On Friends and Growth

“You are who you associate with.” – Allen Look (Dad)

In high school, my dad gave me a lot of advice. Back then, I vaguely understood some of it, though as the years would go on, the more relevant it would become to me. One of his pieces of advice was, “you are who you associate with”. In high school, I guess that would have made me a “nerd”. It’s actually kind of funny, because I recently reconnected with a group of my high school friends for a Friendsgiving, and we were all referring to ourselves as nerds. For us, it doesn’t have a negative connotation when we say it. Being a nerd is awesome.

Since high school, I have found myself friends with people of all different kinds of personalities and cliques. I have befriended jocks, stoners, preps, basically any type of label you could think of. It has raised the question in me, if I too, am all these labels. It couldn’t be, because there is no way in the world I would ever be considered a jock. So while people might look at you from the outside and make their own assumptions about who you are based on who you are with, that doesn’t necessarily paint a realistic picture of who you are on the inside.

So while he may have been referring in part to being perceived a certain way based on the people you keep around you, there is also a deeper element to this. What about the kind of people around you really draws you into a friendship? Is it the way they treat other people? Is it the way they treat animals? Is it their work ethic? The way they are there for you instantly if you need something? Maybe you’re both kindred spirits and hate the world together.

There has also been a study by Yale University and the University of California at San Diego that shows ” good friends are often genetically similar, and can share as much as 1% of the same gene variants. In genetic terms, that’s a lot. As close as, say, fourth cousins.”

Have you ever had a friend that you felt so close to you wished you were sisters or brothers? Well, fourth cousin is pretty close, right?

In high school, I had a good group of friends. Over the years we ranged from 8-12 close friends in our group. By graduation, we had formed the core group of us that were in it for the long haul. As of last week, I hadn’t seen most of them since our sophomore year of college. It had been almost seven years since I was in the same room with five of my friends. For a while, some of them had been living out of state. So this year we all got together for a Friendsgiving and it was amazing. It was like not a day had passed since we saw each other.

A month ago, I went to Mexico with my husband to celebrate the marriage of our friend, Nichole. I was the maid of honor in her ceremony. Nichole had lived in NY for a couple years and we became very close friends. A few years ago though, she moved back west to New Mexico. We had gone from seeing each other at least once a week (sometimes almost every other day), to barely even talking. That’s not because we don’t care. Neither of us are very big into texting or talking on the phone. However, we do visit each other and have been on vacations together. Just like with my high school friends, it feels like not a day has passed when we get together.

Recently, I had made two more friends who I became very close with. Ellie and Ashley. Both of them have since moved out of NY as well. I don’t talk with Ellie everyday, but we do talk on occasion. Ashley and I have become weekly pen pals, which is something I haven’t been unsuccessful in maintaining with anyone else.

In college, I had two roommates who I became very good friends with. One of them now lives on the other side of the country and the other lives an hour and fifteen minutes from me. Though we don’t talk all the time, we also can hang out and randomly reach out to each other and feel as no time has passed.

There is something about these friendships I have where we don’t have to talk everyday or see each other all the time. There is a deeper bond, a respect for the other person, a love for them. We may not always be able to interact with each other, but I’m always wishing them happiness, success, and would instantly be there if they needed me.

Luckily for me though, I do have friends that live close by. I just hope that they stay and don’t leave NY like the others.

I have made many friends since graduating high school, meeting my husband, going to college, and getting different jobs. I have friends through my husband that have become family to us. I have friends from college that are fun to hang out with and talk to. I have friends from jobs that have opened doors for me into new hobbies and interests.

I have loved writing ever since I was a little girl. When I worked at Barnes and Noble and met the writing group that had been meeting there, I instantly shoved myself into that group. Now they have become a second family to me. We celebrate birthdays and holidays together. We support each others writing and real world successes. The best part is that we are a group of people of all ages.

For me, hanging out with people outside of my peer group is very important. You miss so much when you limit yourself to being with people just like you. Having friends who are older or younger, with different interests and hobbies exposes you to so much more.

Having the right group of friends around you can be one of the driving factors in your success. Like I have mentioned in my previous blog post, you may have to let go of some friends in order to be a better version of yourself. Some friendships just don’t work. That doesn’t mean they are bad people or have any ill-intent towards you. It just means that their interests and your interests no longer align. And that’s okay.

You’ll find that as you grow, others around you might not be growing at the same pace. Some flowers just bloom faster than others.

Some friendships though, are toxic. Maybe these friends are causing problems with other friends, talking behind your back, putting you down. Maybe they just are negative and being around them is like being around a dementor. You need to let go of these people. If you had a friend in a toxic relationship, you would probably tell them that they need to get out of it. It’s the same for toxic friendships. Get out.

One of the toughest things about letting a friendship go, is standing your ground. Chances are, if you let go of a friendship, some of the friends you have kept are still friends with this person. They might try to convince you to be friends again, or to hang out with them in a group setting. If that is something you are not comfortable with, don’t let them guilt you into doing it.

True friends will understand that things are different. You will have to understand that too. You can’t tell anyone who they can or cannot be friends with. But you should never force yourself to hang around a toxic person to make anyone else happy. If they are asking you to do that, they aren’t a true friend.

Starting this journey, I have distanced myself from some friends and cut others out completely. Do I miss the way things used to be? Yes.

No one ever said growth would be easy or comfortable. Sometimes, I might feel like I need a little push to keep my eyes on the horizon and what I’m aiming for. Here’s a song that I like to listen to when I’m feeling down.

Friends can be an asset or an obstacle on our path to ‘there’. Let your friends walk beside you. But don’t be afraid to walk ahead of them, and if they try to hold you back, then maybe they aren’t the friends you need. #sorrynotsorry

Yale University and University of California at San Diego Study
Releasing Attachments to Friendships That Hold You Back

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