What Makes a Friend "Real?"

A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately, when certain people have noticed that I was getting close to having 700 facebook friends they would say things like “Those aren’t real friends,” or “You can’t possibly know all those people.” What does it mean to know someone? What defines a person as being a “real” friend?

I’ve had many opportunities in my life to gather friends. I lived in the same school district until 10th grade and then went to boarding school for 2 years. When you live and eat with people who are 16-18, away from home, you certainly form very tight friendships. I went to the same sleep-away camp for 15 summers, two months at a time, which equals 2 ½ years of my life. Camp offers a certain kind of genuine, stripped-down friendship and I’ve known some of these people since I was 5 years old. I can say, without question, that I can rely on my camp friends, in good and bad, for just about anything. Unless you’ve lived it, it’s impossible to understand, but, we will always have each other’s backs, like family, and sometimes, even more so.

I have my college friends who are the only people who still have nicknames for me and friends from the 15 or so different 9-5 and volunteer jobs that I’ve had over the years. I’ve learned, that despite how much you think that you’ll be friends FOREVER with the people you bond with at work, that maybe you hold onto one, two if you’re lucky, as you move through life.

I am an extraordinarily (freakishly?) social person. I love people in general, until you give me a reason not to. I have done equal parts of seeking out those on facebook who I’ve lost touch with as those who have clamored to find me. I am always so honored when someone has chosen to look for me and have been known to cry happy tears when a long-lost friend emerges out of nowhere. I’m not randomly seeking people out just to “grow my list.”

The biggest surprises have been those people from way back in my past who, because of the ranks we keep closest as children and teens, I barely knew. Some were just faces and names I struggled to remember from class pictures who now, have become part of my daily life. They laugh with me, read my blog, give me advice and ask for my opinion. They are parents with impressive jobs, great senses of humor and different political and religious views. We are no longer judging each other for being a “burnout” or a “loser,” but who we’ve grown into as adults.

Yes, I will admit that there are about 25 or so facebook friends that I have never actually met face-to-face. They are fellow bloggers, artists of one sort or another whose work I’ve bought, and friends of friends who were told that we’d get along. There are about 30 names and faces that I would have a hard time placing from elementary school, but again, these are all just people at something akin to a virtual party.

I have MANY, MANY people who I refer to as “one of my best friends.” I have one in particular who I always call “my best friend” (I had two, one of each gender, but one decided to end our friendship which devastated me in inexplicable ways.) I have my husband who is in a category all his own. I have friends who I love so much that I couldn’t picture my life without who make me laugh until I cry and who I can count on for ANYTHING. And of course, I have had those who have disappointed me and not come through. They are not among the almost 700.

The two quotes below sum up friendship perfectly. The use of “she” in the Toni Morrison quote can certainly be “he,” as has been proven many times in my life. I am an incredibly blessed human being to have so many people who do what is stated so perfectly below:

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Albert Schweitzer

She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.
Toni Morrison

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2 Comments

  1. There are few better feelings in the world than meeting people who "rekindle the inner spirit". It's amazing how many different ways we make connections in life and how, with tools like Facebook, we're able to build and sustain our network in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago. I say "yay" for more friends!

  2. Dan

    I wonder, when I hear the occasional person make a comment like "I have enough friends; I don't need any more" whether they really know what true friendship means.

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