May 9 • 3M

VoiceNote #005

The Mystery and Beauty of Friendship

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This audio newsletter explores what happens when you apply a bit more curiosity to life. The art of being curious is spotting the difference between a good question and a great question. As a practice, curiosity embraces the magic of a great query. It takes audacity to say "I don't know" because a search for an answer is so special. Because asking the greater question even is just as valuable as alighting upon an answer. Trading the safety of cynicism that is so prevalent in adulthood for the possibility of adventure is my invitation to you. Consider the possibility that the joy and pleasure of childlike curiosity can move mountains as powerfully as seriousness and pain. Like Alice, I invite you to unabashedly pursue wonder. Doing so means allowing yourself to fall down the rabbit hole.
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Producer’s Commentary

Friends are the most important relationships we have in our lives; they are crucial to our happiness and wellbeing, and they are often the most difficult to make and maintain. The one thing we can count on from friendships is that they will change over time. Why do we struggle so much with making and keeping friends in adulthood? Maybe as we grow and change, our expectations around friendship shift.

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The Mystery

Friendships, unlike all other relationships, bring us the closest to self-actualization. While lovers, families, and peers all contribute to our identity in significant ways, friendship is the type of relationship that allows us to blossom into our full potential. It is the foundation of all relationships—the emotional glue that holds them together—yet it stands on its own as a unique entity. Friendships can be with anyone; they can even cross-species (have you seen us with our pets?): your close friends from childhood might not be a part of your social circle now, but they were once indispensable parts of your identity. Although marriage and children will play an enormous role in shaping you into who you become as an adult, so too will the people with whom you grow and define yourself over time.

Friendship and friend groups can have connections that are deeper and stronger than even those of our biological family. I think it’s because it’s a connection that is born from choice. As adults, we often find ourselves defining our identities more by who we choose to surround ourselves with than by what family roles or personal characteristics make up our individual identities. As such, it’s incredibly important for us to maintain meaningful connections with others because these relationships shape us into better versions of ourselves.

One of my favorite mysteries about friendship is the ease with which we made friends as children. Is it me, or did you find making friends a far simpler task as a child?. Didn’t feel easier to turn strangers into friends? Is it because we’re less judgemental? Did we have more shared interests and values? I even find the concept of the “best friend” is less common in adulthood—but as children, we may have had a new best friend every week. If I want a meaningful friendship as an adult, I have to put in more work than taking my ball or incredible freeze tag skills to the park. Why?

Friendships involve a certain amount of vulnerability that other types of relationships don’t necessarily require—and we’re socialized and conditioned to believe that in childhood vulnerability is natural and expected and that in adulthood it is a sign of immaturity and weakness. We’re expected to “outgrow” our vulnerability. I think we’re seeing a course correction on that belief, but it is slow going. The requirements for friendship seem pretty simple—especially compared to other relationships. We want our friends to care for and cherish us and be there in times of need. So why is it so hard?

boy and girl surrounded by plants
Photo by Nina Hill on Unsplash

The Beauty

Friendships are deeply personal in our adult lives; we tend to limit our social interactions with people who share our interests. We've been conditioned to believe that only by surrounding ourselves with people just like us will we be able to easily find common ground and have fun together; however, having a friend who is very different from you or who shares nothing in common with you allows you to learn more about yourself and see your own life through someone else's eyes. Friendships are about choice and relationships that don’t center on obligation or duty. There is freedom in a friendship that is mutually protected. A true friendship requires a deep level of understanding between two people—to have someone choose to actively see and hear you can give you wings. For someone to stand by you through thick and thin, there has to be trust—and a genuine love for who you really are. We should value our friends as much as our lovers. They see us at our best and worst and still choose to stick around anyway. That’s not something any relationship can replace; it's truly priceless.

The end of a friendship is a different type of heartbreak.

When you lose a friend, it’s not just that relationship that ends. Instead, a piece of your heart crumbles and disappears. No matter how different or distant you become from an old friend, your friendship is still forever intertwined with your history. Losing a friend—whether they’ve moved away, fallen out of touch, or passed away—is always devastating in its own way. While grieving over a loved one makes us examine what’s truly important in life, when we lose a friend, we often find ourselves wondering why exactly they left. Was it something I did? Something I didn’t do? Why did my best friend move across the country without telling me? How do I know if my ex-friend hates me? The answers to these questions don’t always come easily or quickly. When you lose a friend, it feels like someone has taken a giant eraser to your emotional hard drive. It can feel as if something had been stolen from you.

The Strength of Friendship

One of the best parts about friendship is that it makes you stronger. Right from the beginning, you learn how to push yourself and put other people’s needs before your own. Your friends recognize your growth usually before anyone else. The best friendships are usually the ones that we build, with the people that we choose for ourselves.

When’s the last time you made a new friend?