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On a Personal Note: Un-boxing Friendship

Well, hello! It’s been a while since I wrote something just to write. I read a book, Even in Paradise, several weeks ago and there’s a quote that’s been running through my mind. I’ve been trying to find the words to write this post; hopefully I’ve finally figured out what I want to say and don’t ramble. Bear with me if I do. Let’s start with the quote:

“I knew what I was doing. I was becoming that girl,

the one who drops all her old friends when a new,

exciting one comes around. I knew what I was doing

and I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want to.”

— Even in Paradise

My childhood friend, Sarah, and her daughter, Arla, meeting Everett for the first time a few weeks ago. Friends

My childhood friend, Sarah, and her daughter, Arla, meeting Everett for the first time a few weeks ago. Friends’ babies becoming friends! SO SWEET!

What I take from that quote (and from what was happening with Charlie at that time in the book) is that our friendships are categorized. That we can’t be friends with someone who likes art, studying, and focusing on school AND be friends with someone who is unfocused, a little wild, and doesn’t follow the beaten path. Charlie was so instantly attracted to Julia’s free-spirit, but she felt so nervous about what her other friends would think that she didn’t even attempt to get everyone together to see how well they meshed.

And maybe it’s because I hang out in the pages of young adult books that I find this pops up a lot in my reading, but do you believe this to be true — that we have to be either/or about who we hang out with?

I don’t.

I remember there being times in my life where I begged and prayed for friends who really clicked with me. I needed a core group that just got me. But as I’ve gotten older (ha, wow, does that feel terrible to write), I realize that’s such a narrow-minded attitude I had. There were my sports friends, my book friends, my church friends, etc. I didn’t allow them to intermingle and overlap. Even in college, my architecture friends didn’t really know my married friends. I was the odd girl who got married at 18, but also the girl who was still experiencing college. Balancing it all felt like such a chore. One that I definitely didn’t succeed at very well.

But there doesn’t have to be a THIS or THAT when it comes to friends. It’s so much more freeing to have adapted an all-inclusive attitude. I recently called up two friends — one I have known for a few weeks, another I’ve known for nearly a year — that had only momentarily met before to go shopping with me. It was spontaneous and spur of the moment, but why the heck not? I adore both girls and I knew they both needed time out, so why not do it together?

I’ve spent so, so much time in my life making sure everyone feels loved and happy. Ever the people-pleaser. I think that when I label my friends as being into books or fashion or DIY projects, it prevents me from getting to know more of them. I’m into all of those things and more — nail polish, makeup, hate cooking, love Target, Toms shoes-aholic, a wife, a church-goer, currently addicted to working out, a photographer, a good listener, a sympathizer. Why can’t my friends be more too? And why can’t a group of people hang out who don’t have absolutely every single thing in common? Won’t that push us to grow and mature?

Estelle and Magan

So thankful for Estelle who understands my crazy, spastic interests. Who oogles over shoes with me, listens when I’m having a bad day, and gives me her honest opinion, always. (PS: I swear one day soon we’re going to reunite and surprise y’all with a new photo of us!)

I certainly hope so.

Let it be clear that I agree some friendships have an expiration date. There are times when we have to “break-up” with a friend because we’ve grown apart. (Rachel wrote a great post about this!) Maybe, just maybe, our friendships could continue to morph and grown and change if we were a little more forgiving and less static about how we approached them. It’s okay to mix things up and pull together a group of girlfriends who represent different aspects of our lives. What a slap in the face it was several years ago when a best friend of mine kicked me to the curb when her childhood best friend was visiting town. I wanted to learn about both of them, their history, and to see this new three-way friendship blossom into something brand new. That took many, many years to develop, but FINALLY it has.

Charlie eventually figures it out, too. It takes a long time for her to realize the mistakes she’s made and the ways she’s secluded herself, but she gets there. That’s quite possibly the highlight of Even in Paradise for me. It felt like such a revolutionary moment for me to read about something I’ve experienced so personally. But that leaves me curious…

How do you approach your friendships? Do you agree that we shouldn’t put them in a box? 

ETA: I think many times I segregated my friendships because I was afraid of how people would accept other pieces of me than what they originally liked me for. What if my friend found out I went to church? Would that change the dynamic of our friendship? What if she thinks spending time on hair and makeup is stupid? What if she gives me a hard time about buying a pair of shoes when a few days ago I complained about being on a budget? I realize that those are things I find fascinating about my friends — their little intricacies and the details of their lives are what make them so rich and intriguing. I think many times I’ve “boxed” my friendships because I was afraid there were parts of me that wouldn’t be accepted. But maybe that’s a whole other can of worms… because then that boils down to whether or not that person is a friend at all, right?

December 31, 2014 - 8:02 am

Goodbye to 2014 + End of Year Book Survey | Magan - […] My post on friendship and how I think it’s important to not lump people into boxes so we can know more about them. […]

November 26, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Alexa S. - Magan, your thoughts on friendship are so refreshing! I really love the concept of unboxing, though I’m definitely guilty of grouping my friends into different groups, particularly during my younger years. I was always conscious of the differences between these groups, and I even noticed that I acted differently around, solely dependent on whichever group I happened to be hanging out with. These days, now that I’m older, I’m actually much more open to having my friends from all aspects of my life hanging out with each other – I just want everyone to get along, to have the chance to potentially embrace and reveal other parts of their personalities. People are very complex and have a whole lot of different nuances, and I really think that allowing them to be comfortable enough to reveal EVERYTHING is key to any friendship having a wonderful, solid foundation. Thanks for sharing, M, and inspiring me to reflect on friendship too.

