As a born introvert, I spent the majority of my life keeping to myself. Then, after graduating college, I moved ten times over a span of ten years! I found myself lacking friendship more times than I’d like to admit.
Away from the comfort of those I had known my entire life, I had to learn how to make and accept new friends. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned about friendship that I want to teach my children:
You need to be yourself
It might sound cliche, but it’s true! Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, or pretend to enjoy things you don’t like to do. Stay true to yourself and friends with similar interests will gravitate towards you.
Friendships contribute to your personal development
Through my friendships I have learned how to play the guitar, snowboard, rock climb, and perform repairs on my car. Some brave friends even allowed me to practice my haircutting skills on them! Friends have contributed to my spiritual and emotional development as I begin to live out my purpose in life and be the best mother that I can be. Their advice and encouragement keeps me going every day.
True friendship does not have age requirements
Having both older and younger friends keeps me centered. I have always looked at my older friends and thought, “they did that, why can’t I?” This philosophy gave me the motivation I needed to believe I could obtain my college degree, buy a house, and start a career. It sustained me through pregnancy and keeps me going through toddlerhood. When I get weary, I remember that I have younger friends who are looking up to me. Witnessing the unique challenges of each stage of life through my friends has provided me with wisdom and perspective on where I am right now.
You can make friends in unlikely places
Years ago, I was neck and neck with a girl in a 5K race. I introduced myself to her at the finish line and we became training partners. I met another friend at a temp job when I was temporarily desperate to find work. The hiring manager liked us both so much that he hired two employees instead of one. We instantly connected and I discovered that she has a special knack for understanding my drama and always validates how I feel. At teacher training in Maryland, over 200 new hires were released from the auditorium for their first smaller breakout session and I went to the wrong room in the midst of the crowd. As luck would have it, there was only one empty chair and it turned out to be next to a woman who instantly became a good friend to my entire family.
The greatest example, however, of an accidental friendship is that of meeting my husband. On this particular day, he was a co-worker that I barely knew and I was in one of those I-don’t-care-about-anything moods. Consequently, I hid in a doorway, jumped out, and scared him. I thought it was funny but he wondered what sort of a person would do that. Well, it’s safe to say that ten years and three children later, he has found out.
Friendship is an essential part of life
Friends are an integral part of my most treasured memories. Anyone who has ever joined me for a run holds a special place in my heart, especially those who braved the rain and snow or joined me on a destination race. Running friends also joined me for other crazy adventures like last-minute trips to Nova Scotia just because we felt like it. I even have a running friend who turned into a penpal. We enjoy writing to each other regardless of the fact that we live in the digital age. I seem to connect with cat lovers and neighbors — sometimes they happen to be both! My first very neighbor would sit on the lawn with her cat and spectate our husband and wife volleyball games. She would laugh at our antics and the fact that the ball kept landing in our garden, crushing the beets and squash. (Ironic, isn’t it?) Right now, I live next to another neighbor who truly understands my aptitude to be the crazy cat lady and another neighbor who constantly reminds me that I’m rocking this whole mom thing (thanks!).
I’m not sure where I would be without these friendships. As a stay-at-home mom with three young children, it’s hard to get out and explore the places I find on google maps. While I’m taking a break from that, I am living vicariously through my friends and remembering that each time the phone rings, I too, have made a difference in someone’s life.
Michelle Cayer is a former high school math teacher who loves cats and chocolate. She dreams of the day she'll have time to knit and run again, amongst other things.