Thursday, June 23, 2005

Friends Indeed

I’ve noticed that the friends of mine who’ve lasted longer than most share the following characteristics: [1] they are low-maintenance; [2] we can take each other for granted; [3] the friendships were cemented because we saw each other almost everyday.

Constant exposure and proximity. I read in a book a study which showed that when it comes to friendship, proximity overpowers similarity. In other words, we’re more likely to be friends with people who are physically situated near us. It makes perfect sense; one is more likely to get to know the people whom he’ll likely bump into on a regular basis.

Most of my closest, long-time friends I met in school. There are a couple of friends from grade school, several from high school, a few from college—and two from college who also became my officemates for several years—and some officemates whom I worked with for 5 years or so. Constant exposure and proximity can jumpstart a friendship and propel it forward.

Low-maintenance. The older I get the more I realize that I prefer people who are independent and can take care of their own. I like to surround myself with sensible and self-sufficient individuals. In “The Little Prince,” the fox said we are responsible for the ones we love. Well, as much as I won’t back down from the responsibility of caring for my friends, I’d prefer that they also do their share of the work. Nothing can be burdensome than an emotionally dependent hanger-on.

I realize that the downside to this is that I too must be low-maintenance to them. At least I don’t want to be an unnecessary burden to anyone. But there are times when I feel like screaming, “Can someone just take care of me, please?” Luckily, without me even saying anything some of them just know that I need a little TLC now and then.

Low-maintenance is the condition that allows my friendships to have some breathing space.

Take each other for granted. At a retreat in high school, I remember one thing this priest said that stayed with me all these years: at his old age, he realized that the friends who lasted and who stayed with him through the years were the ones whom he described as “friends you take for granted.” There’s a level of trust, comfort, and kinship that distance and time will find hard to erode. They’re the type of friends whom you don’t see for months, but when you do it seems like you’ve just met the day before.

It’s this lack of possessiveness that ironically binds you two even closer. It’s like letting go of someone you love, and he or she comes back. When a friendship reaches this state, I believe it’ll be able to stand the test of time and distance.

* * * * *

My longest-lasting friendships started out unplanned. We met and we just clicked—no special preparation, no premeditated “investment” period (if you find yourself consciously “investing” on someone, chances are you’re motivated by a selfish need). The “clicking” may happen on first meeting, or it may develop over time.

Most of them were formed in school where we would see each other everyday. I have friends from as way back as grade school. My friends from high school and college are also some of my most reliable friends. After college the list dwindles down considerably. I noticed that my friendship with my officemates aren’t as deep as they go because I have learned to separate the personal from the professional—and most of these people I relate to more on a professional level. (It doesn’t mean that I’m all business in the office—in fact, I’m the type who dances in the office and crack jokes in meetings. But that’s the entertainer in me. I’m friendly but I don’t make friends easily.)

My really close friends I can count with the fingers on my hands (honestly I was surprised when I ended up using both hands—I thought I’d just have five or less). These are the people who I know will attend my funeral—if they’re in the country. If they’re not, they know I won’t take it against them for not attending and I won’t haunt them in their sleep.


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