You know those people that make new friends everywhere they go? They’re naturally charismatic, conversational, and for one reason or another, people just gravitate to them.
I’m not one of those people at all. People usually assume I hate them if they don’t know me very well. I’m quiet — especially around people I don’t know, and I have a severe resting bitch face. I’m also easily overwhelmed in unfamiliar social situations, a very “in my head” person and overthink things a lot. So I have to put a decent amount of work in to make friends.
But I also have a contrarian streak, and was ironically the most motivated to force myself to get out and forge new friendships when the government was telling me I couldn’t.
If there’s anything that will put your relationships under a microscope, and make you think about the kind of people in your life, it’s a pandemic…or whatever you want to call the last year.
We’ve seen a million think pieces, personal essays and research about romance in quarantine, or lack thereof, but the past year really made me reflect on my friendships, and who I wanted — and more importantly needed — in my life.
1.A friend that’s your polar opposite
I feel like you learn the most from people that you have the least in common with on paper. Being friends with people that are extremely different from you teaches you that you can find common ground with anyone, and challenges you to go beyond your experiences and worldview. And while you might assume I’m talking about politics — and I encourage people to seek and maintain friendships with people on the other side of the aisle — it’s a lot deeper than that. I feel like having friends that have extremely different personalities and lifestyles from you is where the real value comes in. Having a spontaneous nutty friend when you’re organized and practical or a devout Catholic friend when you’re an agnostic hippie — and vice versa — can really open your eyes and make you a better person in ways I can’t really explain.
2. A friend that reminds you where you’re from
This isn’t necessarily about staying friends with someone just because you’re from the same town or went to the same high school. It’s about having someone in your life that keeps you grounded, and carries the essence of your upbringing with them. It’s easy to lose yourself as a young adult — especially moving somewhere new and trying to make a place for yourself in this world. But if you have a friend in your life who feels like home in one way or another, it’s easier to remember who you really are and what you really stand for.
3. A friend that reminds you what’s important to you
I think we all want the same things deep down — at least for the most part. Most of us want to feel like we’ve accomplished something. But what you NEED to accomplish varies person to person. Some people would feel like failures if they never make the Forbes 30 Under 30, and others would feel like failures if they never started a family of their own. I think it’s important to figure out what you really want to accomplish — what would haunt you on your deathbed if you weren’t able to do it. And it’s important to have a friend that has done whatever that is so you don’t lose sight of what really matters to you, or what you want out of life.
4. A friend that draws you closer to God
I don’t mean someone that badgers you, is sending you passive aggressive Bible verses or treats their religion like a sorority they want you to pledge with them. I mean someone that God’s light shines through so brightly that you can’t help but to be drawn to Him through them. This is someone whose actions speak louder than any scripture they post on their Instagram stories, and they’re few and far between.
5. A friend you can get deep with
A friend of mine got me into the enneagram and insisted I was a 4. Reading the motivations and fears, I realized she was right but I was confused because I never thought of myself as an emotional person — and most of my friends didn’t either. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it was because I wasn’t comfortable with emotional displays or talking about anything that actually mattered with most people. It’s important to have someone in your life you can be vulnerable and honest with. But if you’re like me and it’s not something you can do with a lot of people, you need to make sure you aren’t off loading all of your emotional baggage on one or two people.
“Getting deep” doesn’t just mean talking about your life, or your problems or your insecurities though — it means talking about things that are substantive and real. With some friendships, all you’ll ever talk about are what’s going on in your love life or pop culture, and that’s dandy, but you need people in your life that you can talk about actual ideas with and go beyond the surface with.
6. A friend that you can help
I feel like this is particularly important for people in D.C. and other major cities. It’s so easy to get swept away in the hustle and bustle, trying to make a name for yourself and climb the corporate ladder and fall in love and cure AIDS and do a Ted Talk and so on and so forth. But it’s an amazing feeling to be pulled out of your own little world and help someone you care about.
7. A friend she can party with
Everyone needs at least one party animal friend. You need someone in your life who’s here for a good time, not a long time, and will almost always show you one. But you have to be careful not to reduce anyone to what they can do for you — and remember that your fun friends are still people with lives and complex emotions, and you shouldn’t only communicate with them (or anyone) when you want something from them.
8. A sober friend/a friend who barely drinks
So many activities and social events in your 20s (and beyond, I’m sure) revolve around drinking — and you won’t get any complaints out of me about that. I love a good cocktail as much as the next person, but you shouldn’t need to drink to have a good time, and you don’t want to wake up one day and realize your entire personality revolves around booze. It’s important to have friends that either don’t drink or barely drink to avoid this.
9. A spontaneous friend
Life is nothing without spontaneity. Having someone in your life that you can text and an hour later be on a road trip makes life so much more fun.
10. A friend who’s really in love
I think everyone needs at least one friend in their life in a relationship that they really admire and respect to remind them that love is real and love is worth waiting for — and fighting for. And I think it’s equally important for single people and people in relationships. Single people need to be reminded of what’s possible and what they should be aiming for, and people in relationships need to be reminded of what real love looks like so they’re able to tell if that’s what they’re in.
11. A friend that will put things in perspective
It’s nice to have friends you can vent to — but you need friends that aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re making a mountain out of a mole hill and bring you back down to earth. You need friends that will tell you when you’re in the wrong, when you’re being an asshole, when you need to say sorry, when your problems are your fault and when you need to relax. To put things simply, you need friends that will tell you what you need to hear — not what you want to hear.