There is a belief that who we are is a reflection of the company we keep. It’s said that our general attitudes towards life are directly influenced by our closest friends and the amount of time we spend with them. I do believe that friendships are fueled by exchanges of energy, be they positive or negative. I’ve also been thinking this past year about how important it is to maintain an individual identity at the core of each of the friendships we create.
I’m big on soul connections when I consider whom I let into my inner circle. I’ve learned that the most significant friendships go beyond circumstantial, wading into the deeper waters of vulnerability. After many years of being guarded or even changing myself for the sake of having friends, I’ve decided that if I can’t be my authentic self around the people I consider my friends, there is very little point in having them in my life. The only thing I expect in return is that a friend brings their authentic self into the friendship as well.
Starting a new friendship feels like finding a running partner on the trail of life. I might not have started out with that person beside me, but when I make a friend it’s like we’re now running alongside each other at this point in our journeys. We might be in stride with each other; they might be pacing slightly ahead of me; or I might be pacing slightly ahead of them. The friendship is born and thrives from our ability to communicate while on the move.
It can be a beautiful thing to encounter a friend; to motivate and push each other when the trail gets rough. And though we might be moving in harmony at a given moment or moments in time, I’ve come to discover some x-factors that determine the longevity of journeying together: maintenance of or shift in pace, direction chosen at splits on the trail, recovery from accidents or injury, and self-motivation.
In the past few years, I’ve grieved the loss of some friendships that I thought would last forever. I’ve learned that lasting friendships are much more than circumstantial. They take nearly as much work as romantic relationships do and that they can be just as hard to let go when those x-factors are at odds.
I had a close friend whom I considered to be my “soul sister.” We had many life experiences in common, similar interests, and personalities that complimented each other extremely well. Towards the end of our friendship, they began to make choices and behave in ways that as a friend I couldn’t support and wouldn’t enable.
I responded by doing what I expected a “soul sister” would do for me. I thought, “If this were me, how would I want to be supported? What are the hard conversations I’d benefit from? What level of compassion would I expect?” After multiple attempts to be a sister to this friend, it became clear that they weren’t interested in making a change. Or rather, that they were determined to remain on their new course at their new pace.
I went through many emotions: concerned, disappointed, confused, heartbroken, and angry to name a few. In my mind, I kept going back to “If this were me…” It ate at my thoughts for weeks until I became aware of a very important life lesson: Your friends are not you, Azureé. They are their own people and have the power to make their own choices. A good friend may look out for another friend, but to what extent will you expend your energy on someone who doesn’t want to help their self? While I was thinking of this other person as if they were me, I stopped focusing on caring for my actual self.By over-identifying with my friend, I was unintentionally standing in my own way.
When I allowed myself space to grieve for the friendship I thought I had, my heart began to heal. I try to focus on the fact that I experienced a connection that was great for some time rather than dwell on the fact that the friendship no longer exists.
I am grateful for the friendships I have that remain and I’m even more intentional about how I work to cultivate their growth. I have hope for the potential of new friendships to arise. And I’m reminded of the importance of being first and foremost a friend to myself.