What does friendship mean to me?
Before looking at friendship today, I’m going back in time.
When I was a kid, friends came so naturally. We all had the common goal of wanting to play. Whether that was with string making slip knot bracelets, playing my dad’s inventive ‘kick the can’ game at dusk, pounding my check off the Tarzan tree, swimming in the pool shouting Marco Polo, stuffing pillows under shirts to sumo wrestle, or setting up a lemonade stand on the curb and chasing down cars until they agreed that they were thirsty. It was fun to be persistent at play. Playdates were the best days.
As the years progressed, friendship evolved. There was less play and variety in adulthood, which made it more boring.
Before Hawai’i, I lived in Chicago for two years. On paper, I had every sense of belonging I needed. I could tell a coworker I attended Miami for college, and they’d assume it was the nearby smaller university in Ohio rather than the famous one in Florida. I could say “Snapchat” with the unique “a” accent and people would know I am a Michigander. I could buy mild salsa on my Thai food without feeling judged. People understood me there.
I didn’t have to go out of my way to explain myself. There were many others like me which made me a less unique and more familiar type of person. If the quantity of friends is how to win in life, then I was in first place. Friends from high school and from university, co-workers, and even my older brother and cousins surrounded me. Yet, I still felt lonely all the time despite never being alone.
The community that surrounded me knew who I’d been rather than who I was becoming.
These relationships formed based on where I’d been. A surface level connection based on past convenience rather than having similar present principles to live by. To live more intentionally, I’ve been seeking deeper connection. The people who want to cut the small talk and uplife one another through thick and thin.
My intention is not to discredit these lovely Chicago friendships. I still love them. Though, if I truly valued growth, I knew change was essential. I was ready to break free from my comfort zone and the past version that I was always compared to.
What does friendship mean to me now? It’s evolved quite a lot. I’ve taken my community of connections into my own hands. I had to.
I moved to across the world to Hawaii without knowing anyone.
There is a fundamental need for healthy human beings to socialize. I didn’t want to feel misunderstood or lonely anymore. I wanted to feel seen for who I am today.
According to research, the three main reasons we have friends are for company, dependability, and fun. Let me explain further and also add a fourth category that is relevant for growth-oriented peers:
To rid loneliness. Friends that we need, because we’re lonely and they’re great company. For me, when I first moved here. That was random folks in the hostel or when I moved into my apartment, or my pool guy Choo Choo – I was never lonely when he was around.
To depend on. These are the friends we’d call to bail us out of jail or to get out of a bad first date.
To have fun with. Since I don’t see myself having drinking buddies anymore, these are more like volleyball teammates or book club friends who I share common interests with.
To challenge thinking. In Adam Grant’s book Thing Again and on the Tim Ferriss Show, it is a cohort of people you can rely on to give you unvarnished feedback. If you want to reach your full potential, you’ll need to have your logic torn apart to discover holes, allowing you to improve your reasoning, so you make better decisions.
There’s also a turnover rate with friends where sometimes it’s better to let them go than hold on. I find this quite sad but true.
“Treat others the way you wish to be treated.”
That is the golden rule of friendship and respect and love, kindness, and caring that I learned growing up.
There’s a flipside to the golden rule that people might forget: treat yourself the way you wish to be treated. This sounds straightforward and obvious, but it’s really easy to mistreat yourself. In Hawai’i, I’ve since ended up getting to know myself better instead of pouring energy into my peers. I spent time getting to know what I was looking for in friendships.
Through the law of attraction, you attract people who treat you how you treat yourself. If you mistreat yourself and don’t set clear boundaries and expectations, the people you meet won’t respect your boundaries or expectations. If you treat yourself well, you’ll meet people who will support you emotionally and socially. When we don’t draw lines for ourselves, it’s easy to wind up in an environment surrounded by people that don’t nurture us or fill our cups.
Sure it feels pointless sometimes without knowing how it’s adding to life, but remember when you were six years old and the point of life was to play? Resurrect the pursuit of play with your peers. Celebrates something for no reason and be gung-ho about it. I wanna do this for my one-year anniversary in Hawaii at the end of this month.
I’m grateful to now have a handful of friends that have become my community in my new home. My ‘ohana, as Hawaiians say on the island here.
There is a science to friendship, but it’s surely not a one-size-fits-all.