I've never been one of those people who has tons of friends and acquaintances. I haven't been in a ton of meaningful relationships, and it still baffles me that it's so hard for me to talk to and reach out to people when I'm not typing words behind a computer screen. Friends and family have come and gone like the weather, love interests have moved on with impressive speed, and meaningful moments of human interaction have turned to dust.
Maintaining relationships is hard, and creating new ones is even harder.
The redeeming factor of this disheartening fact and seemingly endless struggle in my life is that I don't need a ton of people by my side to be happy. I've discovered that the less friends you have, the easier it is to actually keep up with them.
I only have 25 friends on Facebook. (Yes, I finally joined. Double yes, I regret it at times.) I don't see that number increasing anytime soon, nor do I send friend requests to people I don't know or have no interest in truly connecting with. That's huge for me. It's interesting that the people who have the largest social media followings are the people who tend to feel the most alone.
For the most part, genuine connections and interactions are extremely undervalued these days. For so many years, I've struggled to understand why so few people seemed to accept me or want to spend time with/talk to me, and I've recently decided that a few people is better than none at all. Why obsess over who doesn't like you when you could turn your attention to who does?
I can count my friends on one hand and my acquaintances on about three (not that I have three hands). And I'm okay with that now more than ever. The best part about my little friend group is that each person fulfills me in different ways. They are all unique people who fill unique roles, and maybe that's what finding "your people" and choosing your army is all about. I know who to turn to when I want to laugh, who to turn to when I want to bear my soul, who to turn to when I want to be spontaneous, and who to turn to when I simply want to hang out and do nothing.
Here's what I've learned about finding and keeping your own army of companions:
1. If you have to work for their affection, they are not your friend.
This is so important that I want to annoyingly say it again in all caps. IF YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR THEIR AFFECTION, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. In middle school (some of the worst years of my entire life), I spent more energy focusing on how to impress people than I did on my math homework. I manipulated my brain into thinking that people who didn't like me at all were my friends. I cringe just thinking about it. It took me until the end of 8th grade to find a group of people who seemed to genuinely enjoy my company. Although it's nice and perfectly normal to want to impress your friends to some extent, it's even nicer to know for a fact that they like you just as you are. You will never have to question how your real friends feel about you.
2. Having things in common is wonderful, but differences keep things interesting.
Some of the closest friends I've had in my life have been like my polar opposites, yet we've still gotten along great. So many people stress the importance of finding common interests, but too many common interests can get old really fast. I love being introduced to new things and new ways of thinking. I like to be challenged from time to time or have silly debates over whether or not reading books is better than playing video games. I like the sense of being changed in a good, healthy way by someone who has something to teach me.
3. Relationships take time and patience.
As nice as it would be for a friendship or relationship to effortlessly blossom on day one, it rarely happens. It takes time to warm up to and get to know people. It takes time for someone to become a worthy and integral part of your life. It takes time for relationships to evolve into what they are meant to become. I often get impatient with the process of getting as close to someone as I'd like to be, but rushing things never works. I've been on both ends of that spectrum. That said, it shouldn't take forever to form a real connection with someone. If that's the case, there is resistance coming either from you or the other person. Find people who love you as much as you love them. They are out there somewhere.
4. Everyone you love is going to hurt you at some point, whether it's on a small scale or a large scale. Deciding whether or not to keep them in your life depends on the ratio of pain and happiness.
Getting close to someone opens the risk of being let down by them. And if you're a part of someone's life long enough, they will eventually disappoint you. Does this mean you should run for the hills? Hell no. Deciding who is worth keeping in your life comes down to how they make you feel in the grand scheme of things. Do they drain you and constantly put you down, or do they fill you with joy and make you a better person? Love and friendship means you are willing to forgive the bad and only look for the good. It means knowing the difference between what matters and what doesn't.
Now go forth, and assemble your army! Because I can't even describe how wonderful it feels to finally have mine.