Yesterday I was working, thinking as always, and my mind drifted around the idea of friends. I got to thinking about the friends that I have, meaning friends I actually talk to and not my plethora of Facebook "friends", and I began to think about how I actually formed relationships with the friends that I have. I know its not exactly something that we think about on a regular basis, but the idea of trying to figure out how we came to know who we know intrigues me. Out of the good friends that I have, I'll say a solid 3 (only because I have known them the longest and have the strongest relationship with them), two of them came from my time spent in college and the other has been a lifelong friend. Let me flesh that out a bit for you. The friend that I have known the longest and still maintain contact with, oh, about 26 out of my 30 years of life, started in nursery school. We had similar interests at the time, playing with blocks and building things, and from there as they say, the rest is history. We ended up going to the same grammar school and high school, and throughout those years, our friendship had its ups and downs, but we still somehow maintained our friendship and at this point unless something drastic happens, I am sure we will probably be friends for life. Those basic fundamental interests that started our friendship still exist and in part, that's probably a good reason why we are still friends; in addition to being there for each other in a pinch and simply talking from time to time. But this friendship of 26 years is not the one that got me thinking about how we formulate relationships with others and get to the point where we can call them friends. In fact, its not even the next two I will tell you about, but they are worth talking about for illustration purposes. While my friend of 26 years is one of my better friends, there was another person I became friends with who has become one of my best friends, not in terms of how often we see each other (very little), but in terms of our similarities in thought processes, approach to life, and ability to challenge each other on many levels. I met this other friend of mine, scary as it may seem to write it, about 12 years ago at St. Bonaventure University. It was a random coincidence that we ran into each other during freshman orientation, yet that was all it took to begin a friendship that has lasted years, even with thousands of miles between us now and only the random phone call to check in. To be honest, I don't even know what sparked the initial conversation, but something clicked between us and our friendship grew.
The other great friend of mine, who I actually just saw yesterday during a lull in his travels, was another random run in at another college I attended, Southern Connecticut State University. We were both standing around waiting for class to begin, and somehow a conversation was started over a specific subject and from there on out, we became friends. I do remember how this friendship started, but some things are better left unsaid, and this is one of them. This friendship of mine, enduring about 10 years of my life, is still a solid friendship. This is yet another friend who I don't get to see that often as he is on the road for work the majority of the time and rarely makes it back to Connecticut. Yet, despite the distances between us or the time between seeing each other, the friendship we forged over shared interests grew and we still maintain contact with each other. Of the three friendships I just described, all three individuals couldn't be any different from each other. If you put the three of them in a room, maybe two would start talking to each other, then again, maybe not. Its odd how different the three of these friends are from each other, but perhaps that speaks to my odd nature or my varied interests that have brought me to different people over the years. Even now, with more recent friendships that have started, the individuals are of completely different natures. In short, I forge friendships with unique and odd individuals, yet ones who are down to earth and share at least some interests. Of the friendships I have forged over the past 5 years, the basis for how they began varies greatly. A few began due to business and grew from there, some more than others. One of those friends actually started playing on my dart team and got me into kickball. And just this past year, that same friend brought one of his friends onto our dart team whom I now consider a friend as well, in fact, maybe more of a friend than his friend who introduced us. While all the guys on my dart team are "friends", there are different levels of friendship between the individuals and myself. Some I feel closer to than others, that's just the way it goes.
I have also had a few friends who have disappeared off the face of my world, not because effort wasn't put in to keep those friendships alive, but more due to exterior factors that dragged us apart. Yet, I don't want to focus on those friendships that have dissipated. To me, any friendship begins when there is at least some shared interest between the two individuals and a willingness to communicate with each other. From there, it is about openness and honesty. Whenever I meet someone, I know almost instantaneously if they could be a friend of mine or not, simply due to their nature, their openness, and their honesty. I have a tendency to shy away from those that aren't themselves or who don't exhibit at least a marginal willingness to talk and share things. We all have acquaintances, but how many of those can we consider friends? And what exactly constitutes friendship? I guess to me, friendship is give and take. If you are willing to help me out and I am willing to help you out, regardless of how or why that help is given or received, then a friendship is likely. I don't just call everyone I know a friend. I know a lot of people on Facebook and in the real world, yet I wouldn't consider all of them to be friends by any means. In that respect, Facebook culls us into a false sense of friendship, a labeling of a relationship that is perhaps not quite a "friendship". Through Facebook, we can create what we think are friendships, but will they stand the test of time like those friendships that we forge in real life, face to face, open and honest? I doubt it. We may remain "friends" with those people on Facebook, but the majority will never be a true friend. While I may not have a lot of close "friends", the ones that I do have are dear to me and are ones that would do anything for. If my friends need help, I will do everything in my power to help them. As I grow older, I will still seek out those new friends whenever they appear on my radar, and I am sure that not all of them will make the cut. But for those that do, I look forward to a lifetime of friendship. Wherever or however people become friends, it all starts with some sort of shared interest. Its sometimes funny how two people meet and become friends later on, but in the end, the only important thing is that they are friends, period.