When I was a kid I was extremely shy. I didn’t speak much and I kept to myself a lot. In social situations I observed people’s behaviour, their mannerisms, their personalities. Behind every soul is a story as profound as your own.
Unfortunately I was born with an open nerve. I feel everything, and I am deeply introspective, too much. That’s not to say that I’m also dismissive at times, cantankerous, moody, difficult.
A lot of my motivation comes from an understanding that we’re all very different. I didn’t always feel that way, and there were times in my youth where judgment usurped decency. Over the last couple of years I’ve become more introverted, prone to spending time alone, being with my thoughts and attempting to improve my life and the relationships I have.
I often wonder why we care so much about what happens in other people’s personal lives. One can’t turn on the television without reading about some celebrities love life. For some reason, it matters to us, and I can’t understand why.
My friend Raquel said something to me a couple of months back that made me laugh. She said, “Franco, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about you.” I spit out my milk and then we both chuckled.
She was referring to gossip, and how involved some of us like to be in the daily lives of our friends. In my mid-30s I’ve maintained friendships with people who care deeply about me, but don’t pry into my personal life. I appreciate that, and I return the favour. I think we both have a mutual agreement that we just want the other person to be happy.
Of course we can’t always be happy. I often find that those who claim to be are masking their insecurities. Their sadness, which believe it or not, we all have lurking inside us, is okay. I’ve never thought that melancholy was something to be ashamed of. Depression is a part of life, we’ll all experience it at some point, to varying degrees.
At work I speak very little about my personal life, in fact a lot of the time I make things up — for funsies! It’s a great creative exercise to invent a fictional life. I don’t socialize with work colleagues because based on my experience it’s always been rather dysfunctional. I don’t want to gossip about my co-workers, or my superiors, really I don’t.
Now maybe when I was in my early-20s I would say one thing and do the other, but at this age, it’s imperative to establish a life with good people. And it’s important to respect that we’re all sensitive creatures who want to be loved, despite our faults.
In the last couple of years I’ve made a concerted effort to end friendships that had been over for years anyway. I continued as long as I could out of loyalty, history and that glimmer of hope that everything would return to the way it was.
Friends are not people who harbour resentment towards you for comments you made in the past. They’re not people who judge you for being different from them, or for making jokes you might find offensive or inappropriate. Friends are not individuals who talk behind your back. Friends are not people who bring you down. They are not individuals who exclude you.
Based on all these criteria, I’m not attempting to convey innocence. I have been a bad friend many times to those who deserved much better than what I gave. The difference of course, is apologizing and moving forward with the lessons I’ve learned from my lapses.
A real friend is someone who accepts you just as you are. They’re people you can trust, and who would sooner burn off their eyebrows than say an ill word about you. Friends are people who want the best for you, who recognize you’re not always on the right path, but that you’ll hopefully get there eventually.
This past summer I had to put an end to a few friendships when I learned that they tried to make my business, theres. Of course they behaved under the guise of care and concern, but their motives were far from empathetic. But I also couldn’t vilify them. They were not my enemy, rather we had grown apart and were moving in different directions.
There are those who enjoy revealing every aspect of their personal lives, and who open themselves up to judgment from those whom they confess. I am not one of those people. I keep my life close to the vest, and I don’t encourage or invite drama. In return I ask that my friends respect my right to that respect. In the rare event that I do open up, I hope that I have chosen friends who won’t use confessions as dinner fodder.
In my last post I spoke about cycles. I’ve definitely found myself in friendships where each of us are caught up in an unhealthy cycle of dysfunction. I’ve had my privacy violated, and it has left me exposed, vulnerable, and with no one offering an apology or taking responsibility for deception.
Too many times I have been in trouble for calling people out on their poor treatment of others. Where’s the logic in that? Eventually I get disappointed in the delusions of others, and their lack of accountability. It’s vital to expect the best from the people you love. But it’s equally important to respect their limitations.
Friendships, like many aspects of life, are challenging. Eventually some of us reach a period in our lives where we want to surround ourselves with people who value us for being our finite selves. You choose to keep company with those who make you feel good about yourself, where spending time with them is enjoyable.
I’m not saying that they are always easy to navigate. Friends will go through some rough times, and you have to help see them through it. But they have to also be receptive that you have your own personal struggles, and that you’re doing, and giving all that you can in that moment.
I’ve always tried to be a person who owns his mistakes. It’s the only way I know to grow and evolve. I don’t always do right by someone, but I can’t beat myself up about it, rather I have to make the commitment to do better next time. If I fail, I have to keep trying.
But as I have often said before sometimes friendships must end. In my case some became exploitive. Especially the ones with history. We didn’t allow for their reality that we’re no longer teenagers, and that we’ve developed into different people.
Do I lament about the death of friendships? Sure. I’m human. But I am often solid in the virtues I hold dear, and I expect that a friend would appreciate that too.