Tag Archives: friendship

Change

16 Jul

I don’t have a tangible connection to the Granite Mountain HotShot firefighters out of Prescott, Arizona. I didn’t know them. I didn’t know their families. I didn’t even have a sixth degree of separation. Even when I lived in Arizona, I wasn’t near Prescott. I resided 80 miles outside, in Tempe. When I heard about the out of control wildfire on Yarnell Hill that took their lives, I was distraught in a personal sense. A sense that alarmed me.

It’s normal to feel sad for your “home” state when a tragedy strikes, but what I felt wasn’t normal. As soon as I heard of the 19 fallen, I became obsessed with their individual stories: A stunningly handsome father of four…a newly married father-to-be…a 21-year-old rookie. Last Tuesday, I tuned into the memorial service online, where it was live-streamed to the nation. By the end of the service, I was in tears. This was slightly problematic, since I work in an open office. My tears were only protected by three cube walls.

What was wrong with me? Sure, I should feel empathy. That’s normal. What wasn’t normal was how personally affected I was. I hadn’t felt anything like this since 9/11. There had to be something more.

The answer came to me last Saturday morning. I was teaching a PR writing class at NYU and I had my students take turns reading an article about one of the fallen firefighters aloud (the lesson was on persuasive writing). By the end of it, one of my students said it was one of the best pieces of writing she’d ever read. Why was that, I asked. She replied it was because it made you think; to live every moment to the fullest. Not wanting to put words in her mouth, I asked if she meant one of the key takeaways was appreciation. She nodded emphatically.

It was at that moment my strange connection to this tragedy became clear: I was sad because of the situation, sure. More so, I was subconsciously telling myself that life is incredibly precious and I wasn’t doing enough to live it to the fullest. Truth be told, half of my tears were for me.

By nature, I’m a fearful individual. I hate change. I seek comfort. I don’t particularly take chances. I’m also the queen of “what ifs” or “maybe laters,” hoping that if it’s meant to be, it will somehow work itself out.

The problem is, my somehows always turn into somedays. My somedays turn to nevers. I’ve had chances to love Mr. Right. A few times. I’ve missed them. I’ve had chances to change my professional path. I’ve passed. I’ve had chances to stop and smell the roses. I’ve run on by.

Before you think I’m an epic failure at living, there are areas where I excel. For example, when I’m teaching, nothing else in the world matters. My heart is full, I’m working at capacity, and I’m taking in every single moment. When I’m with my friends, I’m an active listener, an avid hugger, and a “I love you” advocate. I’m also a loving sister and daughter. Family first, always.

Reading about the lives of 19 fallen firefighters gone in the blink of an eye, it made me realize I need to do better than part-time life-liver. I need to make it my full-time job. Everything else is just details.

Starting today, I’m going to say “yes” more often. I’m going to love more freely. I’m going to change it if it doesn’t make me happy. I’m going to stop giving my friends advice I don’t follow.

You should too.

Love, Part 2 of 5: the “Coupled-Up” Complex

18 Feb

As you enter your late 20s/early 30s, the “single” pool slims. In fact, you probably only have a handful of friends left in the “Hey, I’m single” group. Or – if you’re me – don’t even have a handful. To be truthful, I only have up to my middle finger (ironic finger to have on this topic, no?). It wasn’t always like this. When I first moved to New York (2010), I had tons of single friends. We all went out. We all partied. We were each other’s wingmen/women. We never had to check with another person to schedule a night out. Easy breezy.

I blame myself for ruining this wonderful scenario, as the above only lasted a few weeks. I got a boyfriend three weeks after moving to the city.

At first, I told all my friends nothing would change. I’d still hang out with everyone just as much, see him sometimes, etc. Later down the road, he and I had numerous conversations about having our own space and having separate friends. This all sounded great in theory, but the reality was we did everything together and never left the other’s side. When we actually hung out with other people, we did that together, too. Truly, you could have given us one of those annoying Brangelina nicknames. Not once did I ever think about how my single friends may be feeling or think I was doing anything wrong. Instead – in my head – I was doing the best I could trying to balance boyfriend and friends. They had to understand, right?

Wrong. It wasn’t until after my boyfriend left me for another woman I realized how much I needed my friends. In the following months – as I was trying to reconnect with everyone – I not only learned how hurt they were by my long absence, but learned how much being in a “couple” changed me as a person and changed how I interacted with my friends. In short, I sucked. Big time.

