I have a very interesting and diverse group of people that I consider my friends.
I have friends who I’ve known since we were in first grade and friends who I’ve only met in the past year.
I have friends I’ve gone to school with, friends who are married to my old teachers, friends I’ve worked with, friends whose kids are friends with my kids and quite a few friends who sang this song with me in the Wyandotte High School Gymnasium sometime in the late 80’s
I have friends who are old enough to be my parents, or my grandparents and some who are young enough to be my own children (although ‘young or old enough’ is a hypothetical technicality).
I have friends who have multiple advanced degrees and friends who haven’t even completed a high school equivalency test.
I have friends who view God in many different ways and I have friends who do not believe in any deity or higher power at all.
I have friends who are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern; Male and Female, Gay and Straight.
I have friends who were born on the other side of the earth, friends who have lived in or visited almost every country, friends who’ve marked off every state on their US ‘dance card’ and friends who have never left the town where they were born.
I have friends who I see and speak to often and friends who I haven’t spoken with in years it really helps when we just put something on the calendar that happens at regular intervals. Sadly, there are even people with whom I haven’t interacted in a very long time, due to unfortunate misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Regardless of how often we are together, I still count all of these people among my friends.
As tempted as I am to name some of my friends directly (especially in that last group), I won’t (not here, but you can call me to chat about it). I hope you can see yourselves and that you know how much I love you because I often find it difficult to make it clear how much I love ‘my people’.
It used to bother me that I’m not one of those people who ‘has a group’ – you know, the people who always have several of the same people around them, who usually look a lot like them, no matter what they’re doing. The people who never seem to do anything alone and whose lives always seem to be one big party after another. They share their milestones and memories with each other and always look so happy … It’s how Hollywood often depicts friendship.
I used to feel jealous of those people and struggled with my self-worth because I’ve never had the certainty that I imagine goes along with belonging to a group. Lately I’m finding that my feelings are going through a metamorphosis.
I still think it’s pretty unlikely that I could throw a completely comfortable party with such a vast array of people all in the very same place (I’m already married, and that seems to be the only party where that much diversity is acceptable) but what I get in return is so rich. I get to be surrounded by people who talk about interesting things, deep thing;s and I wonder how much time there is to connect on a core, soul level when you’re functioning in a group. There’s certainly a time and place to discuss your bathroom remodel or what you’re wearing to the next social function but I’m far more interested in your life experiences and what you think about the purpose of life, or race relations, or God – although I have been known to wax poetic if the subject is my garden or my kids. I get to hear about opinions and experiences that are often vastly different from my own. As a very inquisitive person, this gift is priceless, and my true friends’ get’ that about me and are more than willing to share. My friends often share valuable thoughts that I would have never heard if I’d found myself part of one of those groups that I used to be so envious of. I find myself becoming more and more comfortable interacting with people of different backgrounds; recognizing that, in the most fundamental ways, we really ARE the same. The places in which we differ can serve to make our world more beautiful and interesting if we are just open enough to allow that to happen. Oddly enough I often find that, in some areas I’ve become even more discerning and convicted in my core belief system and have more courage to stand up for what I think is right and want other people to feel similarly empowered (not to agree with me, but to agree with themselves).
Oddly, it often seems that those people who function within ‘a group’( and appear to have a less diverse group of friends) also seem to be the people who are the most concerned with offending someone; the people that won’t ask questions, who are the most ‘PC’, and most interested in inclusion (as they close their personal circle ever tighter).
The only really bad thing about my motley crew is that it makes keeping in touch a little more difficult. Those people with a’ group’ can catch up with the people they love the most at one fell swoop but I often struggle with reconciling the time I want to spend catching up with each of my people with the time that I actually have for social things. this is an aside
I’m happy that I’ve learned to truly appreciate the way that I experience friendship and to stop wishing for something that’s not really ‘me’. I only wish that I’d come to this realization twenty-five years ago.
As the beginning of a new school year commences and many people find themselves struggling with feelings similar to what I’ve described; I’d like to extend a welcome to you, our ‘group’ is surprisingly well populated. You are not alone, and the future ahead of you is more beautiful and colorful than you could imagine.