Friendships morph, grow and even dissipate over the years. Sometimes you struggle trying to stay connected to friends who are in different places in life, may it be marriage, parenthood or even geographically different. Sometimes you have friends that you outgrow and sometimes even friends where you feel like you are trying to catch up to. Friendships can prevail though through all sorts of circumstances, ups and downs and changes. What is important to you when it comes to true friends? After 30 plus years, I have figured out what the definition of a true friend is to me. And yes, I am about to share that with you.
Let’s start with the fundamentals that have become my guiding principles. Being a true friend would be describing me as, “That’s Missy. The sassy, petite girl who works her ass off at the gym, is an amazing writer and the best aunt ever. And I am damn proud to know her.” Being a true friend is wanting to spend time together whether it is just the two of us or 20 of us. Being a true friend is accepting me as I am. Being a true friend is complimenting, encouraging, supporting and reinforcing all the great things about me. Being a true friend is not taking one single bad experience and making a determination of my character. Being a true friend means listening, not just to what I say but to what I don’t say. Being a true friend means you know me so well that you can instinctively pick up on when something is not right with me. Being a true friend means knowing that I brighten when I talk about my nieces and nephews, that fitness is a passion and that despite my own set of challenges, I have persevered.
I often think of who my true friends are in terms of putting together a guest list for my future fictitious wedding. The ones who make the cut are the ones that I know I will still be friends with 5 years and beyond from now. When I look back at big day’s photos, I want to see my friends who are still a part of my life. I do not want to invite people just to fill seats. I want friends who I am connected to. My true friendships have reciprocity of authentic and genuine love and respect.
Being a true friend is about the details and the little things. They show that you know what I need and when I need it. They show you know the little things about me that perhaps other people don’t. You do all of them with no judgment (and often a lot of humor). Being a true friend is sending flowers after my first CrossFit competition. Being a true friend is killing gigantic terrifying water bugs for me. Being a true friend is sending me a card for no occasion other than because you were thinking of me. Being a true friend is being my responsible adult after surgery and standing outside my first shower post-surgery to make sure I don’t have a “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” kind of situation.
Being a true friend is believing in the old saying “when you love someone set them free.” It takes a strong person to let a friend “break up “ with you so that they can work on themselves. It happens a lot where we need time to figure things out and reevaluate friendships. Sometimes in these breaks we learn that perhaps the friendship is not what we thought or wanted. But it also happens that we are reminded of all the reasons why we value that friendship. It shows character in both friends in the equation. It takes character to say “you know, I miss you and I want to reconnect.” It takes character for the other friend to understand their friend so well that they are willing to give that friendship a second chance.
Being a true friend does not mean I need to hear from you or see you every single day. I know who my true friends are and that when they do think of me, it is with fondness and love. It also means understanding that friendships go through ebbs and flows, and when there is an ebb, it does not mean you are any less important to me. Any one person only has capacity for so much at any one time. People’s priorities shift and ebbs are not necessarily a reflection that you are valued any less. Being a true friend means that you can handle those uncomfortable moments where someone is going to call you out on your shit and that you can get past differences that only make the friendship stronger. Being a true friend means understanding and respecting boundaries. (post on that here). Being a true friend means you can go five days or five years from the last time you saw each other, and it is like no time has passed at all.
I also have recognized what being a true friend does NOT mean. Being a true friend is not based on the superficial. It does not mean first describing me as “you know, the cute girl with the great ass” (although to be fair, if you ever want to tell me anything along those lines, I certainly will not stop you). It is not waiting to accept or decline an invitation until all other invitations are in. It is not trying to “fix” me when I am not asking to be fixed. It is not spending time together in an opportunistic way. Being a true friend is not putting me down or making me feel less of myself. It is not making a judgment based on a single event. Being a true friend is not doing all the talking and never asking a question. Being a true friend does not mean that you necessarily know what my favorite color is or where I went to college or what kind of a car I drive.
When I look through pictures and photo albums (yes I really do have printed photos), I see so many people in them, most of who I do not necessarily even keep in touch with. Some I look at with disdain, some I look at fondly. Some I look at and I am reminded of a lifelong connection to. They are the ones who stand out to me. They are the ones I have met unexpectedly. They are true friends I have met in kindergarten, in college, at jobs, at the gym, at CrossFit, at running clubs, on vacations. Some I have instantly connected with. Some friendships have formed over time. No matter though how I met them, when I met them or where I met them, they are my true friends because they all have hearts that are nothing but kind, pure, and just plain goodness. They have seen me at my best, and they have seen me at my worst. They are my true friends because they are the ones I want at my side. They are my history, my present and my future. They are the ones that like my nieces and nephews, make my eyes light up when I think about them. They are the ones that can make me laugh, make me think, make me humble, make me… Me.