When you are “coupled-up,” you change in many ways. Your priorities change. Your conversations with your friends change. Your attitude about life changes. What you find fun changes. Your expectations of others change. Honest Abe? You aren’t the same person you were before the relationship.

I’m not saying this to be Negative Nancy (who, to be clear, has no relation to Honest Abe). Us singles are thrilled for our “coupled-up” friends. Honestly, we want what you have. Hell, we’re happy for you even if we don’t particularly like your other half. Our job – as your friend – is to be supportive. When we end up really liking your other half, it’s amazing. It’s even more amazing when we become really good friends with them. They make you happy and we usually love having them around. Score.

I know what you’re thinking – “coupled-up” reader – if we like your other half (or, even if we are just being supportive), and you still see us (even if it’s with him), then what is our problem?

This is going to sound harsh. The problem is you’re in a relationship with us, too. Your relationship with us requires a certain amount of empathy, respect, time, and energy. It also requires a certain amount of quality time away from your significant other, so we can speak freely, connect with just you, and remember what it was like pre boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband.

Of course, we can’t tell you all this. Instead, we are stuck in the awkward position of just dealing with it. Or, hinting around it (even more awkward). Without you getting mad, how can we say “Hey, we totally love Michael. We really do. He’s perfect for you. But can we please have you to ourselves, just for a night? You don’t understand why it’s so important to us, but it is.” Being single is hard enough without thinking we are losing our friend to this “coupled-up” complex.

Are you starting to think about your own actions? Let me make it easy. Here are the top five gripes (plus a bonus) single friends have with their “coupled-up” ones:

1. We invite YOU somewhere, yet you respond with “We’d love to” or “We can totally stop by.”
Again, we may love your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband, but if we didn’t specifically invite them, it was probably for a reason. Thus, getting a “we” response is kinda a slap in the face.

2. We’ve hinted at quality time (either solo, just “the girls,” or just “the boys”) and you’ve made no effort to plan OR you don’t whole-heartedly agree (“OMG, you’re right. We haven’t hung out in a while. Totally overdue”).
In this, you make us feel secondary or simply not important at all. Not cool.

3. When we do hang out with you and your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband, you bring other couples.
Um. Hello? What about us? Do you have any idea what an all-couple night out feels like to the token single person? Let me enlighten you – it feels like someone is pushing your head through one of those airport X-ray machines. Great visual, right?

4. You stand us up.
You either cancel our plans all together and/or “forget” you already had something scheduled with your honey and do that instead. Oh, and the “We had a rough night and are going to stay in” or “We are so comfy at home right now” totally counts. Personally, my favorite is getting the latter, then being asked if I want to join in plans some other day. Newsflash – I alloted this time to hang out with you. I’m a busy gal and probably can’t jump at the replacement time. Sorry.

5. We always feel like a third wheel.
It doesn’t matter how awesome your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband is, when we are out with just the three of you, we always feel like the odd man out. God bless you for trying to include us. We truly appreciate it. However, we only go because we want to see you. Not because we like the experience.

BONUS. You don’t think the same things are fun anymore.
We get it. When you are “coupled-up” your idea of fun changes. When you stay in, you cook dinner, watch tv, and enjoy each other’s company over a few bottles of wine. When you go out, you aren’t looking for interaction with the opposite sex. Unfortunately, us singles are still looking and thus, are counting on the company of others to help us out. Further, we understand you don’t want to do the things we did when you were single: out till 5 a.m., meet new people, dance the night away, beer pong championship…Fine. However, sometimes – just sometimes – it would be fabulous if you would do one or more of these things for us. In return, we promise not to complain once about your PDA. Not. Once.

Dear “coupled-up” friends: We love you. We really do. We also probably love your other half. However, we don’t want to compete with your current relationship. We want to enhance it. We also want our relationship with you to stay in-tact and/or grow. In this, you need to give us – your single friends – some consideration and care. We promise to do the same when love enters our lives.

Cue Heart’s “Alone.”

Please be sure to share this blog post with all your “coupled-up” friends.

Stuck in the Middle? Exploring Adult Friendships: Part 1

16 Dec

Friends. With so many definitions, how do you really define these people in your life? Sure, friends are people you call on bad days. In fact, they are the same people you call on good days. You laugh together, cry together, and tell each other things you don’t normally tell others. This sounds pretty simple, right? Someone either is your friend, or they’re not.

Unfortunately, as adults, friendships are not so simple. Why? Because the above definition is truly made for friends under the age of 12.

