I'm Glad I Was Wrong (About Friendships)

In my limited life experience, there is one thing I’ve found rings true  — things rarely turn out as I expect. But I’ve learned to love being wrong.

Ever the uptight, shy and insecure child, I approached many situations with preconceived ideas of how things should go (I was preparing myself, or so I said). Be it from books, films or real-life experiences, unrealistic expectations for friendships developed early on. The very most important thing in my Elementary years was to find that endless-sleepovers, matching-necklaces, talk-every-day sort of best friend to hang on to for the rest of my life. We would, of course, be roommates, be each others’ maids of honor, name our children after each other — all the usual things one might expect from a forever friendship like ours. It seemed, though, that every time I thought I had found that “bestie for the restie" I so longed for, something would happen and we would grow apart. I was unable to appreciate any friendship short of BFF; my definition of friendship kept me from it.

As I write this little note to you, I’m inclined to think myself the only person ever to have struggled with this, and therefore uneasy about sharing my thoughts — “They’ll think what I have to say is awkward and not be able to relate.” But, I will continue, knowing that, again, I am often wrong about this sort of thing.

So, what is true friendship? That’s the question I ought to have an answered by now, right? Well, this is the part of our time together where I give the most deep, dissatisfying and postmodern of responses — there is no definition. The truest friendships that I have (or have had) remain undefined. I was able to become a good friend, and find good friends, when I laid down my expectations and definitions. Here are a few things I’ve noted…

Expect friendships to change. Over the course of a single year, a friendship can go from better-together to better-apart. Through all of the hurt, irritation and frustration that comes with that transitional phase, I’ve found it was then that I was most able to grow. We’re told that things change, but we invariably consider the word “change” negative. Change requires its subject to be uncomfortable for a time, but some of the best things come from our uneasiness. 

Distance doesn’t have to be a problem. Do friendships survive on face-to-face time alone? We claim, even in the age of constant communication, people cannot have authentic, healthy relationships when they’re separated by a few hundred or thousand miles. When you think about it, wouldn’t most say the best of friendships are the ones with depth? And how else is depth in a relationship reached than in communication, in talking? For those of us with friends scattered about the country, or the world, our opportunities to grow closer only increases because the spending time together is limited to having a conversation. The time is spent getting to know each other better, rather than watching a movie together (still a great thing!). Distance is hard, but it doesn’t define a friendship. 

Coffee twice a year counts for something. I’ve felt guilty — or maybe it’s confused — about only seeing friends twice a year. “Are we really friends, or do we just tolerate each other and this is why we rarely get together?” “Why don’t I see this person more? What’s wrong with me?” Silly, and maybe a little bit dramatic, but still things I’ve thought. I have this sweet, sweet friend I meet for coffee maybe once a year. Despite our lack of consistency, there are few people I connect and converse with so easily. We don’t know everything about each other’s lives, but I think we’d both consider the other a dear friend. Even a little bit of time counts.

These are only a few ways in which I’ve been wrong about friendships, but I love it. I love that I was wrong about those middle-school best friends who I thought I’d never be able to speak to again. I love that I was wrong about becoming close with the dear girl that lives 220 miles away. I love that the person who keeps me accountable may very well have the life story and struggles most opposite of mine. I love that I was wrong; I am so thankful I was wrong.