My Auntie Ruth used to have a plaque on the wall in her apartment – I think it was in her kitchen, but I’m not sure – that said, “Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” I haven’t been in my Auntie Ruth’s kitchen in years (nor will I ever again – she passed away in 2002), but that plaque has been on my mind a lot lately, for a lot of reasons.
This may come as a surprise (or maybe it won’t; I don’t know who my audience is, since the only comments I get are spam), I don’t make friends easily. A chunk of this is probably my introverted nature, but I’ve been learning to be more “functionally extraverted” in some situations, I never hesitate to speak up in class, and I’m trying to be more proactive about saying, “Hi! How’s it going?” to people I see on a regular basis. Some of it I know is just pesky bad luck, like when a bunch of my classmates started a study group this past semester and invited me to join, but I couldn’t, because they met at a time when I had another class.
Because I don’t make new friends all that easily, I’m pretty loyal to the friends I have – my “gold” friends. I hope that my friends know that I’m always here for them, and that I will do anything I can for them, at any time of the day or night. I’m really lucky in that most of them seem to feel the same way, and there are several people that I could count on to get me out of almost any kind of jam, no matter what or when, and I’m grateful to them beyond measure.
My friends are awesome, because they’re all so different. I know some people that have big groups of friends that all hang out together, and everyone is friends with each other, but not me! Most of my friends have never met each other, because I have been geographically close to them at different times in my life. Although I have friends that come from a variety of faiths (including a couple of very vocal atheists), a multitude of backgrounds, and a plethora of lifestyles, I think that if we ever all did get together, that everyone would get along pretty well, because I think we’re all pretty open-minded and non-judgmental, and I love that about my friends.
Because most of my friends live far away from where I do, I’m very thankful to modern technology such as cell phones, text messaging, Skype, and Facebook, which have helped me keep in touch with my far-flung friends. I love Facebook especially; it’s so much fun to watch their lives unfold day by day, even though I may not have been in the same physical space with them in years. My friends with kids in particular (both the human sort and the furry kind) are awesome about posting pictures, and I love that I can watch their kids grow up from the comfort of my study – I’m sad mostly that if I ever DID occupy the same room with them, they would have no idea who I was! I’d want to cuddle them, and they’d probably be freaked out, since they don’t know me (especially since I suck at posting pictures – I don’t have kids, and I don’t think anyone wants to look at pictures of my chubby, acne-scarred mug).
Over the last several months, I’ve started to notice that some of my older friends, particularly my old friends from high school, are a lot more negative than I remembered them being at the time. I’ve seen a lot of anger, a lot of vitriol, and a lot of sheer hate flash through my Facebook newsfeed lately, and I really don’t know what to do about it, especially since I myself tend toward a “live and let live” philosophy for almost everything. I’m not a fan of firearms, as I’ve mentioned before, but I don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to have a gun, so long as they can be smart and safe about it. I don’t care for organized religion myself, but some of my closest friends are very devout in their chosen faiths, and that doesn’t bother me either (I don’t really like it when they proselytize at me, but because they’re my friends, they usually stop when I ask them to, and I know that they’re circumspect enough not to proselytize at my friends if they met). I’m not gay, but I’m a big supporter of marriage equality, because I don’t think it’s fair that some couples are denied the financial benefits of a legal relationship, and two guys or two girls getting married doesn’t hurt my marriage in any way, so why not? I always thought that my friends shared this “live and let live” philosophy, and that we could disagree about things and still be friends, but I’m starting to see that there are a few of them who don’t agree with either the “live and let live” attitude or the “it’s okay to not agree about every single thing” idea. On the one hand, I don’t want to lose out on a friendship, especially an old friendship with lots of great shared memories. On the other hand, because of my long history of depression, I try to stay away from negativity, because it brings me down.
I know I can’t change other people. I know that no matter how badly I might want these friends to be less negative, they have to make that choice for themselves, when they are ready for it. I don’t want to lose my friends, but at the same time, I don’t want to be around all the negativity.
I suppose the best thing I can do is just keep loving all my friends, even the negative ones, and hope that the light of that love will help push back at least some of the darkness and the negativity. I can also try to lead by example as best I can, by agreeing to disagree politely even when they get angry with me, and by trying not to take the hurtful, negative things personally. Everyone has to figure some things out for themselves, and some people just don’t seem to have world-views that can stand up to a little dissent and debate. I feel sorry for them, but I can’t help them change if they aren’t ready to change.
So I will be keeping all my friends, all of my new silvery friends, and all of my old solid-gold friends. I hope that my positivity doesn’t lead them to decide that they don’t want to be my friend anymore, but I suppose if they do, that’s their choice too, and if there’s one thing I respect, it’s everyone’s right to make their own choices.