Over the past year, it was very tempting to sulk and mope about not having any friends or community.
The reality that, as a post-grad, old friends are harder to keep in touch with and new friends are harder to make, was a reality I knew in my head beforehand, but became a whole new ball game to experience in real life. Having a history of not being great at maintaining long distance friendships didn’t really help, either. I’d start off strong, and then taper off in the busyness life in my immediate world around me, assuming that my long distance relationships would understand.
Well, you know what happens when you assume.
I also think people often assume (unintentionally) that newlyweds have all their friendship needs met with each other. Nathan is my best friend, indeed, but there are also many times where I’m drained, wishing he could understand me emotionally and not just logically. Over this past year I’ve learned that Nathan and I have very different approaches in how we make friends and what expectations we have for them. It’s mostly a typical male vs. female thing – Nathan makes guy friends “shoulder-to-shoulder,” by doing something or hanging out together with other guys, while I make female friends “face-to-face,” needing to develop a certain level of emotional connection, understanding, and depth with other women.
It was easier to sulk and get depressed about how no one initiated contact with me, needed me, or had time for me. It was easier to feel sorry for myself and give up on planting seeds of friendship altogether.
It drove me into an unhealthy spiral. If no one wanted to reach out to me, why should I bother initiating with them? I didn’t want to be a burden or seem overly needy. I needed and desired friendships, but I could also hold my own. I also have this deeply rooted insecurity about where I stand in my friendships with others, so I often assume the worst when we haven’t talked in a while – that somehow they didn’t like me anymore or they didn’t think my friendship was worth their time or energy anymore and that others around them were more important. Or when I’d see their pictures or statuses on Facebook, I’d think, I’m not special enough for them to tell me about these things personally, or, See? I’m a needle in their haystack of other friends/people in their life.
Since leaving Binghamton and moving to Rochester, I’ve longed for deep friendships and meaningful conversations. I’ve longed for someone just to hang out with, too. Someone whom I can just call and invite over without having to catch up on 6 months’ worth of life or explain my entire life history. Or even better, someone who knows she can just come over without having to ask. I’ve longed for a friend who trusts and confides in me, someone who needs me. I’ve longed for a friend who will ask about my walk with Jesus, inspire me to take adventures, encourage me in dry seasons, and just enjoy my company.
Somewhere along the way I got tired of waiting for people to come to me.
I knew that if I wanted something to change, I couldn’t wait for them to change. I was only in control of my own efforts, and I wasn’t exactly doing a great job of doing for others what I wanted others to do for me. I couldn’t just assume they didn’t like me anymore, or didn’t care. Other people are busy – heck, I was busy – so I knew my expectations of friends would never reach my ideals, and I needed to accept that.
But I knew I needed to aim for those ideals despite the imminent failure. I knew it would be more productive to pour my energy into pursuing these old friends and new friends than to wait for them to pursue me. And even though I would fail more often than not, trying to reach them with realistic expectations would get me much closer to those ideals than not trying at all.
And it’s been helping! God has graciously been providing and meeting me all along the way with joy, strength, and perseverance I was not expecting to have. He has helped me remain open, to love generously, and to be creative. Of course, I am not where I’d like all of my relationships to be, and every day brings about new temptations to throw in the towel, let my insecurities rule the day, or use my efforts as means of justifying why I was a better friend than the other person. But I wasn’t expecting to progress this far at this point in time.
So the baby step progress gives me great hope, and that’s often all I’ve needed to keep going.