A friendly purpose
Friends are the people that you choose to surround yourself with. You’ve probably heard that saying:
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.
Since I can freely choose my friends, it makes sense to me that I would want to choose to surround myself with useful people (it’s the practical engineer in me), people who can serve some kind of purpose. I’m not really talking about being useful as in fixing broken stuff for me, opening really tight jars, or giving me money. No, I’m talking about them being useful as people: being supportive, giving me a fresh perspective, doing stuff with me, listening to me wax on and on about biking and/or food, and sharing their lives with me.
That being said, it also seems that friends are simply a reflection of ourselves. Now, this isn’t news or anything. I’m sure there is some famous quote out there. Oh wait, I found one:
When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends. — Japanese proverb
So yes, I would say that if I was hanging out with lots of dishonest types who were always lying, then I am probably a dishonest, lying type myself. Likewise, if I hang out with a bunch of genuinely kind people, then I might be a genuinely kind person as well.
Oh wait, what do my friends say about me? Seems that the lot of them are sarcastic, witty, and don’t mind a little good-natured ribbing, but probably doesn’t actually mean most of it. Oh and maybe a little anti-authority too? Hmm… no wonder I can’t quite fit in with the goody-two-shoes crowd!
And this says to me that no matter how hard I try to fit in with certain people, sometimes I just can’t. I have actually had quite a few failed attempts to try to fit into one crowd or another, only to find that I don’t really want to be there at all. I really need to work less on changing myself or the people I am around, and more on simply finding people that I get along with well. However, as a result of my inability to accept this, I change my friend groups rather often. There are certain friends who can weather the long haul, but for the most part, I find myself among a whole new set of friends every few months.
It would be more efficient to just find good friends and stick with them, but damn, I must be finicky. Plus, I like meeting new people and immersing myself in different social groups. I’d really hate to be someone who was restricted to a small set of possible friends. I don’t aim to be famous or anything, but I certainly do like to dabble in the different subcultures available to me.
So how do these friends happen? For the most part you start out with common interests or mutual friends. I meet a lot of people through biking, but not all of them will become closer friends. Sometimes I meet person A, get along okay with them, but then they introduce me to person B, and we end up becoming close. Things happen like that. You can bounce around quite a while within a group until you find the people with the best chemistry. For myself, these are probably the people that I will retain as friends after I inevitably break away from the larger group.
Speaking of chemistry, a friend shared a theory with me that good chemistry with another person would be there, regardless of common interests, and two people with good chemistry could probably talk about anything and still get along. A friend of a friend introduced this theory on a first date. Unfortunately, their chemistry was poor and no second date was to be had.
Where was I even going with any of this? Oh right, the purpose of friends. Yes, friends do serve a purpose, and in fact do a good many jobs: they are your support network, the ones who get you going when you need it, the people you can feel close to and confide in, and even the people you get annoyed with. Hopefully you spend less time being annoyed with your friends than the time spent feeling good about them. I might generalise my friends into three very large groups:
1) The one I used to be like
We probably have a bunch in common, even if we’re not too into the same stuff anymore. And somehow, we might still find a way to get along. I would say that most of my oldest friends are probably in this category, but they might fit into other categories too. If it’s someone that I’ve just met, chances are they will be younger than me or at a different stage of life than where I am right now. This friend also tends to give me perspective on the stages of life we are currently in.
2) The one I am most like right now
We have common interests right now and it means we like to go out and do the same stuff! This is great because we can easily find activities we both enjoy. We are probably at similar stages in life, e.g., married without children, and may be similar ages, give or take a few years. Then again, we might just have a very strong common interest that brings us together.
3) The one I want to be in the future
Ah, the ever-so-bright future. These are the friends that are ahead of me in life’s stages and they show me what it’s like where they are. Maybe they have kids or own their own businesses or have acquired a skill that I wish I had. Sometimes I feel like I am less close to these friends, but that they are very important in showing me perspective. They are usually wiser than I in certain matters and just generally have more life experience.
I know it seems that I’ve only talked about what my friends do for me, but I know that it’s a two-way street and I hope that for all of my friends out there, I am serving some kind of purpose for you. I do hope that I function more as a support network / fun person to be around, instead of the warning sign of "what not to do." Oh, I don’t mind if people can learn from my mistakes, and I certainly hope that people will laugh with me at them! I’m not an overly serious person, and it’s always good to see the grand humour in the human condition.
One can only hope.