A friend moved away recently. I wasn’t able to go say goodbye in person, and so I decided to make a gift to send as a ‘welcome to your new home’ kind of thing. It was a cross stitch I designed, stitched, fussed over…procrastinated over…finally framed it and set it aside to be mailed.
The whole process took several months. And at the end of it, I realized a few unexpected facts about the friendship. The biggest one? We weren’t on the level of friendship I thought we were.
That’s weird, right? How did I not realize that?
Fact is, she had already walked away from the friendship during the time I was stitching away. So I clearly had a lot more invested in that connection than she did. How does that happen?
But it does.
I think it’s a bit like the kerfluffle we’ve seen on varied social media networks where we connect to people as “friends.” They’re not. It takes more than the click of a button to become friends with another person. And I’ve been on the other end of this thread more than once, where I’ve had someone insist on a strong friendship connection and the reality is we only ever saw each other at conventions, or at social events maybe once a year.
That’s an acquaintance. And that’s important in its own way. Years ago, a convention friend looked at me and said, “We’ve traveled around the country together with this convention.” That statement made me stop for a moment and really think about these threads of connection we have as a result of the events we attend. People become such a huge element of the event, it gives us a sense of home in a lot of ways. If I go to, say, Arisia, I will feel at home because there are people there that I only see there and if they weren’t there, I would not feel as comfortable or connected. The community is part of what makes the convention appealing for me.
Is that a friend? It’s a degree of friend, sure. But, at least for me, that title has to be about more than 30 minutes or so during a weekend once a year. Even if those 30 minutes or so time happen once a year for a decade…there’s more to the job description of ‘friend’ than that. In a lot of ways, you’re seeing someone at their social best, so just like any other relationship, you can’t get to know them unless you’re actively involved in each other’s lives.
So how did I miss that we weren’t matching those criteria?
I’m not sure.
As a very wise friend pointed out to me, it’s instinctive to put energy into a relationship you can see needs some help, and that only works well when you’re both defining things the same way. Which is why it feels like a smack on the nose with a newspaper when you realize that the energy you’ve been putting into a connection isn’t reciprocated. And that’s something I hadn’t considered when I’ve been on the other side of this ‘wait you thought this was a friendship?’ fence.
Does it change anything in my day to day life to not have this person I defined as a friend say, in effect, “sorry, that’s all you”?
No. No, not really.
But I think it’s important that we really see ourselves. In this case, I was doing something that I haven’t understood when other people did it to me. Kinda funny. Kinda frustrating. Definitely an ‘opportunity for growth,’ as they say.
I’ll probably get it wrong again. So I’m putting it in writing to let PresentMe tell FutureMe, “HEY! You knew better!”
…Here’s hoping that works. 🙂