Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: Friends, the key to survival

Brian L. GrayI struggle with making friends these days.

But I’m old enough to understand why. I lead a busy life with a full agenda, and so do the strangers that could potentially be friends. Still, a full understanding doesn’t change the unfortunate situation I’m in, or make me feel any better, as I recently realized that I haven’t made a new friend in quite a while.

I don’t consider myself a reticent person, or someone who isn’t gregarious, but I am often guilty of using words most people don’t use on an everyday basis, which some people find to be pretentious.

Friends are hard to find at my age. They’re even harder to acquire. For instance, I was recently outside my work building when I ran into a guy that worked there, someone I often saw but never spoke to. Here at the paper I have many neighbors, as I am in a building that hosts a cabal of about five different businesses. The guy was roughly my age, and worked in a different office than mine. He and I spoke about the weather and had a nice random conversation in passing that turned into a few minutes of pleasant conversing. I thought to myself, “This guy’s kinda cool, and I can tell because I didn’t despise him right off the bat. And after talking with him for a while I still don’t hate him.”

When we parted ways, the thought that I haven’t made a friend in a long time popped up, and I wanted to ask the guy if he wanted to hang out sometime.

But I wasn’t sure how to approach him with it. How does one do this, I thought? Do I just go out of my way to small talk with him, bit by bit each day, and then eventually if things continue to go well ask if he’d like to hang out sometime? Grab a beer or something? What do people my age even do? How do I squeeze in the time to even hang out with another person?

This was like a twisted relationship, I realized. I got nervous and buckled. I gave up. And I knew what it was that kept me from making a new friend. I was afraid of rejection. I didn’t want to deal with that possibility, and have to confront the reasons why, if the potentially new friend said no. Was I not cool enough? Or was I cool enough but didn’t have enough confidence? Or did I exude too much confidence which that person found unnerving? And how would I even know the answers to any of these questions without someone like him helping me to better see my ways?

Another part of me felt that I was happy with who I was, and didn’t need change, or someone like him to change me with his different opinions and points of view that could influence me. Maybe I’m as perfect as I can craft myself and don’t need anyone to shape or mold me. Who needs that? I didn’t have time for that kind of aggravation or distraction.

Friendships are relationships. They get tricky, and sticky, and complicated sometimes. They occasionally end, they go through their ups and downs, and the good ones manage to survive the test of time.

The good friends I have are the ones I don’t see for a long time and once I do, it’s like no time has passed at all. We pick up right where we left off, regardless what we’ve been through since, almost like nothing else really mattered in the time since we last saw each other. Those are the good ones, and I’m blessed to have a few of those.

Friendships these days are hard to come by. It’s not like childhood, where you find out someone is wearing the same pair of socks as you and the two of you become instantly inseparable. Friendship as an adult takes on a deeper meaning. And today’s technology certainly doesn’t help matters any. Our deeply rooted need to connect with people is falsely placated by digital communication, whether it be texts, emails, Facebook, or anything else that claims to bring us all closer but still pulls us further apart.

It also doesn’t help that people don’t use the word “friend” in my age. Friends are instead defined as acquaintances, colleagues, or associates, like we’re all on some vital solo mission and everyone we encounter are merely insignificant beings we stumble across on our way to something more important.

I’ve never liked that train of thought. Friends are a critical part of my life, as they make all the difference between feeling the spiritual lift of personal success and happiness in your life and living out the rest of your life alone in the woods, eternally plotting conspiratorial revenge on all of the negatives forces that surround you.

Let us never forget about Dorothy, who after getting sucked into a tornado and chased by flying monkeys and a green witch learned that the very thing she was looking for in her life was there all along.

When I first got into the business world my focus was on making and saving money and building up work experience. Now I have money saved, and a decent resume, and none of it really matters. It’s nowhere near as important as being a force in the lives of the people I care about, because I know that’s what really makes us feel rich and important. It’s our human connections that feed us what we need, and that’s what lasts.

What matters is the people in my life. My family, my friends, the people I’ve come across in life. Those are the things that matter, that exist most strongly and lasting in the heart. And if I had more of them, I would gladly invite my cup to runneth over.

So I don’t really mind that I haven’t made any new friends lately. I, like Dorothy, am happy with what I have.

And I didn’t even have to deal with witches and flying monkeys to learn that lesson.