“I am beginning to understand the reverence that should be given to life, not just living but each article that gives us pleasure or makes us learn: the trees along the road, the wind rushing though the air, the music entering my ears, the food and drink touching my tongue. There is so much to live for and respect, and yet I feel that for a long time I have not respected these things, and I have instead taken them for granted. Friendships too. It is so important for life and yet most of my friends I just accept and expect to be there. Yet, they need not be. They are present in my life because they want to be, and I should appreciate that more. I should appreciate these friendships with honesty and by giving these people my full being instead of hiding who I am from them.” — Jake Fishbein | August 4, 2013
I’ve been thinking about friendship for the past couple of months. We’ve talked about it a lot in my men’s group, The Dudes of Disruption, and I’ve thought about it independently, as I often do. For most of my life, I saw friendship as secondary to romantic relationships. I saw romantic relationships as intense and deep, while friendship seemed to skate along the surface. In the past few years, my thoughts on this have changed. Both romantic relationships and friendships hold an equal position in my mind. They can both be intense, powerful, intimate, and loving.
But… friendships (and romantic relationships, for that matter too) are also easy to take for granted. Even six years after writing the passage above, I sometimes find myself taking my friendships for granted. This makes sense, because often times it’s the closest relationships that are easiest to take for granted — family, close friends, significant others, etc. These tend to be the relationships that fill me up and bring me the most joy, and I take them for granted because they are almost a part of me. This fascinates me because I also find that I take so much about myself for granted: my physical body, my uniqueness, the things that make me who I am. I interact with them each day and so they become normalized. I take myself for granted and, in turn, find myself taking those closest to me for granted as well.
This weekend I ruminated more on friendship as I traveled down to DC to celebrate my oldest friend’s engagement, enjoyed conversation, coffee, and cake with another close friend at The Met, and cooked with my best friend from college to cap off the weekend. All three friendships are unique, and each one is beautiful in its own right. In many ways, there couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend, since life is all about the relationships I choose and the people I surround myself with.
And a big part of why these friendships are so meaningful is because I’ve chosen to give these people my full being — the thing I struggled with back in 2013. For so long I was inauthentic with my friends, fearing judgment or being made fun of. I pretended to have seen Pulp Fiction when I hadn’t. I didn’t share when things bothered me. I held onto things and left things unsaid. I wasn’t a liar or a bad friend by any means, but I hid enough of myself that there was some kind of screen between my friends and I. I’ve learned in the years since then that friendship is about authenticity. When someone chooses me as their friend, they are choosing me. All of me.
And one way of not taking friendships (or any relationship) for granted is by honoring them with honesty and authenticity: by sharing myself, at my best and at my most challenging. Friendship isn’t about perfection or comfort. Friendship is about connection. And connection without authenticity isn’t connection at all.
So who are you surrounding yourself with? How much are you taking them for granted? Would you say you’re sharing your full being with them? Think about it. The people we surround ourselves with make up so much of the tapestry of our existence and the story of who we are and the difference we make in the world. What do your friendships, and who you are in them, say about you? The answer might reveal more than you realize.