The Friendship Paradox

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“There is an electricity about a friendship relationship.  We are both more relaxed and more sensitive, more creative and more reflective, more energetic and more casual, more excited and more serene.  It is as though when we come in contact with our friend we enter into a different environment.”              –Andrew M. Greeley

 

I am a different person when I am with my true friends.  I’m a person that surprises me with her honesty and ability to open up.  I’m someone who wants to be better to others, who is kinder and more genuine.  I’m happier and more alive, literally feeling more, seeing more, hearing more.  I’m the most vivid, authentic me that I know.  I’m challenged and pushed out of my comfort and complacency.  I’m a better person because of my friends.

Today I got to talk with a friend for a few minutes over the phone.  Lately I’ve avoided talking to people who used to know me because I’m not the person they knew.  I’m someone that I’m embarassed to be, settling for very little.  I sucked up my pride and caught up on life with a friend.  While I tried to deflect questions about my life and what I’ve been doing, because the answers are short and depressing, it was refreshing to just talk with her.  I’ve made some new friends at work that I’ve spent more and more time with lately, but there’s no comparison between new and old friends.  It’s fun and interesting and exciting to get to know a new friend, but there is a certain comfort and peace that comes from people who know your past, who’ve seen you change and grow.  She reminded me of who I used to be.  As we talked I felt my sense of humor come back, felt myself joke and talk like I did in college.  It took little more than a voice to bring me back to life a little bit.

Then I got to spend some time with another amazing friend who knows me better than almost anyone right now.  We talked about everything from books to boys to life ambitions to what we’re meant to add to this world.  I laughed and talked about things that I don’t tell many people about.  She listened to and, most importantly, understood me while I talked about my love of writing.  She encouraged me not to just find a new job, which my dad does, not to just be thankful that I have a job, which most people do, but to go after what I really love.  She could do this because she’s seen me at my lows, which have been pretty low lately.  She’s heard more than most because she asks more, she’s earned the trust to know more, and she uses that to push me.  She’s seen me at my best, at my happiest and most alive, and she helps me remember that part of me. 

I love this quote about friendship because it captures how I feel when I’m with the people who know me.  It’s a paradox of being the most calming and exciting thing.   They give me rest and comfort but they push and challenge me.  They know who I was and am and they allow and encourage me to grow and change.   Right now they also uplift me and bring me down; they encourage me and leave me discouraged.  I’m reminded of who I was, make me happy and joyful.  However, they remind me of who I was and who I now am.  It’s hard to remember how happy I was, how genuinely alive I used to be.  I was active and giving and now I hide whenever possible.  But the fact that I remember that me, that I still feel like her from time to time (thanks to my friends) brings me hope.  It shows me that, while I’m down and struggling now, it’s not all there is.  There’s still affection and laughter and encouragement– I can still be who I enjoy being.  I still have my friends.

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