I just woke up from one of those unexpected naps, and it was one of those times where you remember some part of the dream(s) you had. The subjects of the dream, as well as I can remember after the fact, seem strange to me, especially because they weren’t people I ever really thought too much about when I didn’t have to. It’s ok, though, since this works out because it ties in to the final part of the entry that I’d started yesterday (when I’d written something like “…in a few hours” I didn’t quite intend for it to be this long.)
The people I remember in the dream were my high school classmates. Like I said, it’s a bit unusual that I’d have a dream (scene) so centered around them. Um…I think during one portion of it we were in a weird kind of gym class, and in another portion I was driving around and near some strange college or other, and through it all I was talking with a few of those classmates. Anyway, this ties into what I’d been planning to write, giving me a third reason (the first being the thoughts I already have and the second being inspiration from a friend’s post) to lead into the subject.
It can be a funny thing, having friends, or being a friend. It means different things to different people, but the core idea, I think, is for the most part the same – having someone you can depend on. But what makes a “friend” different from just some “dependable acquaintance” is probably…well, I think intent has something to do with it. Intent, meaning: how much is this person keeping an eye out for not just his/her own interests when he/she does stuff, but also for your interests? Intent, basically boiling down to: how do they care? Before any of that, the first question probably is: do they care? Because without some kind of care beyond the type brought about by self-interest (“I care for you only so long as you can do something for me”), I don’t think people can be anything more than just…people who know each other.
Inserting a note here: when I say “self-interest”, I’m not talking about the shared feeling of dependability that friends ideally have, and I don’t mean to go near the realm of thought that says all friendships and relationships are in the end self-serving and thus somewhat selfish. With regards to that, I’ll just say that I don’t really believe that–would prefer not to, actually–but I think it depends a bit on your interpretation of “selfish”. But no, I don’t want to get much into semantics. So, continuing:
So when does an acquaintance cross the line (in a good way) and become a friend? I think it’s in the moment where both parties come to the realization that, consciously or not, for whatever reasons, in spite of their differences–maybe because of those differences–that they’d rather have that person around instead of the next person. Maybe they share some of the same interests. Friendship…might initially be born from similarities, but as some quote I’d seen said, “Much of the vitality in a friendship lies in the honoring of the differences.” It’d be interesting to meet someone just like me, scary as that thought kind of is, but…hmm. That line of thought doesn’t work because anyone who isn’t me…isn’t me, and so everyone is then a bit different anyway, huh?
As I’d said before, a funny thing, friendship. Since people have so many different interpretations, so many different expectations of what a friend should be, any kind of thought on the matter is always really subjective…this entire entry is probably a case in point. The meaning of the words “friend” and “friendship”…so fluid. Even when people are “friends”, there still can be some murkiness, in the form of different…degrees of friendship. I was reading a part of this book in B&N a few months ago, and it was saying how people have different “circles” of friends, how in a given person’s life, each other person they know fits into one of these “circles”. I don’t remember the exact titles the book gave those circles, but I think there were three of them, the outermost circle being acquaintances, the middle one being friends, and the inner circle being the closest friends. What struck me, when I was reading that part of that particular chapter (I don’t remember what the book was), was what it said about the people in each of those circles. With the inner circle, those closest friends, the book said that most people don’t have more than 10 of these kinds of people–indeed, maybe can’t have more than 10, since these are the people whose company and input you value the most, who you spend the most time and effort to stay in contact with. The book mentions that the time you allot to a given person has a good deal to do with what circle they’re in, and I guess it also struck me how…true, and how…I dunno, starkly depressing…that might be. Microeconomics aside, it’s still true…time is valuable, and how much time you spend on a person and how much time you “allot” a person in any situation really is telling of what they mean to you. I can imagine that after reading that in the book, I might’ve looked up a moment and thought something like, “Huh…darn.”
There was another part in that book that had you think about the people in your life, and see if you could put those people you knew into those circles…and lo and behold, there was some sense to it. Those people most important to me didn’t number over 10.
