Make New Friends but keep the old….

As the saying goes… “One is Silver and the Other Gold”. I remember an older friend telling me years ago that I should devote effort to adding new friends of all ages so that I re-fresh my social network as I travel through life. Good advice which I heeded.  But, this was before social media became endemic. In this day of ‘friending’, ‘liking’ and ‘following’ on social media, when, let’s be honest, criteria for clicking can be somewhat superficial, it’s harder to discern who our real friends are.

And, good friends are hard to come by, and to keep. Maintaining friendships takes effort. Not everybody takes the time; sometimes life events conspire against it. Friends we make early in life, as children, or away at school sometimes fall away due to life pathways that separate us by distance, family responsibilities, or political beliefs. Friends we make at work, or as Moms in a play circle need to be nurtured beyond a job change or a child’s graduation.

But, there’s nothing like the comfort of getting together with long-time friends. It’s like having a summer day arrive in the middle of a blizzard—you have to just grab the opportunity and just enjoy it!  This quote captures that sentiment.

“We are friends for life. When we’re together the years fall away. Isn’t that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you’ve come?” ― Judy Blume

Over the years, I’ve depended on good friends to give me the unvarnished truth about important things, and trusted them to give it to me in a manner in which I felt supported, even if it was hard to hear. I hope I’ve done the same for them.

Sometimes I accurately predict the reaction I’ll get from a friend, other times I am surprised. While I prefer an accurate prediction, I try never to be disappointed, and consciously avoid shopping around to get the advice I want, rather than the advice I need.

“And like a favorite old movie, sometimes the sameness in a friend is what you like the most about her.” ― Emily Giffin, Something Borrowed

I love the female “buddy” movies that are starting to make the mainstream media now, and celebrate the diversity of the characters.  In this year’s film “Oceans 8” Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), recruited a team of the best women to pull off her heist at the Met Gala. Working as a precision team, there was no ‘girl drama’ that got in their way. And, isn’t it interesting that in “Oceans 11”, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), needed eleven men for his job?

Just as we want our daughters and grand-daughters to have professional role models in STEM careers or other non-traditional routes for girls, we need to make sure they recognize that the archetype around “mean girls” is not the way they need to relate to their friends.  This quote sums up our challenge as we advise these young girls:

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.” ― Roxane Gay

I’m fortunate in my habit of consciously working to build new friendships. It’s not a fast process, but I’m not sure it should be. Small gestures, regular meet-ups, and communication that transcends the distance of time and place all help to foster the reciprocity of a budding relationship. It’s been worth it for me.

In my novel “A Better Next” Jess Lawson, my protagonist, is fortunate to have a few good friends to help her through her personal and professional challenges. It was fun to write these interesting characters.  And more realistic than the stereotypical back-biting, nasty female relationships we are often burdened with in the media and by those who would demean female power, in all of its dimensions.

Finally, this quote is one that reminds us to evaluate all of our friends, male and female, carefully.

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo—what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”—Oprah Winfrey