While sitting on our couch late last night, I turned my head toward my roommate and blurted out something that had been on my mind for a long time.
“Thanks for being a great friend… I don’t have many to hang out with anymore.”
It was a sad, yet painfully honest truth.
There has been this “thing” missing from my life for quite some time now. Occasionally it reappears, but only for a short while, and then it’s gone again all too soon. Every time I recognize its presence and become filled with its joy, my spirits are quickly dashed as it leaves once again.
I’ve tried to pinpoint the exact sensation – happiness, excitement, pleasure, comfort, joy – but nothing seems to really fit the bill. It is this inexplicable feeling that comes from the people that surround me. I’m not talking about the indiscriminate masses that fill the coffee shop, the streets, or the grocery store, I’m referring to the people I really know and that really know me.
This group is limited to a select few. We only have enough time and energy to truly know and understand a given number of individuals in our life; achieved primarily through consistent contact. I have great friends that live 1,000 miles away who I know really well, but the absence of daily interactions begins to create a relational gap that continues to grow the longer we are apart.
People change, move away, start families, switch jobs, and chase down dreams. It’s an inevitable part of life and I understand that fact. But can we follow our dreams and achieve our goals without leaving our friends behind?
Stepping Into The Past
About 5 years ago I became part of a culture that I fell in love with. It was a great group of genuine individuals that instantaneously became my best friends. Each of us brought something unique to the table; kind of like the A-Team, or the Ghostbusters. We would randomly drop in on one another after work or surfing or just hanging at the beach. Plans were made on occasion, but usually no more than a couple of weeks out. Planning didn’t really matter, because we all knew that if we did anything, most of the time it was going to be with this group of friends. I absolutely loved it.
Then something happened.
We all grew up. Or so we were told that is what needed to happen. The care free days of college were over and we were now expected to enter the “real world.” But there was something that got lost in translation for many of us, especially me. The definition for productive quickly became synonymous with busy. Any job that kept me busy enough to pay the bills was worth hanging on to. Soon, myself and all of my friends became too productive busy to hang out during the week because we needed to earn that next paycheck. Then the weekends started to suffer. Slowly yet surely many of the things I love most about life began to disappear.
Today, 90% of the communication between my friends and I is via email or text; two of my least favorite forms of communication. Random drop-ins don’t happen very often anymore. Impromptu adventures are a rarity. Everyone is off working or doing their own thing with little or no time to spend with friends. It has gotten to the point that we have to plan an event months in advance just to give everyone enough time to check their calendars. Even then, cancelations the day of are pretty common. When it becomes more about “let me see if I can fit you in my schedule,” than “let’s fucking do this!” it feels more like a business relationship than a friendship.
It makes me sad.
What it all comes down to is one simple fact: I miss my friends. I miss the people who would drop by without notice to hang out for a bit or call just to say hi. I miss the people I would see on a regular basis, not out of obligation but desire. I miss the diversity of those people; each of us added something different to the gang that made us stronger as a collective whole than each of us could ever be alone; there is great power synergy.
Where is the benefit in chasing down money, striving to fulfill expectations, and accomplishing every one of our goals if there is no one around to enjoy it all with?
Create your muses alone if you must, but do not live your life alone. Happiness shared in the form of friendships and love is happiness multiplied.
– Tim Ferriss
I’m not looking to relive the past, I know that’s impossible. But I also know there is something more out there.
An Unexpected Lesson
I was having a serious conversation with my girlfriend at the time as we sat on these beautiful cliffs that overlooked the ocean. I was concerned with the direction in life she was going, mainly the fact she didn’t really have a direction. I began offering suggestions and making recommendations as to what I thought she should do.
“Why don’t you look into this job… save your money… start planning for your future… blah, blah, blah.”
The conversation quickly became an argument. Looking back on it, I‘m thankful she didn’t slap the shit out of me; I was way too close to crossing the line. The dispute continued, but the tone began to change and I was slowly beginning to see the big picture. There was something she said toward the end of the conversation that has stuck with me ever since.
“I just want to have fun hanging out with my friends. Why can’t I just enjoy where I’m at right now?”
The sound of waves crashing against the cliffs and the squawking of seagulls drifting in the wind was all that was left to listen to. I was speechless.
I didn’t have an answer at the time, but if anyone were to ask me that question today my answer would be simple: you can.
Enjoying the journey with your greatest friends and striving to reach your goals are not mutually exclusive. I know it can be done, and here is what I’m doing (and so can you) to make it a reality.
4 Tips to Keep Great Friends Around While You Chase Your Dream
1) Drop-in on your friends every once in a while.
It doesn’t take much to swing by a friend’s house or apartment, especially if you’re in the neighborhood. We’re all busy, so that’s a bullshit excuse. Even if they aren’t home the extra 5-10 minutes spent knocking on their door is time well spent; it shows that you care. Just the other day my friend rolled by after church and we grabbed some breakfast. That simple gesture was the highlight of my day. There is something special about spending time with a friend in person.
2) If you can’t make it to their place, make a quick phone call.
Every time I see the name of my friend Matt show up on my phone I get excited. We usually only talk for 10-15 minutes and catch up, but it changes my whole day. Since he lives in Arizona it’s a little more difficult for us to drop-in on one another, so our quick convos are great. Even when he leaves a voicemail it’s better and more personal than a text.
3) Write a letter.
If you don’t already know, I’m a huge fan of handwritten letters. In a just a few minutes you can fill a page with updates, fun memories, random thoughts, or whatever is on your mind. When was the last time you received a letter in the mail from a friend? I bet it felt pretty amazing to open it up and see what they had to say. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.
4) Trade personal time spent checking items off your to-do list to be with friends.
I write nearly every single day. But when my roommate comes home from work I’m always prepared to take a break and ask how his day went. I can always continue writing later. The dishes can always be cleaned later, that email can always be sent later, that TV show can always be watched later… get my drift. It’s important to have priorities, but how many of the tasks that we do on a daily basis have to be done right away?
When it comes to friends and those you care about, remember this principle:
Relationships thrive under one condition: carefree timelessness. Quality time is now the discredited fantasy of an age that wanted more of everything except the things that really mattered. You cannot schedule quality time with your spouse or with your children. If you want twenty minutes of quality time with someone you love, schedule three or four hours with him or her one afternoon, and chances are, somewhere in the middle of that three or four hours you will have your twenty minutes of quality time.
– Matthew Kelly
*Is there something that I missed? I know I didn’t cover all the keys to staying productive while having friendships that thrive. Fill us in on your thoughts by leaving some suggestions in the comments.