It’s probably a good thing to not think too much about your own friends, sometimes. I don’t even mean that you might happen to notice their less attractive sides–if anything, being friends, that generally shouldn’t matter much–but some things just don’t need too much thought…at least, not all the time. It’s true, you learn a lot about people from what they do, so the fact that I’m bothering to spend valuable time–time where I could be doing important stuff like eating or finishing the fight against my room–says that the subject is of at least mild importance to me. But you don’t need to analyze my actions in this case to see that–if you’ve been following along, you’ll probably notice that I’ve been telling you that all along. I think about and notice this kind of thing for some of the same reasons why I might spend time writing an entry about anything else: because I want to be aware. I think I’m the kind of person who in general would prefer to know, as opposed to being in the dark. I do believe there’s some truth to “ignorance is bliss”, but on the same note I also believe that in ignorance, you settle for a middle ground that’s only “good” insofar as it’s not bad, whereas sometimes when you know, there’s the possibility that you might fall to the lowest depressions, but it’s the only way your personal roller coaster will be able to reach the highest and the best peaks…if any of that makes sense. But yeah…in terms of personal beliefs about friendships and relationships, I’d always told myself that before getting into anything, I would want to make sure that the other party knew what they were getting into. Erm…that’s not supposed to sound bad, haha, but the meaning of what I said is just that I wouldn’t want any future mix-ups to result from a beginning that started on shaky roots. You know how you hear of people receiving nasty shocks when they discover that they “didn’t know” their friends after all? It’s those kinds of things that I try to minimize. I understand that we’ve all got various sides to ourselves, and that it’s expected–or at least, shouldn’t be too surprising–that at some point you’ll be surprised by something about someone you might’ve thought you’d known. Hmm…mind you, I’m not advocating full disclosure, which if anything I figure should be advised against. If I’m advocating anything, it’s really just…honesty, to a reasonable degree. I think with most people, what you see isn’t entirely what you get, but what you see is still part of what you get. Even those people who live behind facades…those facades are part of who they are, developed for whatever reasons, whether as a shield in response to ward off potential pain, or just because they aren’t comfortable with who they are and are afraid or unable to look inside to figure it out. If I/you look at me…hmm, I don’t entirely know what it is you might see–maybe a pensive Asian kid who understands practicality to some degree yet hasn’t yet figured out how to grab the reins on his own life–but rest assured, for better or worse, that’s not all there is to me. And I’m sure it’s the same with most of my friends, that who I see and who I think I know, might only be a small part of the proverbial iceberg.
Haha, why and how did I get into…whatever it was I was musing about in the lines above? Part of it has to do with…how some of my friends might view me. I guess I’m talking in particular about the friends I’ve had for a longer time. The thing amongst long-time friends, amongst old friends, is that sometimes it’s difficult for them to see that there might’ve been change. When you’ve been around someone for a long time, friend or not, you naturally expect that person to act a certain way. Especially amongst classmates who you grow up with, they come to expect certain things out of you, and it gets tough to break those expectations. That’s probably a reason why entering different school levels–high school from middle school, college from high school–can possibly be refreshing, can be the chance to…”start new”…that you hear about. I guess I believe that. The kid I was in 6th grade was a different kid from the one in 9th, and the kid in 9th was different from the one in the next year…as anyone might expect. Most people change–the ones who don’t tend to have other pressing issues–but the reasons why they change probably differ. I guess the most encompassing category is changes brought about by…”life”. Hahaha, and a funny thing “life” can be, too. Hmm, if you’ve noticed, I find a lot of things “funny”, but it’s not always in the “laugh out loud” kind of way. After I just wrote those last two sentences, something else I’d read sprung to mind, a quote that strikes me as…well, wait, let me go look it up. Here:
“The first real sign that someone
has become a fanatic is that he loses his sense of humor about some
important facet of his life. When humor goes, it means he’s lost his
perspective.“ -Wedge Antilles.
I like that, since I think it’s applicable to our lives. Being able to laugh at yourself…haha, it does take a bit of perspective. I thought about the quote and wondered if there weren’t some things in my own life that I’m fanatical about, and decided it wouldn’t shatter the world if I tried to, I dunno, take myself less seriously, haha. Heaven knows I probably take some things too seriously…that’s why I need my friends to provide some perspective sometimes. Being able to just laugh at life with a friend is probably one of the things I value the most.
I might’ve been trying to get into something else in the paragraph or so above when I was talking about old friends and change…I think I’ll just say that I kind of wish my old friends knew me better. I feel that something is a bit out of wack when some people who I befriend in a short period of time get to honestly know me better than the people I’ve known for like…a decade+. It doesn’t apply to all of my old friends, just…some. In all fairness, I suppose that I haven’t tried too hard to say, hello, there’s more to me than whatever it is you seem to think, because things kind of work how they are. But I can’t help feeling, sometimes, that with some of my old friends, it was only through circumstance that we became and stayed friends, and that if I’d met them in a different situation, we might not’ve gotten as close.
