I attended a bachelor party over the weekend. This is something that guys in their 30s do–as our buddies move to other cities, get married, have kids, we sometimes get together for a couple days and act like the 20-somethings we used to be.
Growing up is hard. Age is just a number, but that number is taken as an indicator of certain expectations. People will accept behaviors from 18-year olds that would be frowned upon if committed by a 36-year old; that’s just part of the process. At the same time, a 36-year old is assigned a level of responsibility no one would even think of giving to an 18-year old; they’re supposed to know better.
It’s weird then that we make so many of our friends during our early years. Before we have fully formed into the people we are going to be. Maybe it’s hard-coded into our DNA to be part of a group. A tribe, if you will. Thanks to social media, our tribes are getting larger. It used to be that you stayed friends with the people you grew up with because you never got to meet anyone else. Now we can meet and connect with people from all over the world.
I was lucky to meet the groom-to-be when I did. He reached out and welcomed me into a group right when I was having a hard time with friends–one had moved to another city, another had a newborn and thus wasn’t around as much. He may not know how much that meant to me, or what it meant when we nearly had a falling out because I screwed up. He forgave me–eventually.
Several years ago, my friend moved to San Diego. It’s one of my favorite places–perfect weather year-round, beaches, laid-back (at least for the US). I immediately planned a trip. And then another.
As the years passed, the trips became less frequent. We got together for a couple skiing adventures, but life started getting in the way of other visits. He met a beautiful woman. They’re getting married later this year. I’m still in San Antonio, meeting new people and making new friends. I still feel connected to my old tribe, even though it’s spread out across the country.
I once tried to explain this particular friendship to someone who didn’t know us. As soon as I explained how my friend lived in a different city and that we talked a few times a year, she stopped me and said, “That’s not a good friend.” Maybe she had some insecurity that she felt like projecting onto me; I’m not sure. I don’t keep score with my friends based on how often we see each other or talk on the phone.
People like to say that true friends are the ones who have your back, and would do anything for you, no matter what. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Friends are the people who encourage your successes, who lend you their support after the failures, without judgement or expectations. That’s not to say they agree with you all the time, or that you always agree with them. Friends call each other on their bullshit when needed. But they aren’t trying to change anyone.
I worry sometimes that I’m out of touch. I’m not big on expressing any kind of emotion. I can get lost in my own head. Last weekend reminded me that, no matter how much I may think otherwise, I have friends that know me well enough to not be bothered by that particular quirk. I’m working on it. I’m grateful for the support.
You should never expect anything in return from your friends. That doesn’t mean letting them take advantage of you. It’s trusting someone enough to believe that they aren’t going to take advantage of you. I don’t like to use the word sacrifice, because if I do something in my friend’s best interest, I feel like I’ve gained something myself. A favor done for a friend is its own reward.
Sometimes that backfires. But I’m not ready to dredge up that story just yet.