Severing the “Friends-list”

With social mediums like Facebook and LinkedIn, we don’t have to let go of old friendships. As we move from place to place, we can keep adding new people to our profiles. This means when we go to a new area, we can keep in touch with old friends rather than focusing on making new ones.

The difficulty with this is that we tend to collect friends. When I moved from Minnesota to Texas, Mississippi, and South Carolina, I met a lot of new people. As I settled down here, I look at my friends-list on Facebook. I’ve gained around 100 new people whom I no longer have regular physical contact with.

What’s the point in retaining friendships that don’t have value? Most of these people don’t comment on my posts and I don’t comment on theirs. Occasionally I’ll get a notified about their birthdays or recent events, but other than that, there’s no one-on-one communication.

It seems like social media has become more about a public image than about being social with friends. It’s about who can have the most glamorous life and create the most interesting posts. Our online friendships aren’t limited to our real-life friend groups, they’re public. Why else do we have our entire high school added to our friends-list? Why do we add people who we weren’t ever friends with and who we won’t have regular contact with?

Much of Facebook has become about public image. There isn’t a good way to separate your close group of friends from the wide group of people who you have on Facebook. Think about it. You have your close friends, who you can be personal with, and you have your associates, who you want to be able to contact or continue to follow. What you share with your close friends is different than what you share with those who you generally associate with.

Does all this damage our ability to form new friendships? If we are retaining old friends, is there a need to create new friendships? Think about it this way: if you move to a new city in 1985, would you meet new people or try to stay in contact with your old group? In 2005, would you have retained contact or moved on? I think our ability to maintain contact damages the formation of new friendships.

It also makes us more rigid towards a new group of people. If we have already have a support group online, we’re less likely to need more friends. Therefore, when we meet someone new who doesn’t share our interests, we’re less likely to get over our differences and make a new friendship. If we’re desperate for a new friendship, we’ll deal with differences. If we have a large group of friends, we’re going to be more picky.

As I scroll through my NewsFeed today, I have to ask myself: do I need to retain these contacts? Should I remove those who I don’t keep in contact with? When should we sever old friendships? How is this affecting me in real life? Perhaps we need to find a compromise between our online world and the one in which we physically live.

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Do people change or do we change?

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Looking through old photographs from my middle school years I wonder how much I’ve changed. As I look at old friends, I can’t help but feel like they’ve stayed the same. Yes, they have added years, instead of going to the movies, they go out to drink, but has anything really changed? Have I changed?

In those years I hadn’t traveled independently, moved away from home, or really gotten out to have the experiences that I feel have shaped who I am today. Still, looking at my friends, most of them are ultimately the same, just more adult-like.

I hadn’t even started photography, the thought of blogging hadn’t crossed my mind, these photos were taken on my 1.5mp phone camera, and I, well, still wore Hollister. Now I’ve completed a project where I took a picture everyday for a year, I’ve written each day for the last 335 days, I’ve spend months traveling around Europe, and one of my closest friends lives in Denmark.

Are we who we are because of what we’ve done or is it deeper than that? Will I remain the same underneath as I have been my entire life? My friends still act the same way as they did 10 years ago, am I the same way? Do people change or do we change?

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Circumstantial Friendship

There is no reason for beginning a friendship, no underlying cause or logical explanation to why we are close to certain people. We don’t choose our friends. Circumstance breeds connection, it doesn’t matter who the person is, or who you think you are, if the situation is correct, you’re bound to be friends. Think of a close friend and how you originally met. Nothing was planned, the lines just clicked.

Eventually those same lines wear and the gears turn again. Circumstance builds friendship as well as tears it down. When a moment comes to an end, those you are close to change. People change, environments change, and attitudes change. Friendship is a combination of time and circumstance. You fall into it and you fall out of it.

Undoubtably the people you are close with now will be different than those you are close to in five years. Cherish friendships while they are close, and, when they draw to an end, let them go knowing that your time was well spent.

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Grabbing onto the Wheel

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July a couple of years back, a girl named Elodie lived in my house with my family. She was from France and came wide-eyed to America with the intention of improving her English. At the time, she was only 16 years old with the curiosity of a 4 year old. Her goal soon became to explore as much of our culture as she could.

As it turns out, part of that culture was taking private flying lessons. When the opportunity presented itself, she took up the offer and flew away with it so to speak. Having no previous experience with flying, she hopped in ready to go.

When the plane took off, her nervousness became apparent. She sat quietly in her seat while her whole body trembled. The flying instructor got her into the air and when we reached a high enough altitude, he took his hands off the wheel.

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Elodie slowly reached forward and grabbed on. It was clear that she was unsure of herself and her ability to steer the already flying aircraft.

It took a few minutes until she became comfortable with turning the aircraft. After many more sweeps she gained a confidence in herself. The trembling was gone and she steered fluidly left and right above the beautiful chain of lakes below us. For the next 20 minutes, she was in bliss at how remarkable it was to fly. We were thousands of feet in the air and she could direct us anywhere.

