COVID-19 has really brought me face to face with some harsh realizations, one being my lack of social support. As it stands, aside from relatives, familiar strangers, close acquaintances and a couple of distant associates, I have no real friends. Initially, as I pored over this dreadful truth, I began to feel depressed. I felt like a social failure, and facing this fact was initially very hard on my ego.
In my twenties, I had plenty of opportunities to make friends, but at that time I was busy securing my future by going to college, working both part-time and full-time hours, and juggling spirituality and family obligations. In between my myriad responsibilities, I occasionally went out with some close associates from school or work, but beyond the late nights and early mornings, no real friendships ensued. Additionally, the friends I did make eventually faded away to the ravages of time and differing pathways. Many moved to different cities, had children, got married and although initially we made effort to maintain contact, eventually we all stopped trying and went about the business of living instead.
I remember back in high school and college I was always so good at saving myself. When I had a term paper due the next day or a test I barely studied for, I could always somehow redeem myself by pulling all-nighters, cramming and employing the use of clever mnemonics to help me get through. But when it comes to making new friends, I feel as though I am drowning, in need of quick rescue. There is no saving myself here because when it comes to making friends, my initiative relies heavily on the cooperation of others too. Lately everyone I meet seems to have already established their friendships or are so mired in depression the very idea of socializing seems to be yet another chore they have yet to get to.
Let’s face it, once you graduate high school and college, it’s hard to make new friends. It is easy to find a bunch of bums to hang out with, but as you mature and grow as a person, you look for people who will compliment your growth, not jeopardize it, and usually finding such like-minded individuals is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
I have tried my best to find good quality friends. I have used various online tools. I have subscribed to Meetups, I have used geo-social apps that literally track down connections for you based on physical proximity, I have extended myself in various venues and social settings, and while I have made some great acquaintances, taking it to that next level of friendship always seems to require more than they are ready to take on. It’s like the moment you demonstrate your interest in a deeper connection, they become afraid and scurry away. These days, the mere idea of a deeper connection sends people into a panic greater than that of this pandemic.
Based on these experiences, I have learned that friendship is a responsibility most are unqualified to carry. It involves regular investments of time, energy, and resources. Like all relationships, be them platonic or romantic, in order for things to grow and develop, you must be willing to make regular investments. Lately the friendships I have observed have relied primarily on one person doing all the legwork while the other person just coasts on their initiative. This lopsided arrangement often leads to intense feelings of bitterness and resentment. It’s like these days people don’t want friends, they want lackeys, followers, yes-men, slaves, counselors, and fans who compliment their ego as opposed to feeding their soul.
The thing about me is this: Whenever I start to feel as though I am being taken for granted or am not fully appreciated, I begin to look for the exit. In some instances, this has caused me to lose out on the possibility of securing good friendships, as I have had to learn to temper my expectations with the reality of friends being human, flawed, and perfectly imperfect. Learning this lesson helped me to expect more from my own hand than from the hands of everyone else. Here is where I learned the importance of being my own friend, as I am a firm believer in the law of attraction in that what you give to yourself, you get back, and how you teach people to treat you is how you will be treated. I now realize based on these two principles that I am in fact my first friend.
Understanding this concept, I realize that I have not always been a good friend to myself. One day while journaling, I prompted myself by exploring the topic of regrets. I asked myself, “What is one thing that I would regret if I were to leave this earth today or tomorrow.” After careful examination, I realized that I would regret how I treated myself. What an epiphany! At that moment, I decided enough was enough; either I was going to be my own friend or die trying!
Truth is this: People come and go. You may have some people in your life who are occasional friends, only good for “certain occasions”, but overall, you are your own multi-purpose friend. You must learn to be content with yourself considering you may very well be by yourself until what you want manifests. You must also learn to temper your expectations to fit the reality of your situation. We all want those cool, beautiful friends that make us laugh and invite us to fun and exciting places, but sometimes that isn’t what’s available. You gotta focus on what people can offer as opposed to what they are lacking because this will determine your satisfaction with not only yourself but also with those who you do hang out with from time to time. You can start by making a list of all your acquaintances and asking yourself what strengths they have that are compatible with your requirements for a friendship.
Additionally, you must realize that you might be under divine assignment by God, which requires your utmost attention and intentional solitude. Sometimes having people around can be a distraction from your purpose. You need that time to reflect, refocus, and recenter yourself. Such regenesis can only be achieved through moments of solitude. Personally, in moments like these, I have found community through brief encounters with neighbors and patrons at the grocery store. I have also found connection through books, art, and culture. Being around a group of great minds by way of a cracked paperback can offer a deep sense of community often lacking in other domains of life.
While there is no true substitute for human companionship, that does not mean you have to recoil in isolation and loneliness because you do not have the benefit of a deep friendship right now. In fact, not having friends can present new opportunities to reconnect with yourself and explore new interests and hobbies that otherwise might have eluded you while in pursuit of your next David and Jonathan-type alliance. Try to remember as you work to build your connection with yourself and with others that not having friends does not make you unworthy or unlovable or a “bad person”, as some days you may be tempted to sink into this pattern of stinking thinking. Instead, recognize that not having friends charges you with the responsibility to transform yourself into a social powerhouse so that you will someday be someone everyone wants to share time with, but most importantly, you will be someone who is confident, self-assured, and comfortable standing alone. There is no greater victory than that.