What is True Friendship?

I grew up as a homeschool kid in New Jersey, under the wings of two very conservative Evangelical Christians. For 18 years, I had a singular primary social context for how the world worked, and how I interacted with others. The idea of a “friend” or “best friend” was not often discussed, because we were all “brothers” and “sisters” based on our relationship with God and Jesus. We were all part of a flock that supposedly believed in a few basic tenets about relational love for others. These “rules” about how to treat a sister or brother-in-Christ were often broken, in my own household growing up, and at church.

This left me confused about relationships in general. I found it hard to relate to people in college, as I strove to mimic my parents’ behaviors out of habit, and ignorance. I began to deceive my friends as my parents deceived people; I downplayed my emotions until they either became a drama volcano or a breakup. Sometimes it was both. Everyone around me in college had to deal with this, and as a result many of them don’t speak to me. I would be sad to hear what they had to say about my behavior almost 10 years ago now, but I would accept it. I was not a good friend. I did not know how to be a friend.

This decade-old quest to understand how to interact with others and how to relate to them, plagues me. It dogs the steps of every friendship I have. So lately there’s this big question on my mind.

What is a True Friendship?

From Gilgamesh the King, by Ludmila Zeman

First, I have many mythical or literary comparisons to answer this question. There are countless examples of True Friendship* in fiction. The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is a great example of true friends. Enkidu dies for his best friend and adventure companion, so that Gilgamesh can seek eternal life. Another favorite example of True Friendship are the March sisters in Little Women. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are some of the sweetest and most honest young women I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. They sacrifice themselves for one another daily out of real, gritty love, in a time of darkness and death.

Of course, I could go on for quite some time about great literary and mythological True Friendships. Eustace and Jill, from The Silver Chair. Sam and Frodo, or Legolas and Gimli, or Gandalf and everyone, from The Lord of the Rings. Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, the Weasley family, and countless others from the Harry Potter series. These are people who fight and die for each other. They are honest with one another, and when they are not honest they regret it. There are no hidden agendas, no unspoken feelings. These people, fictional though they may be, have given me something to aspire to. They have shown me what True Friendship really is.

Friends

Nora and I hanging out in Maine

Some of my friends have shown me what a True Friendship is. A few people have lasted decades with me, despite all of the struggle, change, grief, and joy we have both gone through. I have best friends, newly made in the last seven years, somehow glad to put up with me and I with them. A True Friendship gives me a place to stand that makes me feel true to myself. These folks make me a better person, and I hope I improve their lives, too. The freedom to be ourselves tugs at our souls, and emerges within that open bond between two people.

This also highlights the consideration of relational connections that are not True Friendships. These humans are still friendly, and I will still support them. Perhaps we are even acquaintances. I enjoy their company, and enjoy hearing their stories or following their interesting lives. When I have the emotional capacity, I try to be sincere, and kind. I try to be honest. Sometimes, they need that kind of love from me, the same way I need it from others. Other times, my friendly advances are met with a closed door. That is OK. Everyone cannot be True Friends with everyone else. That is something special.

I wonder, what is an individual’s responsibility in a friendship? I think I have more responsibility towards a True Friendship than a basic, relational connection with someone. What do you think about friendship, and friends? What has your experience been with your fellow humans?


Glossary

True Friendship – A term used to describe an intimate mutual, relational respect and candor between two creatures.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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It’s Easier to Hate Everyone

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Lately, I have thought a lot about people and community. Last week I finished a nine week course on local history docent training. The thing that struck me the most throughout our lessons and tours was this theme: the history we share, the connection we make between archaeological artifacts and our diverse tour audiences, is not education but provocation. This comes from a variety of voices and sources, and anyone who knows about working at a historic site will recognize this. For me, a person who has grown up in a traditional Christian household, who was taught that there is only one history, there is one timeline with many voices to back it up, history is black and white… That is how I have always thought of history. I have always thought of historians as truth tellers, as educators about their time. History was this way and not that way.

Our speaker in class said we are not educators. We are not truth tellers. This makes so much sense to me, as I have come to embrace the diversity of many different angles of truth and individual stories in the world. Our audiences are there to be entertained, not necessarily educated, and history is the most impactful when it is relevant to the audience. To spark curiosity about connection the past, we help the audience feel the enchantment of that link to the past as history docents and tour guides. We share what multiple interpretations there may be, and how we may guess at the course of history up to this point. Humanity has heard from a chorus of voices over the thousands of years of recorded human history, all from different angles. They each have their own voice and their own perspective as we all do today. If there is any truth, it is that “the” truth is made up of so many facets we can never possibly know its whole. We are simple beings, for all our complexities in comparison to other beings around us. In reality we are not intelligent or intuitive enough to be omnipotent.

Each person must rely on the voices of others to interpret history, so we may find and connect its relevancy to ourselves and to our audience. We must never assume the world is full of idiots, although I feel sure my experience driving on the highway, shopping at the grocery store, or even living in an urban neighborhood and hearing the loud arguments of neighbors proves otherwise. That is part of the lesson I am learning, though, that people are flawed and that does not necessarily negate their intelligence or the impact of their story on the world. This is not an easy lesson to learn. It is so much easier to be angry and indignant when someone seems less intelligent than you in the moment, or when someone disagrees with your opinion.

