One thing I've learned since heading out in the world "on my own" is that friendship is one of those things that changes naturally as you grow older. But the more important lesson that I've learned is that you really do get to choose who your friends are. And that has taken on a lot more meaning in the last few weeks than I could've imagined.
Creating Your Own Definitions
One of the most incredible lessons i've learned from anyone came from one of my old supervisors. One day Amy and I were talking about toxic family relationships and she sat me down and told me this: As a person it is your right to define what a title means: sister. friend. husband. What are the requirements in your mind? Are they realistic? Are the people in your life meeting those requirements? If not, it is also your right to not call them by those titles.
At the time, I took what she said to heart. I started learning to define my relationships in another light. But it wasn't until a couple weeks ago that I started really putting it into practice.
"As a person it is your right to define what a title means... Are the people in your life meeting those requirements? If not, it is also your right to not call them by those titles."
Recently I took some time to decide what friendship really meant to me. What makes someone a friend? What do I want from my friends? What is not acceptable? Answering these questions was challenging...
What makes someone a friend?
For me a friend is someone who loves you. A friend is someone who has your back, and wont lie to you. A friend is someone who cares about your personal growth. Someone who supports you in a crisis, and tells you when the crisis is of your own making. Someone who wants you to succeed. Truly succeed. Someone who is selfless in their advice. Someone who tells the hard truths. Someone who accepts hard truths in return. Someone you can trust, in any situation.
It was hard, assessing my friendships against this bar. I realized that I had a lot of people in my life who were only around to me to feel good about themselves. Unconcerned with my growth, and not truly invested in our relationship they would give only advice that fit their preconceived notions about their own life, and rejected any advice I gave that wasn't what they hoped to hear. I realized that so many of my friends would not stimulate growth in my life, in fact, they were holding me back. Like I said. It was hard.
What do I want from my friends?
We already touched on this a little in the last section: I want honesty. I want people to look me in the eye and say "you are choosing to destroy your own happiness". Along that same line; I want people who accept honesty. I want friends with open enough hearts and minds and enough self awareness that when I say "you are choosing to destroy your own happiness" they take time to really think on that, and determine within themselves if it is true. I want friends who know that they are often the reason for their own misfortunes, and that they are also the reason for their successes. I want friends who point out the former and celebrate the latter with me. I want a companion in growth.
People like that are few and far between. Most people would rather see themselves as a protagonist surrounded by antagonists that are the reason they fall behind... in reality we are always both. I hope to find more people who understand that. But for now, I have a few who are growing with me, and that is more than enough.
What is unacceptable
This was another hard one. Because when you create a list of what you will not allow in a friendship you are effectively forcing yourself to really stick to this new definition of friendship. I realized that I could no longer surround myself with people who were stuck in the same rut I had been in for so long. A rut where mutual enemies builds friendships, and where common interest takes a back burner to getting what you want with no thought to the other person's well-being. It's not that I don't like those people, after all, I was not so different.. and I am still growing. But I realized that my growth is my responsibility, so choosing to be around people that were not growing as well was a prime example of standing in my own way.
Maybe I have less friends this week than I had last week. Or maybe I have the same number I've always had. But I am no longer opening myself to negativity the way I used to, and that is a positive thing, and there are no words to describe the sense of peace that came with it.