THE DAY I REALIZED “I HAVE NO FRIENDS” (+ HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS)
Brother, can I tell you something I’m ashamed of?
Three years ago, at my goodbye party when I left the province, 90% of the people who came to my party were strangers. At my party, I felt alone. The only people present I kind of knew were T and D. Everyone else was their friends. I was a loner, surrounded people I didn’t even know. Did they give two shits about me? Would they care if I overdosed on sushi and Siracha that night and keeled over them is spaz? No, no.
I was a loner among “friends.”
I was a loner, which in the past, was a reason I felt so ashamed. I would beat myself up about my loner status. I remember opening my Hotmail account one birthday and saying to myself, “If no one writes me, that will be all the evidence I need that I’ve got no one, am no one, have not one reason to go on.”
I opened my email, and it was confirmed: “I have no reason to go on.”
Good Catholic that I was and am, suicide was out of the question. But I did wonder for years if life was worth living. On the surface, I was a put-together individual. Shy, maybe, but put-together. Underneath the surface, I was a mess of twisted cords of belief strangling my inner organs, making every movement difficult and slow. The most strangling idea? “ Nobody likes me. There is something wrong with me.”
Today, I’m no socialite, but I have a few friends—real friends. People I can call if my electricity goes out or if the police are ever after me. Here’s what I’ve learned about making friends.
- Accept yourself. That was the number one issue I had. It was not my personality that was defective back then because I really haven’t changed all that much. It wasn’t that I was an introverted, Catholic, book-loving, virgin that kept people away. What kept people away was my thought that I shouldn’t be that way. You know what? You think you are whispering thoughts like, “I don’t like myself” inside yourself, but your body and actions are screaming them out loud on the streets. And when you’re screaming out “I DON’T LIKE MYSELF!!” people stay away as if you were a peed on fire hydrant. Can you blame them? Accept your flaws. Accept them like beautiful, sweet orphans in need of TLC. Caress them. Claim them as your own. I am still impressed by a now close friend of mine who admitted to me within a week of knowing him that he had once tried to commit suicide and had been seriously depressed. He said it matter-of-factly, as if this fact was a real gem in his personality, making him some kind of warrior. He said it in such a way that in an instant he was no longer a stranger, but a fellow human, with the same warts as me. And I accepted him. Most people would.
- Be honest. Similar to “accept yourself,” this rule means you don’t tell one lie. Especially lies that could get you into the cool club. I used to say I had Jewish ancestors, because I liked the idea of being part of a survivor race, plus I thought it would make me more accepted with—I thought—a boring personality. I also told guys I was a model. I told others that I’d had several boyfriends, because I was so ashamed of my lack of experience. I should have just been honest. I should have just laid the cards out on the table. I’ve been laying out the whole deck of my life plainly for people I meet for the last two years, and you know what? Most people love me more for it. They’re not used to the honesty. The ones that don’t like the honest truth? I don’t care for them anyway.
- Take initiative. You want to make more friends, yet you hang out on Saturday nights keeping your sofa warm? Pick up the phone. Dial a number. Send a text. Send an email. Join a meetup group.Collect rejections like J.K Rowling did before Harry Potter became an international success. Collect rejections like Steve Jobs before he became a multi-millionaire. Understand, friends will not fall from the sky, people are just as afraid of rejection as you are, and the rejections you get along the way? They are fueling your future success, and you will one day smile at the fact that you cared.
- Remember details. First time a coworker bought a gift for me on my birthday, I fell in love with her instantly. She baked me chocolate cake with Smarties around the edges. To this day, she is hands down a good friend. Now I follow her example. When I first meet people, I ask for their birthday. I program these birthdays into my iPhone calendar. I then write to these new friends on their birthdays and sometimes get them a small gift. In a big, bad world where all of us feel like nobodies at times, a person who remembers your birthday and reaches out—that person is gold. Become gold.
- Give freely. Similar to the “remember details” rule: Just give your crap away. Don’t be a doormat pushover who gives away your lunch money, but be wiling to buy someone a lunch, a coffee, a beer,a birthday cake. Be willing to offer a hand. That was my mistake. I just accepted other people’s kind gestures and never repaid them; I never thought to actually give. You know Scrooge had no friends. Why? Scrooge failed to note this life law: Give to get. Give FREELY and WITHOUT EXPECTATION to get. The only place “get” comes before “give” is the dictionary.
- Be patient. Don’t plan to go from loner to socialite. Don’t be so desperate. Desperation smells like sulfuric acid and baby diapers. We want none of that. Expect making friends to take time. Make a goal to make one new friend a year. That’s it.
- Be discerning. Only invest friendship in people that are good. How do you know if they’re good? They share your values. They listen. They give back. They lift you up. They propel you upwards and onwards. They are real. They tell the truth. They can say sorry. They have moral standards. They don’t need to be impressive, rich, or good-looking, but they must be good. Test them for this goodness in the process of getting to know them, and, if at any time that they fail to measure up, stand up, politely excuse yourself, and leave the restaurant.
Following this seven step formula, brother, I know you will reach a point where friends are yours to keep. And should you ever leave the city, I promise you: The people around you will give a shit.