For example, when I read on Twitter this morning that there is a trending hashtag, #WomenAreObjects, that enraged me. Why? I thought. Why would thousands of people be stupid enough to think that anyone who was born with the XX chromosome is just an object? Yet, there is something behind each and every one of those people’s life experience that has taught them that. Perhaps it was their awful parents. Maybe it was the culture they grew up in. I have no idea. It might be no one has had a real conversation with them about how women inherently have civil rights, too. The point is, I should cut those people some slack. One of the biggest issues in our society is hatred and loathing of others. We have created a culture where it is acceptable to shun, shame, mock, and hurt others for our own selfish purposes. (Maybe that has always been around in human behavior) In the 21st Century, we have all the information in the world available to anyone who wants it and can access it. Shouldn’t we be wise enough to turn that knowledge into kindness towards one another? The hard part about kindness is that it takes selflessness.

People matter. More than I want them to, but that is what I have learned. Being kind matters. Being polite matters. I hate this principle, but in the end I know that the best way I can get along with people, and succeed in life, is to respect them and genuinely listen to their perspective (whether they are openly sharing it or not) with wisdom, intuition, active listening, and patience. Accepting other people unconditionally is the hardest thing to do, because everyone is awful in their own way. Yet that acceptance is necessary if we are all to get along and treat each other equally, no matter how hard we may each struggle in every conversation to hear someone else out. It’s easy to hate everyone at some point, for some reason or another. It’s not healthy. Healthy is not the easy path, but it is the strongest one in the end. As I often must wish myself in this arena… Good luck.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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On Being a Pink Collar Worker

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I like definitions. When my curiosity about something in the world is sparked, and I seek to understand it, I am always looking for definitions, whether they come from a dictionary, Wikipedia, social constructs, or language. When I sought to understand my place in society and in the world as a 21st century white woman with voting rights, able to work out in the world amongst so many men in technology without question or humiliation, when I sought to understand the way I had been raised, I wanted to know where I ranked in class status. Since I was a young person, my parents always taught me that everyone was equal, according to the Bible (which is funny, because they never talked about how many laws there were in the Old Testament regarding slaves)(And we often shunned many other “sinners” who would have had a bad influence on us). Of course at 26 I am out in the world experiencing real people, and I see that although people may be equal in many ways, we have chosen to dissect our species into separate classes of “worthiness” based on things like wealth, political power, career position, beauty, and other factors. My experience has only been in America, where the majority of tabloids, magazines, and internet beauty websites tell me about my inadequacies as a woman. It is hard, still, on a daily basis, not to get over that pressure.

There are classes.  I am not in a great class. I looked this up, I wanted a definition. At first I was calling myself a layperson, but in reality that means that you do skilled work with your hands, and I have pretty much always worked retail, IT, or customer service. So I was not a layperson. I must work hard to survive, and save money and eat on a budget if I want to ever own property or a home. That means I am not a wealthy person in an upper class. My parents had no money to give me, or any of my five younger siblings. They provided what they could until they could not or would not. I am certainly not a white collar or a blue collar worker, as far as those are defined by the media, television, and movies in America in the 21st century. I don’t have a desk job or design pretty things for a living, and I don’t have to clean things with my hands and clean floors and bathrooms anymore like I did in food service. (Thankfully!) I have moved up a little in the world, I suppose, but not much. So I looked it up. And I am a Pink Collar worker.

Now, I have to say that this term somewhat irritates me. As it is defined by Wikipedia, we are essentially a class of workers in the service industry that includes positions like maids, waitresses, flight attendants, preschool teachers, florists, hairdressers, librarians, retail workers, food preparation workers, receptionist, hotel lobby attendants, and the list goes on and on. What do all of these positions seem to have in common, stereotypically? That’s right, folks, they were mostly filled by women when we were allowed out into the workforce just before World War 2, in 1917. Before that, we were working at home and in factories if we had a job outside of the house. I can’t imagine what that would be like. Let’s continue. American women became service pilots, telephone operators, airplane engineers, and nurses during WW2 while American men were away fighting in Europe. Women had ten-hour workdays after that, starting at 5:30am. We were able to take it. In 1937 a woman would earn half the salary a man would in a year. Today women earn between 70-80% of what a man would make in a year. This is how the term “pink-collar” started.

Yes, I am in a class of people. (Which is a strange thing to admit for me, because all my life I have read that in the past there were classes, but those things were eliminated in today’s society. Sadly, with the events all over the country, the economic ruin and debt the United States is in, the homeless and unemployment across the land… I don’t think that’s true. There are still a small number of people in America who hold the majority of money that exists.) It is a class named after women, when they came into the workforce. I am proud of that and annoyed by the box we have been put in. We continue to struggle through it on a daily basis. There is something annoying about being named “pink” for our service jobs. In reality, on a daily basis, I make technology accessible to people all over my state. They come to participate in a sense of community, technological enchantment, and personal conversation that makes the digital age relevant to them in my work environment. As a woman, surrounded by 75% men (or more) at my job, I am successful and have opportunities rising before me every day to impact the world in a positive way. That is far more powerful than the class of people, or what someone has decided to call those of us who face the public every day in retail.

I am more than just a pink collar worker, and I am a pink collar worker. I am proud to be one and I still want to change the perception of service jobs as “pink”; I think there is much more to them than that. After my search, I have found a decent definition of my place in the workforce world.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

Continue Reading