Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On community, unity, and you.

As someone whose introversion borders on hermitude, it is not surprising that my relationships with my friends is an area of my life that I struggle to keep in balance. After work is done, my family is fed, my schoolwork is completed, I seldom have much energy left over for socializing.  My life is busy and operates on a schedule, and I find it difficult to make time to go out and be with my friends - I want to be home to put Amaliya to bed, I can't stay out late because I'm up extremely early to run, I'm not much of a drinker, movie-goer, board-game-player... it seems like most of the "normal" ways people get together and have fun just don't appeal to me.

But I am a coffee-shop dweller, a morning-at-the-park lover, an evening walk taker.  My apartment door is always open, and I'll gladly meet you at dawn for a run.  I've often felt bad over the years that I couldn't "keep up" with the people in my life because I just wasn't interested in the things they were doing.  I've learned an important lesson over the last couple years:  do what you love, and what interests you, and you will draw in wonderful people who share your passion and drive.  That's where I am now, and for the first time, I'm starting to find balance.  I have moved away from those relationships that left me feeling pressured and unfulfilled, and what I have left is not just a list of friendships but a true community of amazing people.

Pablo Picasso, "Friendship"

This post is a small tribute to those people in my life who support, amuse, inspire, and lift me up every single day.  In no particular order:
  •  My old friends. It amazing to me how much my old friends, those I've known for 10 or more years, have in common with each other.  They are bold, independent, adventurous.  Extremely extroverted, social and brash.  Nonconformist. Loyal.  Most have not paired off, settled down, or started reproducing - they are living life on their own terms, accumulating stories and compiling glorious experiences.  Their loyalty keeps me in their circle, despite the fact that I am different from them in so many ways.  I am grateful for that.  Friends that have known you for so long and so well are irreplaceable.  Some of us don't have a lot in common any more, but that's okay  We have so much shared history together - a shared childhood, in some cases - and that bond is hard to break.
  • My older friends.  I am blessed to have people in my life with a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences.  Lately, I have been especially grateful for my older friends.  Those in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older, some with kids and some without, some married and some divorced.  The perspective I gain from them is invaluable, and their sage advice and guidance is always appreciated. 
  • My mom friends.  I mean, do I even need to say it?  The community of mamas that I have found (or did they find me?) since becoming pregnant has become so very important to me.  I hear rumors of mommy-wars, harsh judgements, and silly competition among mothers, but I am happy to say this has not been my experience.  I get a fair amount of unsolicited advice and black-and-white views on parenting from the folks in my life without children, yet from my community of mothers, nothing but empathy, hugs, helpful suggestions, and a wealth of experience for me to draw on.  In my most trying moments as a parent, I would be lost without your kindness and wisdom.
  • My work friends.  Roughly 23% of my week is spent in a cubicle, starting at a screen. I enjoy my job, but honestly, the biggest reason I love it is the diverse, passionate, interesting group of people I work with.  I don't know how many people can say that they work in an office with nearly 100 people and don't have any beef with any of them.  Whether it's running out for coffee, hilarious comments via instant messenger, lunchtime workouts or breaktime conversations, I can honestly say that my coworkers make every day I'm at work that much better.
  • My running friends. I never imagined this solitary sport could lead me to such a fantastic group of people.  Having never been athletic or involved in any sort of physical activity, I had no idea what it was like to really feel supported in that way.  To have people encourage you, cheer for you, help you push past your physical limitations and keep going when you desperately want to quit, and then celebrate your accomplishment as if it were their own.  This is what my running friends do for me.  Besides, something magical happens on the run, when you're sweating and struggling and fighting with yourself to keep going.  Your inhibitions disappear, you end up talking about any and everything, opening up about things you wouldn't imagine saying to someone at any other time.  There's a special bond you form with the people you run with.
These are the people who get me out of the house, give me the space to be myself, help me work out my problems, and make me aspire to be a better friend.   These friends of mine are the reason I smile when I think back on my nearly three decades of life, and why I so much look forward to the next three decades and beyond.  If this post is about you, I hope we can grab a cup of coffee and catch up soon.

My door is open.

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