Where Are My Friends?

When it comes to friendships, I've always favored quality over quantity.

Growing up as a geeky, introverted kid, that makes total sense. When I was younger, I was far more interested in my studies, reading, or playing video games than I was in being a social butterfly. In many ways, I still am.

Being a geek when you're little is, to say the least, inconvenient. But as I got older and went to college, I began to wear my social selectivity as a badge of honor. I had little desire to allow anyone into my life who didn't positively contribute to it. Not that I would forcibly reject people — I'd just be content with allowing certain relationships to fade away. To let them be what they were, nothing more, and not try to force anything out of politeness or desperation.

As our dad likes to point out, my sister and I are complete opposites, especially when it comes to our social lives. Through her, I've noticed how being selective with friendships has its advantages and disadvantages. I don't think my sister has ever been without plans, somewhere to be, or someone to hang out with. Or so it seems to me, anyway. That's really awesome, and there are plenty of times when I wish my phone was going off all the time, if only to have someone to talk to.

On the other hand, the more friends you have, the more likely you are to encounter drama on a somewhat regular basis.

If a relationship causes me more drama than its worth, I let it go. If I want to get through life as contently as possible, eliminating unnecessary people is one of my most valuable strategies.

What I'm beginning to realize now, though, is that as I get older, I find myself having to eliminate unnecessary people less and less. That is, I'm meeting new people far more infrequently.

A few days ago, Alex Williams wrote an article for the New York Times about the challenge of making friends as an adult:

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.

I met most of my best friends in college. We saw each other, laughed, cried, and lived life together every day. It was amazing, in retrospect. Now I only talk to most of them every few weeks, if I'm lucky, and since we've all moved back to our respective areas of the country, I see them far less often than I'd like.

But they're still my best friends.

I made some best friends in grad school, too, and I'm grateful that I still talk to them as often as I do.

But none of them are here right now. None of them are down the hall or upstairs. Most aren't in the same town, let alone the same state.

Since moving out of my parents' house, I've felt their absence more than ever. There are days when I wake up, read, write, work out, cook, and eat without ever talking to another person. Sometimes it's not until I go to work or yoga or run errands that I hear my own voice. And though I love solitude as much as the next writer/geek/introvert, we do miss our friends.

I tell you this not out of a desire for pity, of course. Being out on my own is great, and I wouldn't trade my best friends for all the acquaintances in the world. It's merely been the observation at the forefront of my mind lately.

As I get older, I don't see myself suddenly gaining five new friends a week as one might do in college. In fact, when I try to imagine where my next good friend is going to come from, I can't come up with an obvious answer. There are no more classes. There are no more parties in the quad. Right now — and with the kind of job I want — there aren't even any coworkers.

It is, admittedly, a bit scary.

Alex Williams:

People have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now. “You tend to focus on what is most emotionally important to you,” [Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California] said, “so you’re not interested in going to that cocktail party, you’re interested in spending time with your kids.”

I don't know if I'm OK with pulling back on exploration, of the self or otherwise. But I do know — so far — who I want alongside me at 30 and beyond.

There are billions of people out there, and not all of them are worth knowing.

So when I find someone who is, I'm going to make sure they know it.

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The Futility of Grudges

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
Oscar Wilde

I’m terrible at staying mad at people.

No matter how hard I try, my anger rarely lasts for more than a few hours, let alone an entire day.

I just don’t have the strength.

And why would I want to? Why would I want to walk around carrying all of that anger, hatred, and jealousy in my head all day?

I’ve known people who seem to flaunt their grudges like badges of honor. “So-and-so made fun of me in middle school, and now she’s my mortal enemy.”

I don’t get it. What’s the point? Why waste your time and energy being mad at someone for something that happened years ago? Months ago? Yesterday?

Why choose to promote negative energy?

Staying mad at someone is hard work. I have to constantly remind myself why I’m angry over and over again. That takes mental and emotional energy. It’s exhausting.

And what do I have to gain? The satisfaction of knowing that my enemy knows I’m angry at him?

Holding a grudge means I’ve become attached to the notion that I was right and he was wrong. I believe it so strongly that I’m willing to devote a portion of my brain to preserving that altercation. To preserving negativity.

It’s not worth it.

I can’t control what someone thinks of me. But, I can control how my mind deals with their opinion. If their opinion is valuable — regardless of whether it’s positive or negative — I can choose to learn from it. That’s constructive criticism. But, if their opinion is not valuable, I can choose to transcend it.

