I’m an introvert. It’s not particularly easy for me to socialize and make small talk and get to know people. I am also reserved and a bit guarded when it comes to people. There is a lot to say about introvertedness – it’s not shyness, it’s not about not liking people, it’s not about thinking that you are better than other people – all common misconceptions. I have lots to say about being an introvert, but that is for another time. This is about friendship and I am talking about it from my perspective.
I believe, and for me it was true, that it was so much easier to make friends when I was younger. I was in school or youth group, later in college and YWAM, as a single person sharing accommodation with other single people – I was with people a lot and relationships naturally formed out of those shared experiences, the tremendous amount of time that was spent together, our common schedules and to be honest, our more carefree lifestyles. Then, something happened, I got married, we moved (a lot), we started to have more responsibility. Then, the unthinkable happened (at least for us!), we had a child, then we had another one! Our priorities shifted, our schedule become much less flexible and we were just so tired all the time.
I believe that regardless of marital status or whether you have kids, as you mature, you become more focused through employment, education, ministry or interests. You have less free time to spend developing relationships. You and your friends, or your would-be friends, have different schedules, you get busy and that’s ok. Still relationships are important and as adults, it simply takes more intentionality and effort.
My husband and I would often get frustrated and still do, that it does seem to take so much work to develop and maintain friendships. We try to have dinner with another family and it’s a month out before we can find a time when all our schedules match up for a few hours. There are definitely ways to nurture those relationships along the way though – phone calls, texts, email, Facebook, or gasp, a hand-written note!
I digress, though. I want to talk about unexpected friendships. Having kids, while it has limited our time and energy in some ways, has opened up the doors to relationships with people I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I would highly recommend joining a parent’s of preschoolers group if you have little kids – it was a lifeline for me. A place to connect with people who were experiencing the same things I was experiencing. It also connected me to friends who have become so dear to me.
There have been people in my life who I thought I would connect with – they were similar to me, or who just seemed like we would hit it off. Many of those people aren’t my friends – they might be acquaintances now, but they aren’t my deep connections.
There was a girl in my moms group who intimidated me. Long blonde hair, beautiful, always impeccably dressed, and I didn’t think she liked me at all. I didn’t have much of a basis for this assumption, other than we seemed so different and we had never talked. One day, we were making pizzas in an assembly line type situation – I cracked a joke, she laughed. My perception of her shifted a bit. A couple of weeks later, we were at a leadership dinner and happened to be sitting across from each other. We talked. That was it, we talked and my life was changed. We discovered so much that we had in common. We both had sons starting kindergarten soon – we shared our hopes and fears. She is funny and spiritual without being weird. She is wise and thinks deeply and extensively about issues. We spent the morning commiserating at the park, the day our sons started kindergarten. We also spent the morning together when our second children started kindergarten – though, this time we threw in breakfast and “mourning” drinks. She also throws great parties! Our friendship has grown over the years and it is a treasure to me.
Tracy has inspired me in so many ways. Easter Brunch at a friend’s house with all our families this last year resulted in me joining a Pole, Pedal, Paddle team – an experience that was scary and exhilarating and amazing. She encourages me, she listens when I am frustrated, she cries with me and doesn’t judge my easy tears. She challenges me to do better, to be a better friend, parent, person. And I came so close to missing that relationship. That’s a scary thought!
While we share a lot of passions and interests, we are still quite different. I love that I have friends who challenge my worldview, my sometimes narrow ways of doing and seeing. That, too, is a gift of friendship.
So, as I look around my world, I am more open to people. Not everyone is going to be a close friend, but I sure don’t want to miss out on a relationship because it comes wrapped in a package of unfamiliarity or difference.
I am eternally thankful for my friendship with a beautiful, blonde lady who shared a joke, then a conversation and now a journey with me. I love you Tracy! (Tracy is also an amazing writer – check her out over at Dripping Orange)