As the year comes to a close, and I’m looking back I’m also looking forward to a new year and a new opportunity for renewal. Christmas was always a family time, and I miss those connections, but their memories still warm me when I’m alone. Now I celebrate holidays with friends who sustain me through out the year. As I look back at the friendships I’ve had, I realize how much they have meant to me in enriching my life and accepting me when much of society rejected me.
I think it’s too easy to drift into sentimentality when thinking about friendship because it isn’t always wonderful. Friends can make demands on our time and expect more than we’re willing to give. We can argue and have disagreements with friends, but we always make up. If we don’t, and the friendship ends then it is a great loss for both of us.
As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve lost contact with many old friends. Social media has been a wonderful medium for renewing those friendships because it goes beyond time or space. I’m not talking about 500 “friends” on Facebook. I only have 37 Facebook friends, and my computer address book only contains 250 names. I’ve known some friends for more than 50 years, and some I just met this year. You can never have too many friends. Acquaintances are shallow and drift away over time as your interests and needs change, but friends just hang on. When I think of the hundreds of people I’ve known in my lifetime, I’m surprised how little impact most of them have had on me or I have had on them. But friends stand out and create relationships that form memories of shared experiences, both sad and joyful.
I know an acquaintance who has a family but no friends, and his life is missing something important because of that. He has a large extended family, and he is close to all of them. But he doesn’t have anyone to “buddy around with” or just share time and interests together so in some ways he is still lonely.
For a few years my father had a group of buddies who used to play golf together every Saturday regardless of the weather year-round. Those were stressful times in his life, and those outings were worth more than any psychologist could ever have provided. When we moved, he lost contact with those friends and never found another such a congenial group so it was a great loss to him.
A cousin has lived in the same town her whole life. She has lived in only two homes: her parents, and her home when she got married. She has friends from elementary school. That has provided a lot of security, but it also has limited her opportunities to meet new and interesting people.
For gays and lesbians, friendship has a special meaning that is unrelated to sexual orientation. I have straight friends and gay friends, and we talk about different subjects but we share similar interests. For years it was my only way out of the gay ghetto.
I’ll close with a link to an Australian web site that has a long number of quotes about friendship: