On friendship

I’ve wondered at various times what it is that makes someone a good friend, and how much we happen to owe our friends.

I like to think – as does everyone, I’m sure – that I’m a fairly good friend. I’m loyal and honest to my friends, and I support them in the things they choose to do, even if I don’t necessarily agree with the path they’re taking. Sometimes I’m the first person to speak critically about my friends, which I think confuses people. I believe – I know? – that no one’s perfect. I have a list of faults a mile and a half long. But I think that being able to see and speak to someone’s faults and care for them regardless of how much they drive you crazy sometimes is an important element of friendship. You’re friends with someone because of their good qualities, and you accept them with their bad ones – you just learn how to deal with them, or ignore them as works for you and your friend.

When I disagree with something that one of my friends is doing, I will usually not say so to them. I feel that it’s their life and their choices, and it’s not necessarily my place to speak out. If pressed, or if I feel it’s very important, I will tell my friends once how I feel. Whether it’s saying that someone’s significant other treats them poorly, or that maybe they should save up more money before doing this or that, or whether they should stop sleeping with that person and here’s the reasons why I feel that way… I say it once. I figure after once, you know how I feel on the issue, and I don’t want to be that friend who’s harping at you. Plus, if I go off on a tear about how much I hate my friend’s significant other after they break up, and they get back together again… won’t I feel like an ass.

But sometimes, friends need support. This is normal, and part of being a friend is to be there for them. But I’ve always wondered where that line is meant to be drawn. While I would be there for any of my friends in a minute, that also depends on my ability to be there for them. I believe that first and foremost, you have to look out for yourself, because when it comes down to it, everyone looks out for themselves first. I will be there for the Smooshy anytime he needs me, and I am there for any of my other friends should they need me, but if my life is going through hell, and your life is going through hell, I’m very sorry, but I have to ultimately look out for me first.

Maybe this is a selfish position, I’ve never really been sure. But I also think that surrounding yourself with emotionally needy people is a sure-fire way to wind up exhausted, drained, and with nothing left over for you… which in the end means nothing left over for your friends. If you want to look at it that way.

Most of my friends are, technically speaking, adults. I have friends who are soon-to-be parents, I have friends that are married or engaged, I have friends that live on their own or with roommates, and I have friends who still live at home. Most of these friends are within a few years on either side of being my age (25, if you haven’t been keeping track). On a grand scale, I don’t try to judge my friends’ situations; everyone has their reasons for living at home/with roommates/on their own, and everyone has their reasons to be parents/married/living with someone. I’m very happy for many of my friends, have no doubt. But there are also others that concern me.

I believe in independence, regardless of gender. I believe that anyone who is regularly employed and living out of their parents’ home should be able to manage their financial situation with some measure of success. This means being able to pay your bills on time, and ideally pay down debts and even put aside some savings. I’ve never presented myself as the picture of fiscal responsibility, but I’ve never had a month where I feared being kicked out of my apartment or losing any of my utilities or luxuries. I know I’ve been very fortunate in the employment situation, but having seen many friends go through different employment situations (and having worked a minimum of two jobs since I was 17), I think that being employed is usually not a difficult thing to do. I’ve had friends with very unfortunate situations, and I have sympathy for them, but that’s partly because they are also independent and spent many days straight looking for work.

I guess I’m a tough friend. My sympathies tend more naturally towards those who try to help themselves. Whether this means going on EI; working a shit job to have an income; living with roommates because you can’t afford a place on your own; working outside of your industry in order to have an income; breaking up with someone who isn’t a right match for you; taking your medications, whatever they might be (no babies here!); whatever… you have to look out for you.

Yes, friends are there to support you. Yes, friends are there to provide a shoulder for you to lean on when you need it, or advice when you want it, or even just a kick in the ass when you need it (or they think you do)… but what it all boils down to is, after a certain point in time, you’re considered, for better or worse, to be an adult. You have to look after you. You have to pay your bills, find yourself a new apartment, pick up your groceries, see your doctor, see your dentist, go to work, get your bus pass, shave your face, wash your clothes, and so on and so forth, all by yourself.

It’s not your friends’ responsibility to hold your hand while you do laundry. It shouldn’t be up to any of my friends to remind me to take my birth control pills (although the Smooshy is certainly within his rights to remind me, if he wants to. I don’t need it, but he’s allowed). If I fuck up and forget to pay a bill on time, or don’t put the money in the right bank account, or forget to get the cats to the vet… well, ultimately that’s my problem, and no one else’s.

I don’t know, maybe I have a cynical view of friendship, maybe I have low expectations for what kind of support to receive from my friends, or maybe I’m just more independent than I think. But I think that being an independent person allows you to be a good friend, because you know how to look after your own stuff and can help them look after theirs – but not do it for them.

Friends are wonderful. Friends are necessary. Friends are great to have around you when you need them. But sometimes, they have their own stuff to deal with, and I think it’s perfectly justifiable for them to look after themselves first, and me second. Or third, or fourth… or whatever. That’s why I like to have several close friends around me. One, it feels nice, and two, it means that I’m not relying on one or two people to be everything for me. Hell, I can even lean on my folks if the need should arise, but I’m fortunate enough to have a fairly good relationship with them.

Of course, I’m also fairly introverted, and there are plenty of times that I haven’t really wanted to talk about bad stuff that’s going on. Sometimes I prefer to just process it internally, or write about it. Whatever, I’m going off-topic.

For those of you that made it this far… what are your thoughts on friendship? Am I way out on my own in this, or am I, as I frequently do, just rambling and enjoying the sound of my own voice?

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