I once thought that friendship meant something different. When I was younger, it was more about what someone could do for me. It was about them being there for me the moment they were needed regardless of what they had going on their lives. It was about the take more so than the give. I had my feelings, as much as I'd allow to share, and that was it. I demanded so much out of people without the understanding that people are people. Being human is this beautiful, vulnerable thing that takes a lot of understanding to truly appreciate. I guess that's how I raised my kid, too. I grew up with parents. They were amazing parents but there was a very clear line that they would not cross. I didn't become friends with my parents until I was an adult. I guess when I had my kid I wanted her to feel like she could talk to me in a way that I never thought I could talk to my own. So, there was a blurry line as she was growing up whether I was her mother or her friend. And I have felt the downfalls of that choice as she has gotten older but I have also formed this relationship with her that they choice created something beautiful, too. She can talk to me in a way I could not when I was younger. Have I saved her from the hardships I went through? No, absolutely not. Growing up still sucks. It is still one of the hardest things we go through but at least she didn't feel as alone as I did in a way. Looking back at the relationships I had when I was younger, I do realize these expectations I had bordered on the unreasonable side. It's not because that these people that were in my life could not meet them. It was because I would not allow them. I didn't understand that the frustration I was feeling was more about my inadequacies then their own. The older I get, the more refreshing it feels to correct my own self.
We learn history in school because it is important to know where we come from. It is important to know how we got to this point, to this moment in time, to truly appreciate the hardships others faced so that I could sit here and write these words. We take their mistakes and we learn from them so we do not repeat the same atrocities that the people before us had to face. I look at my life the same way. We are all these different versions of ourselves, always improving from the one before. Being as introverted as I am means that I think about the breaths I took before to see if there was a flaw in my execution. I reflect and dissect and decide if my actions caused any harm, inspired any brilliance, ignited any spark and then correct my path. I sat here today and had coffee with one of my most favorite people in the entire world. We talked about life, our loved ones, our past together, our present on our own journeys, and moving forward. We hadn't seen each other in a while. It hasn't been because we haven't tried. It's just as adults friendships work differently. Time becomes more taxing, more precious, more fleeting. Today we sat and it was nice talking to this person who I respect so much. Because it is in my nature, I started thinking about how friendships once were when I was younger, how I needed validation that they liked me. I needed words and actions and, most importantly, proof that this person was all in for me even if I couldn't give that same amount of effort back.
So, as I often do, I looked at my previous behaviors. I dissected my previous relationships. Sitting across from this beautiful soul, I understood how relationships should truly work. I can say in all honesty that I was a mean person back in my hay day. I can admit and own that I wanted, needed so much for that person to give to me before I would even think about giving even a sigh to them. It wasn't because they were shady people. It was because I was so unbelievably insecure in my own skin I just did not know how to trust anything around me. Sure, I had my issues with abandonment but I was so quick to throw someone else's sins on whoever happened to be standing in front of me. When I look back at it, there is a certain amount of guilt that I carry. I couldn't see then how many relationships I had sabotaged because of this weird self preservation I held onto so tightly. I thought in my own way I was protecting myself but from who? And in this ability to look back and dissect and decide, I realize that I was protecting myself from me. I was so terrified to let someone see me exactly how I was. At the end of the day, it would be my own fault I allowed that hurt if you disappointed me but I always made sure people disappointed me. Then I guaranteed I could wash my hands of them. It is a strange place to sit when you look back in that mirror, when you see all the things you do to yourself in order to protect yourself. It is a sort of relief once you realize how much of a hazard you create, too. I don't want my life to be in vain. I want to live each moment, breathe each breath with this complete understanding of why these fingers form these words, of why each line I draw curves in a direction. Sitting here today with my long time friend I understand as much as I tried to cut off the world around me through the years, it's been the relationships that helped inspire each version of me I become.
There was a time when I thought the number of friends we had meant that we made it in this world. This game of popularity was one that we should all strive to win. I thought that having the most amount of Facebook friends or the most likes on Instagram or the best liked Tweets meant that I was somebody but the reality of this life is these clicks all mean nothing. True, I know a lot of people. I have a full friends list and people like what I do but sometimes when I want to go grab a cup of coffee, my list isn't all that long. I look at the history of my relationships and I once formed friends just so I wouldn't have to be alone. I wanted to be able to call someone, anyone and have someone sit with me over a cup of Joe. That was a validation that I needed. And if people didn't answer my call? Screw them. Clearly they weren't my friends... but life tends to teach you lessons you don't realize you are learning. As time goes by and the pages of my history book grow longer, the more I realize what the word friendship truly means. It isn't a contest of who does how much for who or who buys the coffee or who texts who first. It's not about who can drop more to be there better. It's not a contest of who can give more, who can take more, who is there more. As I sat here today with this lovely lady, knowing I hadn't seen her in months, I realized how much more I value her friendship and the other friendships like this that I have. I don't go out very often. I don't see a lot of my friends even on a weekly basis, sometimes a monthly basis. I have more faith in the people I surround myself now than I ever did before. Life has taught me that there is more value in quality than quantity. We become adults and the long afternoons of free time fly away. We become adults and friendships become these beautiful moments of sighs, of relief, of reminders that we're all just trying to be better together. We are lessons for each other, lessons we don't know we're teaching the other. It's not about the number of chairs that are filled at your table. It's about who is filling those chairs that matter, the love and respect that fills the space between even if the time flies by more swiftly than it did before.