The Authenticity of a Sometime Friend

Halfway measures get a bad rap. Often perceived as more of a failure than success, we tell ourselves that if something is only halfway, it somehow doesn’t “count” or isn’t “real.” While many Re-booters have realized that working towards any aspiration is positive–even if we haven’t fully crossed the goal line–we get far more confused when this line of thinking is applied to adult friendships. Is it ok to only sort-of like a person? Can you be an authentic friend with someone who doesn’t float your boat 100% of the time?

Yes, you can.

The truth is, the further down the path of life we get, the fewer people there are who we sync with. A far cry from the buddies-forever feelings we have for old school chums, as adults it’s a whole lot more likely that we appreciate people for certain purposes and not for others: we disagree with their politics, but admire the way they’re rearing their children. They’re the perfect person to hang out with at a game, but they’re sorta stupid. How about that hilarious person who’s great except for his driving need to show off how much money he has?  Or the super cool woman who you admire a lot but she rarely makes an effort to reach out?

We all know that nobody is perfect and that no one person can fulfill all our relationship needs, which is why it’s smart to build a social network. So you have a good time with Person A only in certain contexts, but so what? You’re both still enjoying yourselves based on a genuine shared interest—is that a failure? Of course not! I’m sympathetic to the fretting and internal questioning which can occur when we experience a flash of annoyance or disapproval that A’s view on something we really care about doesn’t totally mesh with ours. It can leave us feeling afloat, uncomfortable that we feel this way despite the fact that there’s so much else about Person A we enjoy.

I think it’s fair to say that most adults, regardless how their social lives may appear, feel lonely a large part of their lives. I’ve stopped counting the number of times people have confessed to me that they don’t believe they have anything really in common with the people they know, or that they often feel they have no one to talk to about life who won’t misunderstand what they’re saying. Whether you’ve lived in the same place your entire life or, like me, you’re starting over and have to do the hard work of meeting people and finding friends in a new place, it’s easy to feel isolated. And don’t get me started how this feeling compounds when your friends die.

But this is where the half way measure is a good thing! It’s ok to appreciate people for certain qualities and for a limited time, because when you’re with them, you are authentically there—enjoying who they are, what they have to offer, and vice versa. This is not a failure by any measure. Re-booters know they have to get creative and diversify their friend portfolio so they have someone to call for whatever their mood and need of the moment. Just because I don’t agree with B on politics doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a nice Art Walk with him. I can save my political grumblings for someone else.

It can confuse us when we see a group of adults marching lockstep, laughing and acting as if they are having a Grand Ole Time, while we sit on the sidelines. Our tendency is to project onto this group the (false) belief that they have somehow worked a miracle of finding an entire gang of hilarious best buddies with whom they can share the various passages of life. Not True. In fact, I’m at a point in my re-booting process where if I see a bunch of adults all dressed alike (literally or metaphorically speaking), I think of it as sad and overcompensating. Meanwhile, I call up my hilarious but exhausting friend and suggest we share a laugh for a moment or two.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Does this ring true or false for you?

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One Response to “The Authenticity of a Sometime Friend”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    you make excellent points here…and yes, it does ring true. As we go through life we make friends..and the lasting bonds often turn out to be those relationships that allow us to grow and evolve and experience a certain amount of freedom. In the end it is those friends who we might not see on a daily basis, or talk to every week..but anytime we call them up, we know we’ll resonate, and feel connected, and have a great time. And when it comes to the big stuff in life–we know we can count on them. The daily friends..often come and go depending on what phase or city we’re living at in our life…

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