I am only one person, and so are you. And you know what expectations do? They turn you into this guy.
I never had a lot of friends while growing up, but I always blamed it on being introverted. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize a couple of things. For one, I think I was a terrible person to be friends with when I was a teenager, because I was just about the most insecure person you’ve ever met. When I was 16, my nearest and dearest friend told me it was too much of an effort to be friends with me because I expected so much of her. At the time, I was obviously devastated because I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. Fifteen years later and I finally understood (more on that in a minute). For another thing, it’s nearly impossible to develop good and lasting friendships when you’re a kid. I have zero close friends from elementary/middle school, and although I moved a lot as a child (I was an Army brat, and after my parents divorced we moved a few more times), I suspect it’s because people change DRASTICALLY from 6 to 34 years of age.
And now I have more friends than I can keep up with. How did that happen?! If you know me, you know it didn’t happen overnight.
But seriously, how did that happen? Well, let me tell you. Remember my friend who said I was too much effort? It took me a long time to figure it out, but I finally got it: Expectations.
In the case of my high school BFF (with whom I am now happily reconnected and reconciled), I simply expected too much of her. I had no other close friends, so I relied on her heavily as a support and confidante. And when my parents destroyed my teenage life by moving me across the country (from Scottsdale, AZ to Kingsport, TN) halfway through high school, I anchored myself to her as if I was drowning and she was my only lifesaver. I wrote letters, called multiple times, and asked ad nauseam when she was flying out to visit me (her dad was a pilot and got free airfare). Finally, she couldn’t handle it anymore and severed ties with me. In hindsight, I get it. Those are a lot of expectations to place on anyone, let alone a teenager going through some of her own stuff.
But I’ve learned that the same concept applies to adult friendships.
One of the two closest friends I’ve had as an adult made the comment to me the other day that she doesn’t know who I am anymore because suddenly I have more friends than she does (she’s a strange combination of introvert and social butterfly, so while we get along swimmingly, she has always had a way larger circle of friends than me). I laughed out loud, because I realized she was right. I HAVE FRIENDS. And I have a lot of them. That’s weird to say out loud, because that has NEVER been my life.
So, I got to thinking about how it happened and here’s what I came up with:
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly confident in myself. I know more and more about what I like and don’t like, what works for me, what kinds of things I believe in and value, and what I need in my life.
I became a mom. And I’m not saying you can’t make good and lasting friendships if you don’t become a mom, but for me it changed my priorities. All of a sudden, my time became much more precious because I had so little of it outside of my son and my family. Or maybe becoming a mom just motivated me to refocus my energies in more positive and meaningful ways. Either way, it was a catalyst I needed.
Most importantly, I lowered my expectations. Well, no, that’s not it. I just stopped expecting anything at all from my friends. I don’t expect them to remember my birthday, or to cook me soup when I’m sick, or to text me back right away, or to want to hang out with me on a regular basis, or to buy me a Christmas present, or to want to attend all of my social gatherings, or to like all the things I like, or to read my mind.
In short, I let them be themselves and, I, in turn, let me be me. If we jive, we jive. If we don’t, we move on. #nobigdeal. The minute you put expectations on me to act or behave a certain way as your friend, though, you can count on me checking out. I have enough on my plate as a human being, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a wife, a mother, a social worker, an editor, a blogger, a social justice warrior, and all of the other hats I wear on an as-needed basis. But if you just wanna be you, and you’re cool with me being me, then let’s hang.