Those kinds of friends that do get to know both the person you are and the person you want to be…those are nice, haha. I guess they’re the ideal friends, at least in my own simple view of the world, those friends who’re definitely in the most inner circle of our lives. They don’t even have to be the type who you’ve not only seen growing but really grown with, but that’s always good too.
Along the lines of what I’d said earlier about time alloted to friends, I’d eventually come to realize that the meaning of this time spent on others, even if it was lost on me at the time, was realized by those I’d spent time for. In this case I’m thinking back to some xanga entries of earlier years, especially birthday collages and intricate posts that took a fair chunk of time to do. Obviously those kinds of things are never necessary, but as these things go, it’s the gesture that says something.
I started this entry mentioning a dream that I thought was odd. To elaborate now, it was strange because most of the people in the dream, and the general group that they represented–my classmates from regular school–were not at all people that I’d ever think about much beyond, like I said, what was necessary. So I find it a bit strange that they should pop up all of a sudden in my dreams. High school…haha, those grade school, middle school, and high school years…they were one kind of experience. I sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like to grow up in an area where there was a bit more “ethnic diversity”, where there would be more kids and people from different backgrounds, perhaps more children brought up in ways more similar to my own upbringing. My particular situation was that I grew up in a not-too-diverse setting, and for whatever reasons, maybe just the simple color of my skin, I didn’t quite fit in. Actually, I think that as we grew and increased in grades, the color of my skin had less to do with any interactions than did…I guess, my own personality and willingness to fit in, which is to say…haha, probably not too much. I’m sure I’d have liked to fit in better, but even thinking back now, I’m not sure how well it would’ve worked. Ah well.
Middle school went by, and then high school swung around. It was mostly the same group of kids I’d been in school with through middle school, plus kids from three other nearby towns–it was a regional high school. And…I think it was only towards the later two years of high school, junior and senior years, that I really began to find or dig out a niche. I always say that my favorite year of high school was senior year, and not because it was the year that I’d end up graduating. I guess it was around then, starting probably from before or around junior year, that I’d started to become more comfortable with myself…gain a bit of much-needed confidence, I would say. How this all ties together is fairly simple–I was hardly best friends with most of my classmates. I would say, for some of them, it was too bad that we didn’t get to each other better, but there were too many of them that I’m glad to say are…poof. So it was disconcerting to wake up and think, “whoa…there‘s a face and name I haven’t even of for a year+.”
Looking at my other friends, a bunch of whom have gone through (and in fact are about to graduate or have just graduated from) more ethnically diverse schools, I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I’d lived elsewhere. It’s just idle speculation, but all the same…haha. What did a large part in keeping me relatively sane through later middle school and most of the high school years was this interesting institution called Chinese school. Haha, I think its effect on me can hardly be overstated, since there was where I had friends. The few hours spent there once per week were probably more beneficial than most of the regular school week. Yes sir, it does seem to me that I’m not going to grow up to be one of those faithful–or at least, regularly donating–Highlands alumni. Haha, in all fairness, we did for the most part get a good education. Most (not all) of the teachers were competent. Some were even fun. But in the end I think the best moments during those high school years were spent outside of high school and away from high school people. I have no doubt that people’s respective views on their own schools have a lot to do with their own personalities and hence, their own experiences. My younger sister, for example: I think she’s enjoying herself. But she and I have slightly differing views on people, and we tolerate different types of people…that’s that.
