If I were to describe myself, I would not say that I make friends easily. In fact I would say that I’ve never made friends easily.
But part of a life of living daringly is challenge. One of those challenges involves questioning what you think you know about yourself.
“I’m not a runner.”
“I’m not an artist.”
“I can’t draw.”
“I’m a terrible writer.”
“I don’t make friends easily.”
Each of those things is something that I thought about myself up until my divorce. Each of those statements has been tested and proved false! I’ve run 10ks! I’ve painted a number of paintings and have even sold a few! I took drawing lessons, and I can draw simple sorts of things. I wrote a book chapter, assisted in writing a few scientific papers, and write this blog!
Historically I’ve had a hard time making friends. I’ve been a pretty independent person throughout my life. When I was ~six-years-old, I was enjoying our traditional Christmas Eve fare of Chinese food. I insisted upon using chopsticks, even with the rice, and I wanted to finish every bit. I’m sure I left a few grains of rice, but overall I completed my goal without assistance.
I also have a strong personality. I think I’ve written about this before, but I have a vague memory of having an argument with my 5th grade teacher about women’s rights. In the middle of class… This sort of thing can make me a challenging friend. If I think there is a problem in the friendship, I try to address it. If my friends have a problem within our friendship, I expect them to bring it up. If you ask for my advice or my opinion, you will get it and you’ll get the truth. Some people don’t like some of that…
The combination of these things has made it hard for me to connect with people. The independence makes it hard to reach out when I need someone to be there for me, and the strong personality sometimes causes me to push people away without meaning to. Over time it got harder and harder to let down my walls.
But I’ve noticed an interesting trend lately (with “lately” encompassing the past few years). I’m feeling more connected to people. I’m finding more friends that I can be my true self around. I’m discovering friends who are willing to challenge themselves by bringing up the hard issues when they do come up (and they don’t come up often). I’m finding friends who I feel comfortable reaching out to even when I’m feeling especially low and vulnerable. And perhaps more interestingly, I’m finding that I’m meeting more people that I connect with than I ever have before.
I’m noticing that my friends are helping to be my true self. They support me in the things that I love (e.g. my blog, my art, my scientific endeavors). They challenge me by sharing their different points of view and ways of doing things.
It’s really nice to realize all of this. It means that I’m opening up more. I’m letting people in a little more easily. I’m also choosing healthier people to let in.
That’s a much less isolating place to be. As The Beatles once sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”