Reverb 10.16: Friendship.

December 16– How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year?  Was the change gradual, or a sudden burst?

My friends have done something much more incredible this year; they have pulled off almost the miraculous.

The have changed my perspective of myself and yet left me wholly intact and still loving myself, maybe even more than before.

There’s a glamorous side to having had the blessing to be successful in many of the things I have tried in life: the accomplishments.  And that’s what those around you focus on; professors dote on you, employers promote you and talk about how fabulous you are as an employee and a member of the team.  You get awards and you win prizes and get to read your name in the paper and people talk about you.  You appear to be a never-ending chain of gold stars.

And there’s a dark side to it: the pressure.  You inevitably become a robot to other people; someone with a perfect (or darn close) track record and suddenly not only is it unexpected that you would falter, it is not allowed.  Or at least, it feels that way.  So for most of my life, and it certainly still continues, I have worked to always be a success.  Successful at school, successful at work, successful in being happy, successful in getting my ducks in a row (or successful in making them appear so).  And it pays great dividends in all areas of life, including friendship.  And in my mind, no one wanted to be friends with a failure and I was so caught up in my life as someone successful that I didn’t know what else I brought to a friendship rather than my accomplishments.  And best yet, I was even fairly accomplished at making and keeping friends.

In case you haven’t picked up on the pervasive theme of my Reverb writing, 2010 was a beautiful but really tough year.  Big hurdles.  And many times I found myself not successful anymore.  I fell behind on my masters project more than once. I battled a somewhat serious lapse in mental health when insane pressure from school and saying goodbye to someone very important to me happened at the exact same time.  I have failed to find success in landing a permanent position in my field.  In fact, I have missed this success in exactly (checking email  records) 46 online applications, 4 mailed applications, 2 phone interviews, 1 personal interview, 12 rejection letters, and 2 rejection phone calls.  I have failed to find success in achieving true financial independence, but I think I might be too poor to “test the success waters.”

An especially poignant memory of friends from this past year occurred right in the middle of the mental health lapse I mentioned.  A classmate was living in a beautiful home in small-town Wisconsin and over Spring Break several of us drove out there for a classic Irish St. Patrick’s Day dinner, wine, perfect chats, and a old-fashioned slumber party.  For days up until this trip I had been terribly sad and terribly stressed.  I hadn’t slept at all, I hadn’t eaten well, I showered maybe once in four days and I am not sure I used soap.  The energy it took to just pack up and commit to go out there for one night was enormous.  I couldn’t give my friends the focus they deserved; I hardly participated in anything more involved than nodding to their conversation while scratching the cat’s belly.  I had totally checked out of my whole world.  And I noticed that that didn’t bother them.  I told them what was going on, there may have been some tears, and they simply wrapped me up in a kind of support that said “You could do anything and this– right here– this is always going to exist.”

And that sort of Aha! moment made me see the same in the other friendships I had.  And it didn’t matter if I won first place, tripped over my feet all the way to the finish line, or simply said “Forget it.  I don’t want to do this”*, all of my friends were really the truest sort and were going to forgive the little things and love me just the same.  And it allowed me to forgive the little things and love myself just the same.

It’s not a different perspective on the world–I still feel horribly confused about the state of affairs on our orbiting ball.  But it’s a different perspective on myself that will likely change my world and the way I act in it.

* Although, most of them know I would really never quit anything.


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