What’s my badge of honor?
My ability to make, keep and be a good friend to many.
Pinned to the front pocket of my coat, I used to marvel at a seemingly natural ability to consistently maintain friendships despite distance or life stage, lack of common interest or even feelings of obligation.
Given the choice, if I had to choose between having three worthy, true and real friends, and fifty nice, fluffy and occasionally authentic friends, I’d choose the latter. Despite glaring evidence that I wasn’t necessarily able to have and do it all when it came to Being a Good Friend, I boasted needlessly in my capacity to love others well.
Because I knew what it meant to be a good friend: call them, text them, email them.
Pursue the living socks off them.
Be all things to all friends.
Ask a million questions.
Think of them and remember them and love them well …because this, this is what really matters.
And really, it wasn’t always a bad thing, it was just what I did and who I was. Because if I chose you – if I made the conscious decision to invest in your life, to cheer you on and make you feel like a million bucks – then you were one lucky cat.
Friend Whore that I was, I gained another contact for my phone list.
Certainly, there were seasons. In middle school and high school I leapt into the social pool of relationships, shameless in my ability to call myself Friend to every student in my graduating class: the preps, the drama kids, the nerds and the jocks. The druggies, the band geeks, the choir nerds and the no-names, I fit in everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time.
For each group I had a reason and an in, and excuse and a chameleon-like ability to adapt to any people-filled situation.
I calmed down in college, and further accepted that not every friendship was meant for life upon entering the work force. But at my core, I continued to believe one thing: friendships were at my disposal, at my discretion.
I alone held the key to their existence.
That is, until I didn’t.
Sometimes we put our hearts out there, pinning another with friendship’s badge of honor. We select them as a part of Soul’s Society. We invite them into our circle and we call them our own. We name them Our People, we deem them family. We believe ourselves so deeply knit with this person, this Other, that we remain blind to friendship’s need for reciprocity.
We love but are not loved in return, at least not as we want or expect or deserve. Our desires toward friendship are not reciprocated or returned in kind.
It’s friendship, unrequited.
And it can feel like the worst kind of devotion.
We shoot them an email or we call them on the phone. We text them again, again, but a month goes by, or two, or four. We invent excuses for them, for us, but then the confusion turns to frustration, and frustration leads to anger, and all of these excuses, and all of this confusion and frustration and anger remain a cover-up for our hurt.
We’re hurt because we chose them, but they didn’t choose us in return.
We’re hurt because all our old tricks didn’t work on this new dog.
We’re hurt because we’d categorized them as a Lifer, but it wasn’t the same for them. We weren’t their Lifer, their Other, their chosen friend.
We were just another contact in their phone list, one of the fifty.
So I return to the “I” of this post, writing in the personal, remembering that vulnerability is healthy and real and good. As you may know, I’m learning to be – I’m always learning to be – and with friendships that means that I’m learning how to let friendships happen instead of making friendships happen. Just as I’m learning how to be pursued, I’m shedding unhealthy habits and I’m embracing those few who are already in process, present tense embracing me.
Perhaps it’s because I’m realizing that friendships are organic in nature.
They have the ability to grow and flourish and morph into something greater than we ever expected, but they’re not for me alone to dictate. I don’t always need or get to play my cards.
Instead, I lean into one of the wisest, truest lines ever written in a children’s book: [we are] “…making time for people that like you, that like to like you.”
So that’s what I’m doing: I’m making time for the people who like me, who like to like me.
Maybe you can do the same.
Friendship, unrequited: is there such a thing? Leave a comment about FRIENDSHIP below, and also check out and join in the conversation at The Other Cara’s synchroblog today!