In your 20s and 30s, friendships change. Sometimes they change for the better and sometimes they don’t. If a friendship falls into the latter category, it’s probably not because you got into a physical or verbal fight (both more common during our younger years). Instead, it’s usually life’s fault, throwing roadblocks, challenges, or changes into the friendship neither of you anticipated. Some of these factors include boyfriends/girlfriends, getting married, babies, job changes, moving away, etc. All of these changes sound natural and logical, so why are we consistently disappointed when friendships change? Why can’t we accept the fact people change and thus, subsequent relationships change too?

If only this rationale was so easy to accept.

A wise friend once told me adult friendships fall into three buckets. First, you have your best friends. These people fall in the top-tier of your existence. These are the people you simply can’t live without. Second, you have a middle bucket. This middle bucket includes everyday acquaintances or people who dropped from best friendship bucket. In the latter situation, you may have grown apart, but you like person and sometimes enjoy their company (the happy hour/sometimes dinner friend, if you will). Finally, there is the “non-friend” category. This category includes all “other” people, the people to whom you are – at best – consistently polite (because you aren’t mean) or simply don’t like at all.

In 29 years, I’ve never used these buckets. Honestly, I think everyone is my best friend (I recognize how unrealistic this is, trust me). In fact, I have less than a handful in the “non-friend” category (if I don’t like you, it’s probably because you/I/we were hurt in some way. Thus, you/I/we couldn’t get over it). You could say I thought I was immune to the friend buckets…until recently, as I became increasingly upset over a few (seemling) misconstrued text messages, emails, or phone/in-person conversations.

Low and behold, the problem wasn’t them – it was me…and my all-or-nothing system.

Over the past year, I’ve had many friends move away, get married, have babies, etc. It’s amazing watching all these life changes happen and truly be happy for them in the process. However, as lives change and communication becomes less frequent, some friendships I use to consider “best” don’t feel as “best” anymore. I’m sure many of you are familiar with these feelings: only one person is putting in the effort, one-sided conversation, self-absorption, consistent plan-cancelling, not listening, missing big events, hurt involved, and the list goes on. I’ve been on both sides and neither is fun. You leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied and helpless, trying to understand what went wrong and how to get things back to where they use to be.

Excuse the cheesy winter analogy for a moment, but adult friendships are like snowflakes. They are individual in nature (and very fragile) but if you find the good ones (equal and reciprocal), it’s amazing how beautiful, strong, and powerful they are. However, – without care, tending, and effort – snowflakes are many, fleeting, disheartening, and forgettable. Further, they disintegrate quickly. No matter how many more snowflakes fall, they are unique in nature. You’ll never get the same one twice.

Let us return to this mysterious middle bucket, the bucket housing the acquaintance friends. It is this bucket I have difficulty accepting. Why? Truth be told, if I adopt this bucket into my social set, my friendships are no longer black and white. Instead, these friendships fall into a place of ambiguity and I can no longer hold them to “best friendship” expectations. You guessed it – that also means I need to stop being hurt or disappointed when expectations aren’t met.

I challenge you all to take a long, hard look at your friends. Who are the people you call with exciting news? Who are the people you’d do anything for? Which friendships are equal in effort and appeal? These people are probably your best friends. If you are struggling with a particular friendship, ask yourself why. Is it because you no longer like them? Cut your losses and place them in the “non-friend” bucket. Does your friend never ask about your life? Do they never call you back and/or are always too busy? It may be time to move the friendship to the middle bucket. Are you hurt by something they said or did or, did you hurt them? Ask yourself if you both can get past it. If yes, work it out and forget about it (grudges are toxic). If not, you have two other buckets to work with.

Adult friendships are complicated. The best ones make you feel happy, complete, and supported no matter where life takes you. The others – if not properly managed – can suck the life right out of you. Figure out who you want in your life and put your efforts into these relationships. Carefully scrutinize the others and understand what benefits they bring to the table. If the negatives outweigh the benefits, you need to stop trying and let the relationship take its natural path to another bucket.

What are your thoughts on adult friendships?

Look for Part 2 next week, when I explore what elements make up a fabulous adult best friend. Happy Holidays!

