About 11 years ago when I left the college environment and moved forward into the world, I unknowingly began to shed that part of me that only associated with my own peers (and thus everyone who “thought like me”). Plunging into a life overseas where my community became not only my Chinese neighbors but that of my foreign team I began to acknowledge the gift of friendship that doesn’t tick every box of connection (demographic, denomination, interests, etc.). The romanticized idea that you can’t find a solid friend until they share every single passion that you do just didn’t take hold there. And I don’t think it should take hold anywhere if I’m completely honest.
It can feel lonely as an adult when we grow and become a little bit more specific in our interests and consequently convince ourselves that we relate to less and less people. Less people than those dorm days where you just needed to smile right and you had a BFF.
When we are not looking for one person to fulfill every emotional connection for us, it frees us to see everyone as a possible connection to some part of us. And also causes us to rejoice when we have found another kindred spirit to that odd quirky part of us that our husband just doesn’t understand. Cause he’s probably thinking “Phew! She can talk about that stuff with someone else now!”
If I had to assess each friendship I treasure with an arbitrary statement such as “Here are my passions, check ‘ALL THAT APPLY’ to each one they share with me” I may never find that identical person that aligns with every part of me. Sometimes that happens, and it definitely is special. But also very rare. We must settle then for a wide and generous network of people that share something about us regardless of something else we may disagree on. Or our age difference. Or our political opinions.
I have a friend reserved for sharing beautifully written words. Another for song lyrics.
Another friend who equally shares my love for identifying the natural world.
A friend who has seen me at my worst and can keep me accountable.
A friend to chat about Charlotte Mason and other home education topics with.
A friend who also has a sensitive heart and reminds me I’m not alone.
Another friend who is also raising sensitive children and reminds me I’m not alone.
A friend with a small shop with children under foot too.
Another who has lived overseas and needs no belabored explanation about it’s impact.
Or that one friend who also sits in wonder and feels the wrestle of the creative artist.
A friend that I only connect with over fermented foods and recipes.
The list could go on of the web of friendships that grow each year. It’s that interconnected woven community that may never meet altogether and more than half of them live nowhere near me and are not my age. And some parts of us deeply connect about one thing, but then see no commonality in another. Connection needs no bounds. And isolation is often caused by distorted thinking that someone has to fully understand me to be close to me. Or to be considered a friend.
As we grow older and clarify more of who we are, may we not limit our friendships to small boxes like we used to before we new better. Release the burden on your “inner circle” from needing to understand or be passionate about every little thing that you like. There is a friend out there for those nerdy/whimsy/poetic/anxious sides of you. And most likely they will only tick one box at a time and/or reject another.
Give them grace in letting them in. Give yourself grace in realizing you are worthy of friendship even when you are not going to be everything for every person.
Sometimes it just takes an awkward icebreaking message of “Oh hey, I notice that you also like _____.” Who cares that you haven’t talked in 11 years. Or that this person was really your sister’s friend in college. Or that you recently found out they don’t like black olives (travesty!). Or that you really only saw this person once, and it was over a conversation about sweet potatoes.
I challenge you today to find someone you may only have one thing in common with. Celebrate that person, and maybe go find another one. In this you are stepping out of isolation and into community that is richer than your job description and who you vote for.
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