Friendship is complicated. Remember in elementary school when someone created a “playground club” and you weren’t included? Or remember knowing that you were responsible for leaving someone out? Remember in high school when jealousies and accomplishments began to affect your choices in friends and who you ran around with or didn’t invite? Then, college came along and complicated things even further for some of us as the heartbreak from being left out became even bigger.
For many of us, when we became a coach’s wife, we experienced the heartbreak of friendship with strings, a way to get closer to Coach, OR even the lack of friendship because of our ‘temporary state’ in many communities.
I once was a horrible friend. I wanted so badly to fit in that I never even thought about being loyal. Instead, I was so insecure that I found ways to tear down others or exclude people who might reveal me as the fake I truly was.
I only looked for people who thought like me, grew up like me, acted like me, went to a church like me. As a result, my circle of friends was very shallow and small. I have since actually apologized to many people from my past because of my weak attempts at friendship.
There was also a time when I went out into a community as Coach’s wife and found myself being used for what I might know OR even ostracized because I possibly wasn’t going to be there long enough for people to invest in me.
Around age 25, I was beginning to become who I wanted to be. Graduating from college, finding confidence in my work, finally meeting a significant other who encouraged me in a multitude of ways all happened in this stage of life. Only then did I find myself longing to be a great friend.
As I went out into the world, I began to cultivate friendships among a variety of individuals: strong-willed women, Godly women, plain-spoken men, encouraging men, good mothers, real mothers, friends of my husband, crafty women, brutally honest guys, overly compassionate older ladies, thrill-seeking younger ladies. As I began to see myself as a reciprocally good friend, I began to see that the quality of my friends grew and my confidence in myself multiplied.
As a coach’s wife, I learned to go into a new community and remind myself that I already had plenty of solid friendships, and if those were all I ever had, I was blessed. Oddly enough, then I began to find true friends within those communities! But not until I had invested time in observing and vetting out the ‘real gems’ each town had to offer.
I have friends who are passionate about their heritage and the politics of immigration for reasons I’ll never be able to grasp fully. I have single parents who are passionate about their kids in ways that leave me longing to be better. I have friends who were raised so differently than me that it feels as though we might never relate, but we find the simplest connection and build on it daily.
I have friends who disagree with my beliefs on religion, politics, or educational standards. Still, we’re able to connect on the platforms of encouragement, inspiration, or the simple understanding that it’s our differences that bring us closer together. I have friends who once knew me as a horrible friend, who have given me the priceless gift of a second chance at friendship, and online friends I love fiercely, even though we’ve never met. I have friends I talk to daily on a deep level and others I talk to twice a year. We come back together as if no time has passed with each conversation.
When it comes to friendship, the question we need to ask ourselves is, are we living in fear of others because they are too different from us? Are we concerned others might expose who we really are inside or, are we looking for growth in differences and learning who we can become in those most precious relationships?
What if, instead of being afraid of someone who thinks differently, believes differently, and behaves differently, we embrace their differences and engage in learning how much more we can become with their help?
I know I’m so very grateful that now my ‘playground club’ is welcoming of anyone who can help me to become a better me, no matter their background, income, shirt size, or religious belief. Who are you inviting to be a part of your club?
I promise you there is someone out there wishing you would ask them to come in. Today is a great day to take a chance on someone new! Mr. Fred Rogers once said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are, gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” I am so grateful for the friends who invite me in and help me become the healthiest version of me possible. Who are you going to ask: Won’t you be my neighbor?