I grew up in a small town in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. It was a beautiful, if quiet, life. I had two or three good friends, a smattering of broader friendships and then people whose names and faces I knew if I saw them on the street. In those mystic days before mobiles, we phoned up and turned up. Sometimes, we’d knock on a friend’s door to invite them out for a walk, or a drive to the lookout, or chicken and chips in the park. It wasn’t thrilling. We died of boredom all the time. We made our own fun.
I live in a city with millions of people. There’s always something going on. I have a broad circle of friends and an even wider group of familiar faces. I meet for brunch and drinks. I see plays and visit wineries. I’m rarely, if ever bored. It’s full, but it’s busy and exhausting.
For the first half of this year, I had no friends at all. Of course, my friends didn’t abandon me. I traveled overseas, so if anything, I abandoned them. In the space that travel created, I discovered that I’ve lost touch what friendship actually is.
In the city, there are so many people to please, or at least avoid offending. Networks upon networks of commitments diffuse any chance you have of getting to know anyone. You might know what’s going on, thanks to Facebook, but it’s not the same thing. The effort of scheduling and rescheduling means you’re always ‘catching up’ instead of hanging out.
Real friends are not commitments to juggle in your busy life, they’re people you commit to. They’re people you love and defend, cry and giggle-fit with. They’re people you challenge and who challenge you to step up and really live, whatever that looks like. You know them and they, you. You know what’s about to happen in their lives. You face this world together.
That can only realistically be a small handful of people. People you choose, whose influence you respect and whose energy you can relax and be yourself around. That’s no indictment on the many other people in your life. It’s not a moral circle of good and not good enough. It’s a curated group of energy and influence.
I might go. I didn’t realise. I saw and forgot to reply. Something came up. I’m slammed right now.
This is the flake and bail culture of busy, juggling people. I don’t hold that against anyone. I’ve absolutely been that person. I’ve done it even when I could go, did realise, saw and didn’t reply and the something that came up was my own self screaming to slow down.
There are lots of people for whom busy is not a choice. They have family that demands care or they’ve dedicated themselves to professions that require more of their time. I have a choice, though, and so I’m taking it. I choose to do less and create space. From that space I can make a choice to connect to people with meaning and enthusiasm instead of protecting and preserving energy.
“A friend to all is a friend to none.”
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”