I’m reminded now of expectations, towards friends. Much as people say that the ideal friends are supposed to be there when needed, things are rarely quite so straightforward or easy. I imagine that some problems tend to result from different beliefs of what a friend should be or do. The very idea of friendship has been idealized, so much so that the quotes are everywhere, from school planners to calendars to random websites…mostly quotes on the value of friends (usually around “priceless”) or the function of friends. How much of it is realistic? I can’t really say, beyond, “Not enough”. But taking it all in, I get the feeling that we–the people who write, read, or seek out these quotes–really do value this concept of friendship, to the point where we put these reminders all over the place of what things ought to be like, of how perhaps we should treat our friends, how perhaps we would…if only we knew how. What gets in the way of all the shoulds and oughts is probably our own personal problems, and not being able to look past certain things–get some of that aforementioned perspective–in the best interests of someone else. Earlier, I answered “Not enough” to the question of how realistic those quote we see are, but I’d have to change my answer to “Sometimes, just enough”: sometimes, you do run into people who have some of qualities we seek, and sometimes that’s just enough to assure you not to give up hope on the world, that there are some people worth meeting out there. Yeah, not to make excuses for any friends who don’t quite act up to our expectations. When that happens, I think there’s rarely a single way to navigate around that kind of thing, and probably needs to be taken on a situation to situation basis. But the thing I try to remind myself is that we’re all human (though I swear, some people realllly push it), complete with all the good and bad that might imply, and that if a friend makes any mistakes, well…what would make things a lot easier is if more people understood that yes, people do make mistakes, and to forgive others (for at least the simpler things) because really, if we were in their place we’d probably hope that our own friends would be able to overlook the kinds of mistakes any of us could make. Well…*shrug*. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have too much drama with friends, but that could just be an…unexpected side-effect of having less friends. I’m not entirely sure I like the trade-off, nor am I sure I would change the status-quo if possible, but that’s how things’ve played out. In all fairness again, I should probably mention that I don’t think I fit perfectly into the mold of the teenage/college kid–if anything, I’d count myself as some quirky kid (to say the least), and in that way, at least, I guess I fit in perfectly, if you get what I mean.
Between the latter portion of last year and now, I learned a few lessons that are–at least to me–some of the most important things I’ve ever consciously absorbed. One of these things, that uncoincidentally fits into this entry’s theme well enough, is in the simple importance of just being friendly to someone you don’t know…treating them as someone you don’t yet know. It’s in a welcoming smile, an unbiased and unintimidating approach to meeting…well, anybody…that starts things off nicely. Whether in welcoming someone new to, I dunno, random badminton courts, or in welcoming a stranger at a table you like to sit at, the simple gesture of an unbiased welcome does more than most of us realize. I am definitely one of the number one advocates in being paranoid/careful about people (given what you know you don’t know about them), and like most people I do make snap judgments about people based on some things that don’t always make rational sense, but that (usually) doesn’t stop me from at least trying and giving a person a chance…at least, in the proper situation. One of the most important things I learned from a high school math teacher was, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This has uh…I think nothing to do with math, but…haha, it’s true! Intentionally or not, we remember what a person was like when we first met them, and it forms the basis for how we view them, whether or not that’s what they’re really like.
The last particularly memorable time this came into effect was almost a year ago at some camp, before I was aware of all this stuff, wherein the unintended result was the opening connection for a friend I’m really glad to have met–one of those interesting people who, unintentionally, make you realize that there’s more to life than whatever it was you’d thought there was; one of those cool people that, come whatever, you’re still glad to have met.
On these cheery notes, I think it’s definitely about time to start wrapping this up. I started tapping this out after I woke up from a nap, like I said in the beginning of this entry, but the time I woke up from the nap was like 2am (fell asleep accidentally at around 10 maybe.) Then I fell asleep again before finishing, and somehow, writing on-and-off, we’re at 6pm now.
I’ve gotta say, I didn’t expect this entry to turn out the way it did, but since I didn’t expect too much from it, I rather like the way it’s turned out, even if it is kinda…sizeable, in the essay kind of way (probably would end up failing unless I reorganized.) It got me thinking in a way I haven’t in some time, and sharpened my thoughts enough that at 3 in the morning I was fairly alert. Though it wasn’t my intention, it also does a pretty good job of making up for most missed entries in the past weeks.
I think…one more quote, this time from Rutgers’ newspaper (I don’t know if the guy ever expected to be quoted, but I was impressed enough that I’d quote this again):
“Be a decent human being. Live your life with passion. Smile. A lot. Don’t rely on others to make things better when you can do it now. Always move forwards and never regret. If you follow your heart through life and do what is best for yourself and others, you will truly be living the good life.“
What he said kind of speaks for itself. It’s all easier said than done, yes, but ultimately all these things are worth the effort. They say that nothing worth having is easy to attain, but I wonder if a friend fits into that? I think, in the right circumstances, you can make a friend in a moment, but in that same flash of time you could lose a friend too. So keeping your friends…that’s the worthwhile challenge, in which the journey itself is most of the reward.
It’s almost hard to end this now that it’s been such a hike to
get here, so no more mild editing…tag a few of those friends who make a difference…and I think we’re good to go.
朋友…hmm. I’ll meet you somewhere out there, out where dreams…come true!
Hahaha, the song’s been in my head and I just wanted to say it for the fun of it. Maybe I’m not too much a fanatic yet…good.
If you’ve stuck with me ’til here, in both senses of the phrase…thanks.