Walking along the beach one day, my 15-pound Jarkie (Japanese Chin/Yorkie mix) immediately took to Molly, a Tibetan Terrier. Abigail my 5-pound Japanese Chin was a little more aloof because that’s just her personality and, by default unfortunately, Chins take a while to warm up to people – or other dogs – they don’t know. Just like dog breeds have natural disposition and personality quirks, it goes the same for humans.
On that walk along the beach I immediately took to Melanie, Molly’s owner. She was sweet, honest, willing to listen, open to forming new friendships, and she was 65 years old. Ever since, we’ve walked every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We met the month I got pregnant and walked throughout my pregnancy, and we’ve continued to walk after my daughter was born. Melanie’s an no-nonsense Jewish woman who’s lived an interesting life full of old school gender roles, sexism, and adjusting to being a mother while juggling a career as an accountant. Melanie and I have enjoyed coffee and breakfast and genuine, good conversation that money cannot buy.
After breakfast or lunch, some waiters at our regular cafe near our home automatically refer to me as her “daughter” or Melanie as my “mother.” This is especially the case when Melanie watches my daughter and I’m not around. I guess since my mother doesn’t live close by perhaps I subconsciously chose a mother figure to adopt? Although Melanie has both a son and a daughter of her own, meeting me has helped her through stages of depression that once immobilized her. I’ve encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone, regain youthful energy, and stick to a schedule where she would have otherwise isolated herself. But, Melanie has become more to me then a subconscious “mother figure.” I am a firm believer that we all have a set of biases and potential prejudices that acts like a filter, if you will. We filter people who do and do not make the cut in terms of friendship or even acquaintanceship. Some of us have our friendship quota already met. In other words, we’re “full” and in no need or desire to open ourselves up to welcome “new comers.” Perhaps we are unable share any more of ourselves?
For me, meeting Melanie has taught me a lot. Don’t judge a person by their age, social status, and life stage. I look back at almost a year now of knowing her and I am blown away by how much time we’ve invested in each other and in being okay with allowing our friendship to flourish regardless of our differences. I am even more thrown back by how organic it has all played out. When we get together in doesn’t feel like a mother-daughter relationship, but two peers meeting as friends.
Be warned, not everyone is open and willing to get to know you. I’ve been surprised by how many doors that have been shut in my face. Some people are seriously stuck in their comfortable cliques with a maxed-out friendship quota. I’m rather a wiz when it comes to social media and networking, but viral contacts, I’ve learned, don’t necessarily mean the thousands you do interact with on the web daily are your friends. Social media contacts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and etc are just that; they’re viral connections that help us stay even more connected than ever in history.
The Bottom Line:
Real friendships surpass social media and online messages and interactions. Real friendships surpass meeting once in a while on a cordial basis. It goes deeper than your job title, status, and what you can do for the other person. Some people aren’t even willing to associate with you if they know that you can’t do anything for them. You can’t offer them improved social status and if you’re not in their similar economic demographic then you might as well forget it. That’s why you see many lawyers or doctors or business people or whatever other profession “flock together.” They are “birds of a feather.”
It’s rare to find people willing to go beyond their prejudices and accept someone into their lives and do so organically, but they are out there. Since becoming friends with Melanie, I’ve come to realize that if I were to have judged her and shut myself off I would have had a dull, lonely walk along the beach that day – and perhaps everyday since. I would have had coffees without her interesting stories and a life in general less enriched. There’s nothing better than relationships occurring organically. I am in the mindset that if you shut the door because I’m not “good enough” to be your friend. That’s okay, because I’d rather not force what doesn’t come naturally. And there’s nothing more rewarding than being around true friends that “get” you and think you’re awesome no matter what others say.
A real friend makes the effort to follow through, stand by you, stick up for you, honor your dreams, celebrate your successes, cry with you through your failures, hug you when you need it, and come get you at 3 am if you’re stuck on the side of the road. If you find someone in your life like this, someone you don’t have to pretend with, count yourself lucky because it’s amazing how few and far between it is to find a true and authentic friend.
This entry was posted in Relationships, Self Help and tagged Ageism, depression, Elderly, Family, Friendships, Healing, Making Friends, mental health, organic, prejudices, Relationships, Self Help, Social Media, Writing.