Adult Friendships: Better than Waffles?

Many of us spend a significant amount of our younger adult lives overcoming our childhood for a variety of reasons, while a smaller percentage must continue to strive to feel well-rounded, put together, and somewhat whole well past our 30’s. It’s sometimes difficult for those in that smaller percentage to even feel like you’re really an adult despite the number of candles on your cake when you have those moments, those days, or even sometimes those weeks where you feel small, insecure, and insignificant. Honestly, I often wonder if any adults ever really feel whole or grown up. There are some that certainly seem like it and I admire them immensely….but does everyone get these moments where they just can’t seem to figure out their role or their place in a world of people that seem to be thriving?

I have my moments certainly where I do some amazing rockstar things and feel unstoppable. Those times where I just can’t help but smiling when I think back on them because for those moments I used my God-given strengths to shine and it felt amazing. I hate that those moments feel unbalanced on the scale against the weight of doubt. Am I making the right choices in this season of my life? Am I where I am supposed to be or did I take a wrong turn somewhere? What more could I be doing that I am not doing? Do the people who seem to care about me really, genuinely care or do they just need something from me?

That last one especially plagues me.

It’s hard to be the one who chooses to be open when it’s so ridiculously hard to remain open. Safety is in closing off. Remaining guarded. Keeping a safe distance. Weighing risks. Approaching slowly. To choose to open yourself up to someone is to willing subject yourself to the highly likely risk of hurt or rejection.

I had a thought this week that sometimes my struggle seems to result from feeling like I oscillate between being a Leslie Knope and an April Ludgate (Park and Rec show for those of you who don’t know. Stop reading this and go watch it! It’s incredible).

Aside from our shared love for breakfast foods, Leslie Knope is the epitome of confidence in action, being an inspiration, and being an amazing friend.

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The thing is….Leslie is the friend everyone wants, but also the friend no one knows how to be or how to let in. She is unashamedly passionate about her friends and doesn’t hold back how she feels.

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I 100% agree with her philosophy on friendship and yet she is the mirage of friendship – completely fictional! Friendships don’t really work this way do they? (especially in our 30’s and beyond, amiright?) For me, being that open comes at a very high price. I have taken this gamble before and lost big time, which makes it exponentially harder the next time to get up the nerve to take that risk again.

Which is what brings out my inner April Ludgate.

April despises small talk, all things unauthentic, and prefers animals over people.

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She shys away – like we all so often do – from genuine intimacy. It makes her feel uncomfortable so she closes herself off. The thing we – and I – want (genuine connection) makes us uncomfortable because I think we either question if it’s truly genuine or because we’re weighing the amount of effort and risk it may require to form the connection.

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I will be honest… The combination of past wounds and a few gasoline-drenched, burned bridges have left me wondering if the effort and risk it takes to form long-lasting genuine connections with people is even worth it. It doesn’t help at all when you remove forced social situations like high school, college, and other venues where friendships are easily forged. The older we get the harder making genuine connections with people becomes; it honestly becomes awkward and makes me feel awkward. Isn’t there a happy middle place out there between the unattainable friendship bar Leslie Knope sets and the people-hating, closed off persona of April Ludgate? Or am I the only one that can’t seem to find that middle ground?

Whatever the answer, I am thankful for the genuine connections I have been lucky to find and the depth of friendships that have come out of those connections. When forming new connections, I will continue to feel awkward and insecure as I approach the risk the openness required for those connections necessitates…. But I can handle a little insecurity, a whole lot of awkwardness, and even some hurt if it means that there’s a chance that those connections can begin to form with the people who are worth it….

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Putting Away Childish Things… (a rant)

For most of my twenties I had the sneakiest, underlying suspicion that all adults felt like children trying to play the role of an adult. I never felt as grown up as some of my responsibilities seemed to imply I should feel. I always felt like I was getting older….but not necessarily grown up….

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However, the past year I have felt a difference – a shift – and it has got me thinking a lot about how exactly we define maturity. Is maturity having a stable job and income? Is it graduating with a college degree? Is maturity living on your own? Owning a home? Paying for things like sewer and trash pick up? Is maturity getting married? Having kids? Is maturity leaving childish things behind and, if so, what exactly constitutes “childish things” and who gets to make that determination?

