Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Natural Course of Friendships

What happens when a friendship dies? Should a person resort to heroic measures to fan the fading embers that once burned brightly, or step aside and watch the tow trucks remove the wreckage?

When we were children, we thought our classmates and neighborhood buddies would be friends for life. What's now known as a BFF (best friend forever) in Internet and cell phone shorthand.

At some point in life we must learn and remember that every person we meet can't be considered, nor will become a true friend. I've never been one to meet John Doe or Sally Que on Monday and attach myself to either as their friend. I had (too) many relatives while growing up to need outside stimulation or company, but I had friends all the same.

What is a true friend? Does a true friend come to the rescue when a bully wants to pummel you for not doing his homework? I remember sprinting to Granny's house like Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens in the Olympics after school when I knew a bully had me in his sights when I was in the sixth grade.

I was accused two years later in junior high of using muscle to win the election for student body president. I didn't intimidate voters. I didn't know anything of the sort back then. I had a friend in Mary, a big-for-her-age student and relative to one of my mother's lifelong friends.

If her walking around the school with a large sheet of white construction paper (used by the art teacher to create banners that the sports teams and cheerleaders burst through before games) pointing at unsuspecting students with the request to sign their allegiance and vote for me was intimidation, then I stand guilty these many years later. I felt bad when another student complained and cried that Mary made students vote for me, rather than exercising their free will. Mary was a true friend back then.

In recent years I've been struggling with the definition of friendship. Beyond high and college cliques, adult friendship require more work than those we had as children, oftentimes with fewer perks (candies, sleepovers, camping trips, amusement parks). I've had friendships where I was a parent, a mentor, or big brother, which were always exhausting.

I get along (better) with creative types, but can navigate other worlds as well when needed. I used to think that the zodiac played a large role in finding, developing, and sustaining real friends, but the truth of the matter is that it is free will. We seek out people who make us happy, comfort us when we're sad, and gives us tough love even when we're in no mood for it.

My criteria for friends has changed
since I relocated from the Southwest, but the dynamic of my closest friendships are the same. I'm an honorary Hispanic among my closest friends, most of which are natives from Spanish or Portuguese-speaking countries or islands. I'm a proud American, however I feel like a foreigner when I look at the faces of those nearest to me.

Do I believe in reincarnation? Was I here before as a Spaniard or Ecuadorian, but didn't get it right the first or second time, only to try yet again in this body surrounded by familiar sights, sounds, and smell? Should I try to further dissect who and what naturally gravitate toward me? It's best that I bury my burnt out or imbalanced friendships and move on with those who respect and love me.

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