Thursday, July 19, 2012

Making New Friends is a Busy Trap

A couple of recent articles in the New York Times have prompted a lot of discussion and general introspection. The Busy Trap is an excellent piece on how people like to inflate their images by saying how damn busy they are... when they are not exactly saving lives or finding the Higgs Boson particle. But society deems "busy" as "good" because if you were the opposite you must be a total loser. Or why in the world would you want to be doing absolutely "nothing?" In my case, i am a strong proponent of doing "nothing." My idea of a lazy Sunday is not just stay at home, it's to stay at home and do "nothing." If I'm being productive for 6 days of the week, how about not contributing to squat for at least one day? It's just a thought, of course, and I usually end up doing something- even if it is 6 hours of watching Law & Order re-runs.

I think half the reason people ask you what you're doing this weekend is to make sure you know what they are up to! And, of course, they are frightfully busy attending some social event or the other. The workaholics are also sooo crazy busy because their work is tantamount to saving the world from disaster. And probably their job of color coding an excel spreadsheet might just do that. Just like happy hour, it's always the busy season in some part of the world! I think the saddest is when I hear someone give a complete itinerary of what they have planned for the next 3 months... then it's just obvious they don't want to be alone (if single) or they want to be a 100 percent sure they are not bored out of their minds (if not single). My point is that we all like to be productive at our work, and have fun with our friends, and spend time with our amazing families but what's the point in beating your chest with the "i'm so busy" refrain? You think the rest of us are just twiddling our fingers?

So the busy trap very neatly tied in to this piece called Finding Friends of a Certain Age It definitely struck a chord with a lot of folks since major life events and changes can make you lose touch with so many of your friends. As the article points out, it gets harder when you're married and you're "matchmaking for two." When you have kids, you're often hanging out with other folks because they have kids who play with your kids. No other reason. This brilliant stand-up routine by Louis C.K. could not have explained it better.

There are legitimate reasons one can't connect with people - busy trap being one! - and of course, if you move to a new city for a new job and know absolutely nobody it can be difficult in the first year or so. But I think it has a lot to do with your personality, too. If you're shy or stuck up, you may never be the first to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. If you are classist or any -ist you are bound to make hasty judgements and close yourself off to a potential friendship. And, finally, if you have a partner who is not as social as you are, or if you have a demanding/sick parent or child your priorities will be very different.

But I call BS on whoever whines about not finding friends or how it's so sad but such is the fact of life. First of all, you will never find friends like the ones you made in school and college so get over it. Second, make some effort to talk and get to know people. It doesn't have to be just folks from work. Take it from me- i've gone to 3 schools, 2 colleges and moved 5 different cities in 2 continents. All my friends have not been from school/college/work environments. You could say I've been lucky but I think I was just open - to learn and listen and form a connection.

I also learned a long time ago there was no such thing as a "best friend" - that term is almost infantile - and one has to be happy with 3-4 "good friends" in your life. No one is perfect and it's unreasonable to have expectations on people you call your BFFs. I also don't agree that you must make friends in your own age group- in fact, as I've grown older, I find it easier to connect with people from all different ages and backgrounds. So I have friends from their mid-20s to the mid-40s, single, gay, straight, married, divorced, single parents- variety is the spice of life, after all. I also count some of my parents' friends and some of my friends' parents as my friends- my mother was right when she said "make friends with anyone who you can learn something from."

At the end of the day, friendship, like any relationship, is a two-way street. You do "love" your friends and you sometimes have to "break up" with your friends, too. There will always be hangers-on, situational, happy hour buddies and other selfish dogs who quickly label you as a "friend" but only you know the ones who really love you - you know the ones without any sort of agenda or ulterior motive, the ones who you can call any time of the day or night, regardless of the fact they're in town or not, single or married, with or without kids. They're the ones who matter.