Confessions

This Is 31, Part 2

October ’98

Dear Teri —

You’re about to turn 13 without your best friends . . .

Much to your dismay, all three of them transferred to another school — a “better” school just outside the neighborhood. You were given the same opportunity; however, you refused it . . . thinking it unjust for those so-called adults to attempt to bus all the “bright” students to the nearest charter school . . . (What was that about?!)

Be that as it may, you didn’t stop to think that maybe your friends (and their parents) had other plans and that you would be forced to make new ones — which would ultimately include new people.

Needless to say, the four of you no longer share the same AP classes, the same lunch period, or the same route home. It’s a not-so-fun reality, but you’ve managed to adjust . . . to move on with your life to some extent.

Sadly, I can’t remember how you’ll celebrate your thirteenth birthday, but it most certainly will not include your beloved friends . . . Although they’re close — merely a phone call and a short drive away — it seems as if they’re pretty much long gone.

But you know what? Once upon a time, you didn’t know what it was like to have a consistent group of friends . . . For unknown reasons, you struggled to maintain just one; and most days, you could only dream about friendships where time and distance did not exist and where no subject was off limits. (Think Now and Then, which you’ve seen at least a hundred times.)

Here’s a bit of a spoiler: You won’t experience that again for another four years or so, but don’t be discouraged . . . You’ll continue to learn tough lessons in friendship in the years ahead, but I promise, you’ll be alright. Some day you’ll realize that not all friendships can stand the test of time, that your understanding of loyalty in friendship differs from others, that trust is earned, and that a true friend is hard to find.

Regardless of the circumstances, try to be the friend you would like to have someday . . . You’re all you’ve got right now, so take care. Enjoy your birthday.

Sincerely — You at 31

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It’s been another defining year for me in the friendship department. Last year, I shared a few of my thoughts on friendship and they most certainly still apply. Here are a few more worth noting . . .

Not All Friends Are Meant To Stay

For me, this has been a pretty hard concept to grasp, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Right now, I can think of a handful of friends that came into my life and left sooner than I expected — from junior high, to college, ’til now. Most times, I knew and fully understood the reasons why. In others, I was left with a lot of questions — mostly about my own failures and where the friendship possibly went wrong.

All of my reasoning, however, was based on pure speculation as I was never given the opportunity to receive real answers. Once I realized that I might never have them and that, that was okay, I was ready to move on. But in true Teri fashion, it took a long time to arrive at this point.

Not All Friends Are Created Equal

This is an even harder concept to grasp, but in my view, it’s one to get a handle on sooner rather than later . . .

Yes, I want to believe that I can share just about anything — the good, the bad, and everything in between — with the people I call friends, but sometimes, that leads to regret. Experience has taught me the importance of using discretion among friends — particularly when disclosing matters of my heart. Not all friends can be trusted with the same details about my hopes, dreams, plans, interests, or struggles . . . Some, maybe, but definitely not all. Regardless of how much we have in common or how much we enjoy spending time together, it is wise to set boundaries and decide if / when it’s appropriate to invite them into a particular part of my life . . . Not necessarily to build a wall or to avoid unfavorable responses, but to examine my own heart (i.e., unrealistic expectations) and the health of the friendship.

Good questions to ask might include the following:

  • Is there proof of  mutual respect, support, and understanding within this friendship? Can I list specific examples?
  • Do I have any expectations in sharing this part of my life with them? If so, what are they?
  • Has this friend demonstrated a willingness to protect the health of our friendship? How so?
  • Does this friend have a tendency to gossip?

Call me crazy, but taking time to answer these questions is absolutely necessary. For the longest time, I prided myself on being an open book, willing to share the deepest parts of me with all of my friends . . . even casual ones. In my mind, I didn’t have anything to hide, but with age, this has become pretty complicated. Not everyone shares the same thoughts or ideas about loyalty and trust. These concepts are huge for me, and if I go to a friend in confidence about something, it’s in my best interest to have answers to these questions and examine any potential risk(s) before I proceed.

I could go on, but I think these two lessons are by far the most challenging for me. Nevertheless, they have created much-needed opportunities for growth that I couldn’t have imagined for myself.

One that note: What lessons in friendship are you learning?

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