The whole not having kids thing has certainly made me feel like I am “behind” in this thing called adulthood. Not that we’re racing, but that I have somehow not crossed a threshold of mature womanhood as have 99% of my friends. It also gives people the assumption that they can butt into your life with a host of very personal questions and still feel like they had every right to do so. Every time someone ask me if I have “any news” yet, it just reinforces the pain and overwhelming feeling that I am not measuring up as an adult – as a woman. To those people I say: READ THIS. Do it. For my sake and the sake of others, stop what you’re doing and READ THIS.

Last night Chad and I read through a Facebook rant between my Aunt, my cousin, my Uncle, and this random lady I don’t know. I don’t want to make light of the argument that occurred, but considering the topic how can I not? The whole conversation was so over-the-top ridiculous and a primary reason why I’ve gotten off Facebook. Not that my cousin could avoid being attacked for petty things, but that someone would attack her at all. People feel that the internet empowers them to say exactly what they’re thinking without any consequences or repercussions and that simply isn’t so. I will even go as far to say that it is an immature mind that not only causes strife over petty things, but also hides behind the internet to be condescending and rude.

The argument was over whether or not a mature adult should like things that are considered by some to be childish toys/icons for children. In this case, it was Hello Kitty, which has remained popular for a very long time with both children and adults, but seems to have especially risen in popularity in America in the past 10 years or so. (Always popular mind you – just even more so nowadays).

What are your thoughts? Can a mature adult collect Hello Kitty items/clothing? Can a grown up adult consider themselves actually grown up if they still enjoy youthful iconic cartoon characters?

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My personal opinion?

Yes.
Absolutely.

Here’s why:
There are so many other factors of far greater value evident in a person’s life that can determine maturity or the lack thereof. Whether a woman wears a Hello Kitty shirt is hardly the standard. In my own life and in the lives of those around me, I evaluate someone’s maturity (or immaturity) on one very important, often over-looked factor: someone’s capacity for awareness.

Awareness: noun. – Having knowledge or cognizance. To be watchful and vigilant.

How many adults do you know who have jobs and homes and careers and yet trample the people around them in their pursuits? How many married couples do you know (with or without children) who take others for granted or ignore the most obvious signs that their self-absorbed world is actually hurting others?
On the same note, how many children, teens, or young adults do you know who seem mature despite the fact that they lack the “evidence” of adulthood (career, home, spouse, etc) because they treat others with respect; they don’t steal other’s dignity over petty things; they overlook offenses; they forgive and forget and strive for peace; they aren’t quick to defend themselves, but quick to listen, etc??

So if you like Barbies or Hello Kitty or Garfield and your entire house and wardrobe resembles this – who cares?? Seriously. Why is this even a point worth arguing? Why should anyone even have the audacity to look at someone else and judge their maturity-level by outward appearances? If anything, the person judging has become the person being immature and petty.

Aside from rants and egregious arguments altogether, the question we should be asking when evaluating our own maturity is this: Do I think the world revolves around me or am I aware of the living, breathing, hurting, over-worked, stressed, tired human beings around me?? Does each thing in my day annoy me because it inconveniences me or can I remain patient in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic because I am aware that up ahead is a car accident that is costing someone dearly? Can I remain selfless and loving when a mother is dong her best to console/tolerate her screaming child in the store because I am aware that this might be her only chance to purchase diapers for the week despite it being way past her son’s bedtime?? Can I overlook someone’s bad attitude at work because I am aware that today might just be a bad day for them and we’re all human? And that is the point: we. are. all. human.

Being an adult is not about the clothes you wear (unless you’re in a 9-5 job interview haha) and it makes no difference whether or not you like Hello Kitty or the NFL or gourmet cooking. Being an adult is being able to go through life fully aware that the people around you are people with the same capacity for love and pain as you. They do not want you judging them. They do not want you bullying them. They do not want you prying into whether or not they’re going to get married, have children, or “what they’re doing next with their lives.” They certainly don’t need you overlooking them and trampling them into the grounds while you selfishly pursue your life.

They need love. They need patience. They need compassion. They need you to be aware of them, see them, hear the things their eyes are saying, and acknowledge them.

So let’s put away these childish things and choose instead to live life fully aware. Let’s be watchful and vigilant for those around us and focus less on ourselves and our own personal grievances…

I’d love to know your thoughts on this!! Please feel free to comment below…. 🙂

THIS VIDEO IS AN EXCELLENT ADDITION TO THIS POST!