Over the years, I’ve made and lost friends. Each time hurt, but I’ve learned valuable lessons from these experiences. I found it very important to categorize the people around me so I can put up boundaries to protect myself from expecting too much and resenting others. Listed below are the different kinds of friends you will encounter in your life and how to best nurture their friendships with you in a way that gives you the most joy.
Friends of circumstance. In college, I had a big group that I spent time with at school, but we never really hung out outside of school. These were my “college friends,” whose friendships, for the most part, were sustained by the structure that our program provided. After graduation, we all went our separate ways, and all but one stopped reaching out. This is a very common story. At some point in our lives, we realize that we were only friends with people because we had to be. We were all in the same stage in life and took the same classes, so it was natural that we became friends. It’s not a bad thing that the friendship fizzled out, it’s just a product of the dissolution of the social structure that allowed it to exist in the first place. Think of these people as your “live in the moment” friends. It’s great now, but it’ll be over soon so enjoy your time with them but don’t get too attached.
Work friends. We spend a lot of time at work, and it’s inevitable that we become friends with our colleagues. Work also gets done more efficiently when the people around you don’t hate each other. This group warrants a certain boundary of professionalism, so don’t tell them your deepest darkest secrets that’ll bite you in the ass down the line. I learned this the hard way: Don’t be too friendly with your subordinates. It sounds bad, but it just doesn’t make for a good dynamic when you allow them to question your authority and mistreat you in the workplace because they think you are in equal footing. Just don’t. Definitely be nice to your work friends: acknowledge their birthdays/milestones, congratulate them on a good presentation, and commiserate when they get a bad eval, but refrain from inviting them fully into your life.
Virtual friends. With today’s technology, it’s possible to make virtual friends who you’ll possibly never meet in real life, but these people are not what I’m talking about. There’s friends who may live within 15 miles of you but will never initiate a hangout or will always turn down a proposed hangout. Different people have different definitions of what being an active friend is, and for me, it’s actually seeing them in person at least once every couple months, especially if we live less than 30 minutes away from each other. You may still interact with them online and send each other messages, but their presence in your life will forever remain virtual. It baffled me before, but I have learned to accept this as I know my friends who are like this are not bad people, they’re just busy living their lives. The key is to GIVE OTHERS THE SAME ENERGY THEY GIVE YOU. If they text, you answer. If they comment on your stuff, comment on their stuff. If, after multiple times of asking them out and they said no, stop asking them and let them initiate. They may be going through a bad time or other struggles and don’t want you involved, or they just simply don’t want to hang out. Ultimately, focus on your other more active friendships.
Inactive friends. Friends are like seasons. There’s one for every time of the year, or time of your life. This means that if you are losing connection with a friend due to a busy schedule or the miles between you, it doesn’t mean that you are no longer friends. Your friendship is just inactive. Check on them once every couple months or on major holidays, send them Christmas cards, etc. Keep in touch, but don’t be too invested. They may or may not come back into your life at some point, but in the meantime, focus on your more fulfilling relationships.
Good friends. These are people you hang out with regularly, but you don’t consider your best friends. They’re good people and add value to your life but for some reason, they’re not the first person you’ll call when you end up in jail. You should treat these people with kindness and generosity. Allow the friendship to grow or die, whatever its destiny is.
Ride or die. Now these friends are who I live for. They get you on the deepest level, check up on you constantly, uplift you, ground you, and fulfill your need for high quality social interaction. Your achievements make them feel proud instead of jealous, they sympathize with your negative life events instead of secretly rejoicing, and they encourage you to live your dream instead of telling you ways why it can’t happen. Ultimately, your ride or die is a very secure person with whom you can share fun experiences with such as your first concert or having tea on your patio. These are the people who will catch you when your romantic relationship ends or you lose your job or your business fails. These are also the people who will be at your graduation, wedding, awards ceremony, etc. They will take your highs and lows with stride as much as you will take theirs. There’s no lying to these people. Just be yourself, but better. These are the friendships you will invest in the most in terms of time, energy, and resources. Send them a text at least a couple times a week, remember the birthdays of their dogs, siblings, significant other, go all out for their own birthdays, be there at 2 am when they call you crying, get them food delivery when they’re sick or don’t have time to cook because of a deadline, buy them a souvenir when you’re traveling, take care of them when they’re sick, house them when they need it, in short: GO ALL IN. If they’re giving you the same kind and generous energy back, then you have yourself a solid ride or die.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m not saying you should treat people with indifference if they’re not your ride or die. This is simply to realign your expectations from your different friendships. People are not perfect, and they will disappoint you, but if you have realistic expectations from the get-go, you’ll have a lower chance of being hurt. Match the energies people put out, and if there’s a big misalignment there, it’s probably not a good idea to keep moving forward.