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Life moves in the same way; we’re nervous to grab the handles and steer for ourselves. Internally we quiver at the thought of being in control of our lives. We understand how to steer the plane but we’re busy thinking about how many things could go wrong. After all, when you’re a thousand feet in the air, you have a thousand feet to fall if you make a mistake.

Everywhere people are telling you what to do with your life: “You should go to college” or “You should start a family. Where you’re from, the society you live in, the people you hang around, and the family you love, all tell you where to go in life.

Equally importantly, they tell you what you can’t do with your life. “You can’t fly to Europe, where will you stay? How will you afford it?”, “You can’t go to art school, you’ll never make enough money to live!”, or even “What are you doing with your life?”

It’s in these moments that you’re shaking like Elodie was during that flight. Internally you know how to fly the plane. You know generally where you want to go and a little on how to get there. At this time everyone’s voice has gotten into your head and suddenly the voice you hear is your own. “You can’t do it, you’re going to crash this plane.”

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Deep down inside of yourself, you know this isn’t true. When the pilot took his hands off the wheel, Elodie nervously grabbed on. She didn’t know how it felt to fly, or how to move, but she had to take charge.

I want you to feel that same responsibility in yourself. After a few minutes of flying, Elodie calmed down. She took a breath of air and steered us around the lakes. After you start steering your life, you’ll calm down and realize you can go wherever you want to. The sky is the limit.

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People snicker at me, and I assure you it isn’t because of this beautiful face. Instead it’s from openly telling others my dreams. I want to hike the Appalachian Train (2,000+ miles), I want to spend six months CouchSurfing across the country, study at a school in Denmark, and somewhere in there I want to WOOF in Australia.

It is my greatest hope that other people realize that their dreams are within their grasp and that they are free to fly their own plane. When I share my goals, I hope that the fire in my belly lights a flame in yours. When you see that I’m not listening to everyone else, I hope that you grab that steering wheel and set your own course.

At first you may shake, but after a few turns you’ll calm down. I guarantee that you are capable of doing so much more than what other people say. You can set your own course and fly until the skies end. If you do this, when you finally land, you’ll find that you’ve gone to the place you’ve always wanted to be. There’s no greater feeling than doing what you love.

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Friends without Borders

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In 2010, I hosted an exchange student from Basque Country (Northern Spain). We hit it off so much that, after he left, I immediately went to visit him in his country. These trips back and forth to Spain (and to the USA for him) lasted for 3 years. Each time we stayed for about a month in each other’s home.

The first year was different from all the others because it was the first time I traveled alone internationally. The village I lived in was small, and everyone was connected. Each person came from a different background but during the summer, when everyone moved out to their summer homes, they came together.

This photo is of my friend Jennifer and I when we first met. Jagoba (who I was living with) brought me up one night to meet his best friend. We climbed onto the side of a mountain where a church stood and found her waiting for us. I handed my camera to Jagoba and told him to take a picture of us, even though we hadn’t really introduced ourselves yet. I ran over to her and gave her a huge hug!

That was the catalyst for a great friendship while I was traveling.

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Three years later (2012), we took this photo on the other side of the mountain. We had partied together, traveled together, and had many interesting conversations. Who knew that from a running hug, our friendship would start.

The interesting things is that Jennifer doesn’t really speak English… and I really, really, don’t speak Spanish. All of our communication was done in our own languages. She would speak to me in Spanish, and I would reply in English. I understood enough Spanish to pick up what she was talking about, and she knew enough English to reply to me.

You would think that this would severely limit our communication, but it didn’t. We had philosophical conversations about life and the music we loved. It got to the point that my friend Jagoba got upset.

One day he told me that he doesn’t understand how we have conversations. He spent 6 years learning English and yet, Jennifer and my communication was great! He said that he knew both English and Spanish, so he understood what each of us was saying. Jagoba wasn’t angry, he was just astonished at our ability to talk to each other.

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These years that I have lived in Basque Country have shown me that everyone is human. We have different paths and will pursue different goals in life, but despite all of this, we’re able to relate to one another. Jennifer and I met 4 years ago, in mountainous Spain, where there’s good food, loud parties, and always time to go to the beach. We live very different lives but yet we’re good friends.

Looking back, this is why I’m hopeful about the future. Jennifer and I are two people who come from very different backgrounds. We don’t even share a common language but yet we’re able to live peacefully. It doesn’t matter the what our nations or society think, we are able to coexist. I hope everyone has the opportunity to meet someone like this in their lifetime. 🙂 Have a wonderful day everybody!

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Grateful

Well, I’m seeing Xmen again with my friend I thought was leaving today. Sometimes life moves in those funny odd directions. That’s why it’s so important to be grateful for what you have – then you are peaceful no matter what. When you get extra, then it’s much more. When you have less, no big deal. I’m grateful my friend is here today but I know he will be leaving tomorrow. Nothing has really changed except for my outlook. I have so many things to write tomorrow but for now I’m going to enjoy having my friend here. There’s nothing better than this moment right now.
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