If someone has an irrational problem with me, it’s not my problem. It’s their problem. And their problem isn’t really with me; it’s with themselves. They’re projecting their own self-hatred onto me. It’s unfortunate, but not something I should worry about. I wish them the best in their struggle.

When it comes to grudges, life really is too short to spend it preserving anger and hate. The world has enough of that. Do not be a source of negative energy.

Let go.

Smile.

Be free.

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Drama

The amount of drama in your life is inversely proportional to your ability to handle that drama.

React poorly to it, and it will follow you everywhere.

Deal with it, and it will eventually subside.

Refuse to acknowledge it, and it will never find you in the first place.

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Emotionally Responsible

Randy Murray in Emotionally Contagious:

Your emotions can and will carry over to the others that surround you. And theirs to you. Be aware of it. Your anger and frustration will breed it in others. Don’t contaminate your friends and family with it. If you sneezed, you’d cover your mouth. Do the same thing for your negative emotions. It won’t do you any good to blast your anger all around you. And it will do others harm.

I like this a lot.

As far as our planet is concerned, we are in charge. No corporeal creature reigns over human beings here. It’s just us. When we look around, so much of the world is the result of our actions. Buildings. Cars. Money. These are things not found in nature. They are here because we put them here.

We decided so much, and I’m not sure it’s all in our best interest. We decided we needed to work eight hours a day. We decided college needed to cost tens of thousands of dollars. We decided big houses and fancy cars are symbols of success. Things are the way they are because we made it so.

I’m reminded of this quote by Steve Jobs (see the video here):

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is, everything around you that you call “life” was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

I like to think that we are responsible not just for the buildings and cars, but also for the energy our planet exudes. That is, the “life” we made up includes everything from physical inventions to our own emotions. We are responsible for all of it.

If we assume an Earth without human beings is a world that exists in a state of natural harmony in accordance with the rest of the universe, then we, as the most sentient of creatures, are responsible for the continuation or disruption of that harmony. We produce not only physical creations, but also metaphysical energy in the form of emotions. Joy. Hatred. Humor. Jealousy. Malice. Pride. These are the byproducts of humanity. Negative energy exists because we allow it to exist. Because we create it. When we choose to fight and compete with one another, we choose to contribute negative energy to the universe. We project it onto each other and off into space.

Like Randy says, emotion — and therefore, energy — is contagious. A healthy person can become ill by being around sick people, but who says a sick person can’t feel better by being surrounded by healthy people? Similarly, enough negativity can drag down even the best of spirits. Why can’t the reverse be true?

Attempting to alter the entire universe’s energy is too big a task for a single person. Our personal energies and emotions, however, are entirely within our control. I’ll worry about me, and you worry about you.

The universe’s collective energy is a matter of individual responsibility.

We each must ask ourselves, “What kind of energy will I project out into the universe today?”

Decision Fatigue

John Tierney, writing about decision fatigue for the New York Times:

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice.

Via Justin Blanton

"We are star stuff."

Video: An out-of-character Stephen Colbert interviews astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Here’s Tyson around the 24 minute mark:

Atoms and molecules in your body are traceable to the crucibles in the centers of stars that manufactured these elements over its lifespan, went unstable on death, exploding its enriched guts across the galaxy, scattering it into gas clouds that would ultimately collapse and make a star and have the right ingredients to make planets and people. Which means we are a part of this universe… not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us.

[…]

We knew that we are star stuff. We knew that we are star dust at the middle of the 20th century. That connects us to the universe like no other fact. That’s beautiful.

Via Kottke

Black Friday

Dan Bahls on Black Friday:

Thanksgiving is a one of our better ideas. We, theoretically, reflect on how fortunate we are to have what we have. The day after Thanksgiving would be a great day to start thinking how we might start addressing wrongs perpetuated on anybody trampled in the process of putting together the comfort and security we are so thankful for. Instead, we’ve turned it into a symbolic date for acquiring shinier objects in anticipation of how we can best miss the point of our next major holiday. Perhaps worse, it infects Thanksgiving itself, turning the holiday into, effectively, a paean to culinary gluttony in preparation for commercial gluttony.

Via Marco Arment

The Marketing of Conspiracy Theories

Seth Godin on the marketing of conspiracy theories:

People don’t embrace them because they’re true, they embrace them because they are more satisfying, they show agency and intent, and they provide a level of solace by implying external causes to significant events.

A Dinner Conversation

James Shelley:

Perhaps our obsession with the weather, pop culture, and today’s tech toy bespeaks our obsession with something that we hope exists beyond it all. Or perhaps we’re too lazy, too insecure, too unwilling to risk the vulnerability to talk about those others things.