As strange as it may sound, I believe that words hold power. Perhaps that’s because I am a writer, or maybe I am a writer because that’s what I believe. You might notice on this blog that I don’t use swears. It’s not necessarily because I think they’re bad, but because I believe they will lose meaning if I use them frivolously. In my life away from the computer, if I so much as start to say the f word, even if I stop part way, the people around me know I am absolutely furious. They know they’ve crossed a line. My restraint from using the word gives the word and my use of it that much more power.
I apply the same twisted logic to the word ‘friend’. When my classmates and people I didn’t like started introducing me as their ‘friend’, what label did I have to call the people I did like? And then what label to those I like most out of those? It was the same with the term ‘best friend’ – the best, to me in my punctilious grammar, implied just one person. People around me used it to mean more than one. I failed to understand.
It wasn’t for a very long time, all the way until I was in high school, that I came to understand my understanding of friendship. I’ll forewarn you now that it might sound a little callous.
Over the years, I spent a lot of time thinking about myself and how I operate. Through this, I have come to realize that I have a finite amount of love, care, and energy. Say what you will about friendship and having fun, but any relationship is ultimately work and effort. The way I could see it, I could spread my finite resources thinly across a variety of people, maintaining shallow relationships that will probably deteriorate from lack of maintenance, or I could devote myself to a select few.
I can count the number of people I consider friends on one hand. In my entire lifetime, I don’t think I will ever need more than two hands.
Perhaps it is because I am aroace, but friendship is an incredibly intimate thing for me. I can say without doubt or hesitation that I would do anything within my power for my friends. I try to make sure that they know this, and I am also friends with them because I trust that they won’t abuse this power.
Above all, any kind of relationship is an exchange. They receive something from you, and you receive something from them. It’s a utilitarian way of looking at it, but a relationship where you don’t gain anything isn’t worth keeping. It doesn’t have to be anything concrete – I’m not saying you have to go out and buy your friends. But if your friends don’t give you anything, like a sense of security, a good laugh, a motivation to improve, maybe you should reconsider where you’re spending your energy.
The way I see it, and it’s going to be an arrogant way because I am an arrogant person and think life is a little easier to live on a high horse, is that I am looking for people worthy of my care and attention. If I’m going to give so much of my thought and time into them, I want to put value in someone who I know will be worth it. It may sound cold to think of something as warm as friendship in this way, but I have my reasons, and in fact I hope more than anything else that my friends consider me in the same way. I genuinely hope that my friends are considering whether or not I am worth their time and care and energy, and that they are are actively choosing to remain friends with me.
For those of you uncomfortable with my philosophy and need a little background, let me just say that I have always been easy to talk to. I’m good at being impartial, rational, providing an unemotional perspective. I also happen to be a good listener. Furthermore, due to my prim upbringing and natural personality, I was never anyone’s closest friend in elementary, middle, and high school – I learned that for some people, it’s not the closest people you confide to.
Despite everything I have said thus far, I suffer from an inability to not care. Over the years, for everyone I knew, especially from people who considered me a ‘friend’, I ended up confidant and therapist. My friend is being an outright jerk and I think they’ll grow up to abuse their kids, better tell Sable. Mother diagnosed with lung cancer and I am terrified, better tell Sable. Parents kicked out my brother and they’re wandering the city homeless, and there’s no chance of reconciliation, better tell Sable.
I was exhausted. And despite the fact that I hated it, apparently I was good at this job, because people kept coming back to me again and again with larger and larger problems. Meanwhile, who did I have to talk to? I chose to talk to no one because of the aforementioned people. I found speaking to strangers about personal problems uncomfortable and distasteful, especially since I had been at the other end.
Strangely enough, now that I’ve managed to clear up the labels in my mind – acquaintances, hang-out buddies, and actual friends – I have found life in general easier. In fact, all the complaining I did above? If my friends told me these problems, I wouldn’t complain in the slightest. I’d think it was an honor that they are trusting me with this information and do everything in my power to console and to help, because I chose to enter the friendship and I chose to devote my time and care into it.
My system is one that makes life easier for me and my friends, and I believe it strengthens my relationship with them. By limiting my use of the word friend, that also increases the worth of the word, and in turn my friends know exactly how much I value them. That isn’t to say that the philosophy doesn’t have its downsides – a friend/mentee(?) of mine recently told me they had adopted my friendship philosophy, and I wasn’t actually sure what to think. In fact, I found myself a little concerned because I know it is a callous sort of thought process, ahaha.
(Although he claims his grades went up, so I guess that ends up support of my method)
There are countless people who consider a friend. I know for a fact they would be hurt if they knew I didn’t consider them the same. If they paid attention, they would notice that I try my best not to lie, not to refer to them as a friend verbally at all, but I suppose their definition of ‘friend’ or expectation from our relationship differ.
You don’t have to adopt my friend philosophy, internet stranger. It definitely isn’t for everyone. However, I do ask that you do one thing – examine your relationships, think about how much you put into it, and make sure that you’re getting your time and effort’s worth. Friends are important, but remember that you are important too.
Life is easier if you’re a little arrogant – but that’s a philosophy for another day.