I Made A New Friend Today

group of friends

“I made a new friend today.” A normal thing for a seven year old to come home and say, but what about a fifty year old? As we get a little older it isn’t as easy to meet new people and really connect. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be as open and carefree as a seven year old? This summer I spent a week in the Okanagan with my daughter. Each day we would go to the lake and set up our chairs. She would look around, find somebody close to her size (smaller or bigger didn’t seem to matter) and go and play with them. Sometimes it worked out and the day was spent with her new best friend swimming and building sand castles. Occasionally, it didn’t work out and she would move on to the next small person. So easy and so unassuming.

A few years ago I was having dinner with a group of old friends. Our conversation turned to a women we had all met at a party a few weeks before. She seemed nice and one of us suggested we invite her to our next dinner. At this point one of my girlfriends said “Sure invite her, but I’m not interviewing for any new friends right now”. I didn’t think much of it at the time and we all laughed at her, but it has sort of stuck with me over the years. When you make a statement like that, don’t you close yourself off to so many new experiences, opinions and well, joys? Who’s to say that the person you met at the event you went to last night isn’t going to be your best friend in the next few years and bring a new perspective to your life. New ideas, fresh outlooks and perhaps even another new friend. Sure, they could be a total nut job, but wouldn’t it be better to find out first before you block them on Facebook?

I feel that the best thing to do at this stage in my life when starting a new friendship is to not have too high of an expectation. I know that may sound a bit cynical, but hear me out. I do not expect to have coffee with you every week. I do not expect to chat with you on the phone every day. I do not expect birthdays present or even a card. I don’t expect any of those things from friends I have known for years, or are particularly close to, so why would I expect them of some body I just met? I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to friendships. My friends have pissed me off many times over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same, but you get over it. In a solid friendship there is no judgment and there is no “Did I offend you”? Of course you did, but that’s okay, we’ll move on.

I met two great women this summer. In my opinion, both are strong, independent women with big hearts. I could see being friends with both of them; for completely different reasons. I also got to know some women who I didn’t know very well, a little better. All of this happened very naturally and easily. Again, there is no expectation that we will swap spit or have slumber parties anytime soon, but could I call them if I needed a friendly chat or some support? Absolutely. How do you know if the person you meet is potential friend material? It’s one thing to be able to carry on a conversation with somebody, but to feel like you could spend the day just hanging out and talking means that you have shared values and interests.

Maybe that’s why it is so easy for our kids to make new friends. They are without judgement. They see only a person who likes what they like and can build a mean sandcastle. The Best Thing in Life would be to open ourselves up like a seven year old and make some new friends. At any age.

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In Response to “Surviving Seventeen:

After sending my son an e mail of my post “Surviving Seventeen” I got a text saying “I like it. I’m writing a response”. Here is that response.

There is no cheat sheet, no universal way to understand a teenager and there is definitely no grand plan. The world is a scary place, as all you adults can agree ( if you remember ). It’s not easy facing everything for the first time. I do enjoy playing video games. It’s were I go to get away from everything I cant put out in the real world. Its funny because no one that I have to explain it to understands.

Having drive is a problem for me as it is for most teenagers. I have told my mom this. My mind works for instant gratification. If I get a good feeling out of it now I’m going to take that over something that will make me feel good months or years down the road. With this in mind, college, and a lot of planning, is a struggle because I cant see the end of the tunnel at all and when nothing comes from it, my brain puts it on the back burner. I do, however, want to thank my mother for pushing me to get stuff done and I know that she only wants the best for me. It’s the teenager inside me that thinks it’s nagging but I know it’s not.

Another thing is, when you ask your son or daughter what they want to do and they say ” I don’t know” you probably accept that as they just don’t care. The truth is we just don’t know. We don’t have any experience with anything like this and a lot of people just expect us to know exactly what we want to do with the next 60 some years for our life. We are, in all honesty, scared. We are scared to leave the people and places we know behind and find “our path” that makes us happy and makes enough money. A lot of us will only get the latter of the two. We don’t want to flip burgers or pack grocery bags for the rest of our lives but we are scared we will and the weight that is put on us to not do that just adds to that feeling. Even when parent say “We don’t care what you do, we just want you to be happy” we know that’s a lie. Yes, you may mean to say it but deep down we know you want use to be that lawyer or doctor or business person. The last thing we want to do is let our parents down. I’ve kept things from my parents (I later told them) that I thought would make them disappointed. At the time it felt a lot better to lie to them then let them know I had failed.

The way I see it friend, girlfriend and boyfriend all finish with “end” but family doesn’t. Your kids NEED your help. They may never ask for it and yell at you if you give it to them sometimes, but they do appreciate it so always be there for them because parents are the one thing that we can always count on.

I’ve now decided my son should be a writer.