This one is not easy and probably has as many definitions as the number of people who try to define it. There are old friends, new friends, summer friends, school friends, work friends, and on and on and on. The categories are endless. You can also break the friendships down into “teams”: A team, B team, C team. The one constant is the word Friend. The question that begs to be asked is what qualities do you consider important in a friend? It is location? Past/shared experiences? Honesty? Looks? Sense of humor? It actually can get quite complex when you really delve into the core of it.
I have different criteria for different categories. (Just to make it a little more complex) I have three basic groups of friends at this point: Old, School and Work. I look to each group for different things. At this point in my life I, like most people my age, spend a fair amount of time focused on work. From Monday – Friday I actually spend more of my ‘awake’ hours with the “Work” friends then I spend with family. (This doesn’t really bother me as it just a result of the math. 6:30am – 4:30pm = 10hrs a day, 5pm – 11pm = 6 hrs a day, figure 1 hour of drive time(me time) and 6.5 hours for sleeping, that leaves 30 minutes for the 3 s’s.) The weekends are spent with Family and Old friends with the occasional getaway to spend some quality time with the School friends.
This is where the separation of groups comes into play for me. To touch on what I typed earlier, I have 3 types of friends: Old, School and Work. Below is how I define these groups.
- Old – These are the people I have known since childhood. My oldest Old friend and I went to Pre-school together and my 2nd oldest Old friend and I met in Jr. High. I lost touch with JEM for many years but we are back in touch now and for some reason I feel comfortable enough with her to talk about ANYTHING. The Jr. High guy (MGB) gets the worst of all my issues by the sheer fact we have either seen each other, or talked on the phone, at least 3 times a week for the last 28 years. He doesn’t get everything because he is too close to my current life and some things could put him in an awkward position. Through the good and bad in my life he has been the constant and for that I am thankful. There are other people who I have known for all these years but I consider them “friends”. They are great to be around but I would never expect them to drop everything if needed. We don’t have that kind of connection but we do share some memories.
- School – I met a lot of people at Kent State that are still my “friends” but there is another core group that were there as I went on that journey from Teen to Adult. These are my guys, forever. The people who I would leave work and drive 3hrs in a blizzard to help if they asked. The ones that I would write a blank check to if they were down and the ones that I would help hide a crime if needed. They are the ones who know all the flaws and don’t care. They just want you to be around. They all seem to have weird names like Scar, Snake, and Bocce. The nicknames still feel normal after all these years and that is a good sign where things stand. This group used to be larger but as time goes by it has been focused down to core.
- Work – This one has become tough for me as I have recently taken up an Ownership role where I work. That really changes the dynamic on what I can share and with whom. These people are the ones that I know I can trust their opinion because it could affect the business. Everyone needs a sounding board or a gut check at times. These people are especially important based on the math I dropped above. In my situation I spend about 45-50 hrs a week at work. when you add in the weekends and sleeping that leaves about 58hrs a week for family and other friends If you are going to be spending that amount of your life with others you better be sure you can trust them. You also need to be sure you have things in common other than work or things will get dull fast.
In all three groups I put a high priority on Honesty and Loyalty. After that would fall Similar Interests/Sense of Humor with Shared Experiences bringing up the rear.
- Honesty/Loyalty – This is first because if I cannot trust the things you say, I cannot trust you. I don’t want people in my life to say things just to make me feel good. When I ask for an opinion or feedback I want to know what they really think. I may not like what is said, but I can trust that there is no ulterior motive. I give opinions to friends in this manner. If you ask me what I think I will tell you. I won’t say something to make you feel all rainbows and lollipops. If it is good, I will say it. If it is bad, then I will tell you that also.
- Similar Interests/Sense of Humor – I mean really, this is a no brainer. If we have nothing in common how can we be friends? To be friends with someone you have to get into the same stuff. If you are into quilting and I am into motocross we are going to have nothing to talk about. While there will always be pauses in conversation, in a true friendship they are never awkward. They are just there until the next topic comes up or the next joke is cracked.
- Shared Experiences – When you share many of life’s milestones with the same group of people you tend to get very close. First legal drinks, work issues, texts, emails, phone calls, house/car problems, health concerns, relationship issues, kids, marriages, divorces, vasectomies, football games, homecomings, and weekends out just to get started.(Try and put 6 of your friends in a hotel room with 2 double beds and everyone has been drinking and make it work without everyone having a history. Ain’t gonna happen. If you have been doing it for years straight it is no longer an issue). The trouble zone here comes with the age you became friends. It is not a good thing, funny but not good, when many stories begin with…”We had so much to drink”. The trick is to have all kinds of things to reminisce about. If you are doing things with your friends often it will give you hundreds and thousands of things to laugh/cry/bitch about. That is one of the reasons friends are so important. They are your true chance to laugh/cry/bitch without being judged.(Just don’t go too heavy on the latter 2 because nobody likes to be around a Donny or Debbie Downer).
It all comes down to this…people need people. That is why we live in neighborhoods and cities. There is a reason that solitary confinement is the worst punishment in a prison. Without the ability to talk to another person the mind begins to break down. Taking the time to forge good, long-lasting friendships that have meaning will go a long way toward you having a good life. Remember though, it is quality NOT quantity of friendships that matters most
For your enjoyment and a perfect example of what is written above…….A blending of the Old and the School. What’s nice here is the School have been around so long they actually fall into the Old category also. I’ve known the guy on the far left for 28 years and the 2 in the middle for 21 years. Not many secrets to be found between us anymore. Nothing but Honesty, Shared Experiences and a somewhat twisted Sense of Humor is to be found in this picture.