as I get from it. Sounds easy, right? Maybe it is for some people, but it takes a conscious effort to consider the feelings of others, to take a genuine interest in things I don’t really know much about, and to just listen.
Another thing I’ve been practicing is being happy for other people. I know that sounds bad, but try to stay with me. I think it’s human nature to be somewhat jealous or envious. I once read an author who described it perfectly — that if someone else had a slice of success, it was like there were fewer slices of success in the pie for her. She challenged herself to always express happiness for others, even when her life was tough and she didn’t feel like it. And you know what? A funny thing happened, over time, she felt more at peace with other people’s success. She even found that when she helped her friends to be successful, she felt happier. That’s the kind of friend I want to be.
When I see the amazing things my girlfriends from college are doing — advanced degrees, world travel, impressive careers, beautiful families — I feel genuinely happy for them. We shared some of the same passions and struggles during college, and we are becoming the women we wanted to be, I think. I probably don’t tell them enough how great I think they are, but they inspire me almost every day.
I was at a leadership seminar a week ago and asked to write how I would like to be remembered. My first thought was simple — I wanted people to remember that I was a kind person. I have a friend who has had some personal troubles over the last year. I’m not the best at giving advice, but I hope that I have given this person an ear to bend, or at least left him knowing that someone is in his corner when times have been tough. I am grateful for the people who have done this for me in life.
Recently, Dave and I met another couple, who I think will become good friends in the long run. We’re still at that beginning stage — the awkward, back-and-forth of getting to know each other. But, seriously, aren’t we lucky? Life is better when you have people to share it with – the joy, sorrow and fun are all deeper and more meaningful.