All a Woman Needs to Know, She Can Learn from Gone With the Wind

25 Nov

Thanksgiving weekend is time to spend with family and friends. It’s also a great time to catch up on quality television. This weekend, I spent 235 minutes watching Gone With the Wind. Not only is the film cinematically beautiful, but a woman can truly learn everything she ever needs to know about men watching this film. I know what you’re thinking – this film is from 1939. Male and female relationships evolved since then. After watching the film, I wholeheartedly disagree. The confusing, messed up, and over-analyzed relationships between males and females are as confusing, messed up, and over-analyzed as they’ll ever be. Plus, if you are still single (and around my age), you really don’t have anything to lose by learning from your predecessors in the game of love. So listen up ladies, Gone With the Wind holds some secrets to relationship success:

I Love You: Throughout the film, men fall all over Scarlett. The most interesting element of her love interests is that the men who love her don’t know her for very long, yet say “I love you” quickly and easily. The one time SHE says “I love you” and “I want to marry you” first, she’s rejected by her beloved Ashley. It makes you wonder…is saying “I love you” really that hard for a man? I argue, no, it’s not. Further, are men turned off by a woman initiating the first move? You bet your ass. Allow me to explain. Men know, after a short amount of time, whether they love a woman. Same goes for if they want to marry a woman. The problem is, most women can’t wait for this moment to naturally occur. They say “I love you” first or pressure for the ring. This makes men run for the hills, prolongs the process, or even puts it into the long term/maybe never bucket. If you are pressuring him, ask yourself why. Is it because you’re afraid he’ll never say it/do it at all? Like Scarlett to Ashley? If that’s the case, you need to take a really careful look at your relationship. If it’s because you are simply impatient, you need to relax. He loves you. You know he does. Let him do it on his own terms.

Marriage Material: At the beginning of the film, poor Scarlett O’Hara overhears an unpleasant conversation about her. The point of the conversation is simple: men don’t marry women like Scarlett. She’s outspoken, pragmatic, independent, rebellious, sometimes irrational…wait, Scarlett actually sounds a lot like me. Do men really not marry women like Scarlett? If they do marry women like Scarlett (in the film, Scarlett marries three times) are these marriages doomed from the get-go?  At the end of the day, women like Scarlett push the good ones away (like Rhett Bulter) because we (yes, I’m including myself here) are always going after something that doesn’t exist…like the asshole bad boy who leads you on and treats you like crap, yet we think will eventually change (like Ashley). So, are women like Scarlett, myself, and many others marriage material? Sure. However, what we  need to learn is that no man wants to be with a woman who is not easy to be with. If we are always looking for the next best thing (or something that doesn’t exist at all) we are going to be up a creek without a paddle…alone.

Alcohol Consumption Makes the Idiot: Listen up, ladies. When you’re hammered, you’re an idiot around guys. You are either too flirty, too fiesty, too forward…and there are a few other choice “f” words I can fathom. In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett takes a liking to brandy…and drinks to cope with her failed marriages and unrequited love for Ashley. In turn, we regularly find Scarlett guzzling, hiccuping, or saying things she wishes she could take back. The fun part about this analysis is that Scarlett was aware of her actions, yet it didn’t exactly deter her from future initiations. Additionally, none of the men left her for making an ass out of herself. However, what I did notice was men did look at her differently post-incident. I’m convinced that after a woman makes a hot mess of herself post-cocktailing, a man doesn’t see her in the same light. Instead, they find it semi-comical, yet don’t respect her in the same way they may have previously. Take note, girls. How do you want to be seen?

I’ve Had It: The very last line of the movie is when Rhett is leaving Scarlett. He’s given her everything, loved her for years, and yet, she was (frankly) a bitch. Once Melanie dies and Scarlett learns Ashley never really loved her, Scarlett runs home and tries to patch things up with Rhett. However, it’s too late. As Scarlett cries out asking what should she do and where should she go, Rhett turns and strongly replies “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” He walks away, leaving Scarlett trying to figure out a plan to get him back. The movie ends and we never know if she was able to get him back. The lesson here is simple: yes, men can take a lot from women. However, there gets to a point when enough is enough. Relationships need to be nurtured. Women need to be kind. Men who give their everything to another deserve honesty and respect in return. Time and time again do we hear stories of overbearing, controlling women who are downright mean to the men in their lives. They do this because they are confident no matter what they do, the man won’t leave. Rest assure, men do have a breaking point, no matter how passive and understanding they may appear. Relationships are not something to take for granted…as Rhett showed us, they can be gone in a heartbeat.

Every woman should watch Gone with the Wind. Not only can you learn how to snag a good guy (and keep him), but it’s a sure-fire confidence boost. If the amazing and beautiful Scarlett O’Hara can consistently mess up her love life, I think we modern women can be a little less hard on ourselves as we continuously learn from our mistakes.

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