November 8, 2014 - 10:44 pm

Sky - Yes, absolutely! I find that I have several individual “best” friends that are from different facets of my life – two I met in Panama, one I met in school, and one I met at work. They all exist in separate areas of my life and our friendships are often based around how/where/what we have in common. They knew of each other but don’t know each other – I’ve contemplated getting everyone together but it seems odd to combine groups.

November 2, 2014 - 1:05 am

Weekly Recap| Oct 26 – Nov 1, 2014 | Oh, the Books! - […] Magan’s unboxing friendship. […]

November 2, 2014 - 12:03 am

October 2014 Rewind - […] On A Personal Note: Unboxing Friendships – This post about friendship from Magan at Rather Be Reading really resonated with […]

October 30, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Brooke - Great post Magan! I love the adorable pictures too.
I think it’s only natural to “collect” various types of friends throughout your life- the people who knew you in college, the people who you met through theater and music, and the people who have grown with you professionally or as a mommy… I found at my wedding when I mixed all of these types of friends together at one table, they got along swimmingly. We tend to look for common elements in our friends, whether we realize it and can put our finger on it or not.:)

October 29, 2014 - 4:58 pm

Jessica - I LOVE this post! I definitely understand what you mean about having groups of friends and fearing that they might not get along with each other. I have different friends and I always feel like they might not get along with each other if I invited them to the same thing. Sometimes, they don’t really get along but they make do and that’s okay.

But I’ve also met a lot of friends through other friends and it was only possible through “un-boxing” friendship groups. I definitely have to be more cognizant about not grouping my friendships since it’s easy to fall into routine with friends and just do the same-old. I’m really happy to have friends from so many diverse areas of life because we all bring something different to the table.

October 29, 2014 - 2:43 pm

Lauren at Bookmark Lit - I love this post! I struggle with this a lot, or I used to in the past. I had multiple, distinct groups of friends in high school – and a boyfriend that I forced to fit into every group. It was always interesting when I had to pull everyone together for a birthday gathering..and everyone always had fun! I spent SO much time when I was home from college on breaks flying to different friend dates: breakfast with one person, lunch with another, afternoon shopping with another, dinner with someone else, and nighttime with a last person. Seriously, it was too intense to keep up with! I never wanted to condense the groups because I didn’t want people to feel like I was smushing them together because I didn’t have time for them singularly. I think that was my biggest issue. I still kind of struggle with this at times. You live and you learn! Your real friends will understand. Jumping between different people throughout the day is what ends up hurting them more because it seems like you have to schedule or squeeze them into time slots. Sorry for the rambling!

October 29, 2014 - 1:09 pm

Wendy @ Book Scents - This is so interesting bc I totally tend yo group friends together. I have a lot of very different friends and bc of that I often think it’d be so weird to have them together. Some of that is distance so bc of location they never are together. But anyway, at my wedding this past summer I had all these different groups and I was surprised when they mingled and were chatting with each other. It’s not like they’ll be bffs but it def made me see that my friends don’t just have to be ONE thing. Great post!!

October 29, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Rebecca @ Reading Wishes - ETA is (also) brilliant and this post could basically be inspiration for a YA book about friendships and other good stuff.

October 29, 2014 - 11:10 am

ashley - Friendships are always hard for me because my brain often convinces me that I’m an annoying asshole and people are just hanging around with me because they have no choice and they are humoring me. I’m not saying this is true, but this is how my brain works. That being said, I do have a core group of people in my life who get me and work with me when my brain is like HAHA SUCKER. I don’t really put my friends in a box mostly because they all seem to get each other and mesh well together? If anything I came into the group late and they boxed me! My online friends I tend to box more, not because they’re online friends but because of how I met them. I’m not sure this comment makes any sense, but friendships are complex, so my comment probably is, too.

October 29, 2014 - 10:44 am

Rebecca - Such a beautiful, relatable, thoughtful post and that is a great quote – thanks for sharing it with us. For some reason, it’s easy to group friends: book friends, friends from your childhood, etc and I think a lot people do it. If the situation arises in the future for different friends to meet, I’m going to let it. Not only that, I’m gong to embrace 🙂

October 29, 2014 - 10:01 am

Meg - I’m definitely guilty of categorizing my friendships and not allowing them to grow — something I’ve considered quite often and am working on changing! I’ve even thrown separate holiday get-togethers because I was worried folks wouldn’t “mesh,” but hey: we’re all adults! I should have allowed others to meet and make those decisions for themselves, but I was stressed and being silly. I won’t do that again!

My in-person friendships tend to evolve and change pretty quickly and, unfortunately, I don’t have a close circle of folks I can call at a moment’s notice… but I appreciate the people I do have in my life, and I’m trying to find more balance by nurturing those relationships a bit more. It can feel tough because we’re all in “different places,” but that’s just my own projections again. Whether we’re married or single, with children or not, we’re people. We’re friends. We figure it out.

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