When we are little, we are taught throughout all our young lives how to be a good friend. We are praised for including others, disciplined for leaving others out. Thumbs up for sharing, thumbs down for calling a friend a name.
As a kid, everyone you meet is your friend. You instantly engage in play, you laugh, you run, and you literally lose all your cares. Not a single child is on the playground thinking about what someone might think of him, how long that friendship will last, will they turn their back on you, or will they truly be there through thick and thin. Carefree friendships are a childhood treasure.
As adults, these concepts fall to the wayside. From high school until now, I have had some truly wonderful friendships that have fallen apart right in front of my eyes. People I would literally do anything for, friends from college that if I saw right this minute I would fall to my knees apologizing for every last thing we did to each other that broke our friendship apart. I think back on these broken friendships and they are truly the one thing I regret more than anything else. At the end of the day, what are you without your friends?
I’ll admit I’ve done my fair share of pushing people away. I hate change. I want our friendship to stay the same . . . always! We will always wrestle in baby pools full of dish soap, we will always go to Cactus Canyon on Wednesday nights, we will always have house parties on Mondays, and we will always take selfies before the word selfies was invented. We will attended college football games, and NFL games, and Halloween parties, and sleep in the same bed watching Elf every night for a week. We will do crafts on Tuesday nights, laugh at Cards Against Humanity on a Saturday evening, keep each other company at the pool, dress up for every theme party we possibly can, all while making memories to keep, safely logged on our iPhones. We will have Mexican food on Fridays, go to concerts spontaneously, and swear that no matter what we will never fall apart. But then things change . . . and like clock work I say to myself, “Someone else is out there that will do the things I like to do, the things we used to always do before things changed.”
As if change is the worst thing in the world, but for me it just might be.
My New Years resolution was to start embracing change. Just as I had sat down to let this HUGE resolution sink in, I picked up Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, and she said, right to me, “The only thing we can depend on in life is that everything changes. The seasons, our partners, what we want and need. We hold hands with our high school friends and swear to never lose touch, and then we do. We scrape ice off our cars and feel like winter will never end, and it does. We stand in the bathroom and look at our face and say, ‘Stop getting old, face. I command you!’ And it doesn’t listen. Change is the only constant. Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being.”
As a reflection for myself and all those struggling with change, I bring you my childhood list of friendship skills that we should practice as adults. Helping us all navigate our ever changing lives, our ever changing friendships, embracing change, and increase our overall happiness.
Everything I Learned About Friendship, I Learned in Kindergarten
We share our time, our ideas, our resources, our experiences, and our lives with our friends. We trust in them to hold this part of our friendship close to their heart. We trust that whatever we share, we share in confidence. I suppose this part of friendship is what makes broken friendships leave you feeling betrayed. You see someone turn their back on you and you think, “After all you know about me? After all that you know about my stubbornness, my kindness, my humor, my love for you?” But once in a very blue moon, you’ll find that person, that group of people, who will allow you to share no matter what . . . these are the people you keep near, you treasure, and you never let go of!
2. Be Nice
Since when did being nice not come second nature to people? You should see the way young children run to each other on the playground when a friend falls down. You don’t have to pick yourself up when you’re crying because a group of friends will be there for you. They will pick you up, brush you off, take you to the teacher, and help you to the nurse. They don’t mind that this is cutting into their recess time because they know the next time they’re knocked down, you’ll be running to them, helping them to their feet again.
3. Friends Listen to Each Other
This is probably the hardest thing to teach to kids. They could truly careless about listening to each other. All they want to do is play, and you know what, that’s just fine with me. Play until your voices are hoarse from so much laughter, play until you cannot run anymore, and then when you are worn out, just fall to the ground next to each other, read each other’s minds and continue to laugh.
As adults, listening to one another is the best skill we can have. We can learn so much about a person by just sitting and listening. Be an unbiased listener. Let them vent, let them project their feelings onto you, let them cry, or laugh, or scream. Because we are friends and nothing you say will change that. Need a shoulder to cry on? I’m here. Need a something to brighten your day? I’ll go wherever you want me to go. Need me to wear these flamingo glasses for a week straight just to make you happy? Sure, why not?!
4. We’re in this Together!
Small children are taught cooperation and teamwork. They are forced out of their egocentric worlds into a world that requires them to interact with others. They learn that no matter what, we are in this thing called life together. Probably the most treasured of all friendship skills. Knowing you are never alone, knowing you never have to pick yourself up, knowing you never have to dress up in 80s clothes and fear being the only one, knowing the phone call will always be answered, the text always returned. We are in this together. If you are hurting so am I, if you are crying so am I, if you hate someone so do I, but goodness if you succeed so do I, if you can’t stop smiling neither can I . . . because we are in this together.
I say that this is the most treasured of all friendships skills and perhaps my biggest downfall. I often find myself thinking, “But I would do this for them, why can’t they do it for me?” As if they owe me something? Not quite, just that I want someone as dedicated to me as I am to them. I will literally die for my friends, but often I feel like I’m standing alone. This is where change hits me the hardest. Priorities change, but in my mind the way I feel about my friends never does . . . so why all of the sudden does it feel like I’m standing alone, no one to laugh with, not a single hand reaching towards me to help me off the ground . . . well, because things change . . . and I muster up enough strength to pick myself up and find people who will be there for me, no matter the changes, no matter the problems between us, no matter our history . . . this actually leads me to my last skill . . .
5. Making Up is Hard To Do
I found an inspirational post on staymarriedblog.com that talks about ways to become a better forgiver. And although the blog describes this in terms of a marriage, I believe it still applies to friendship. This is perhaps the step I’m forgetting . . . the friendship skill in which I lack. Trust me, it’s much easier to say forget it, than I’m sorry . . . forgiveness is to accept the change I push away, knowing my friends probably feel the same way I do . . . interesting how empathy works. Also, interesting how it takes a long blog post, multiple rereadings, and a little courage to realize that yes, as much as I think I’m the perfect friend and I’m left feeling lonely, it is perhaps my lack of forgiveness, my lack of accepting change that has left me in this situation . . . a reflection for a resolution . . .
Either way, here is what staymarriedblog.com says about becoming a better forgiver:
I challenge myself after this honest reflection to be more forgiving, more selfless, more eager to just rely on myself. I think all it takes is a little strength. Does this challenge you?