We’ve all heard the saying that “friends are the family you choose.” But this phrase, no matter how many times it’s embroidered on a throw pillow, gets the natural order of things all wrong. If you ask me, friends are the family that life chooses for you.
The word forge is an opportune one. It’s as if there are two pieces of metal that, through repeated forceful action, are bonded together. That kind of bonding doesn’t have to end with adulthood. We just have to keep ourselves open to adventure, to change, and to new possibilities. Today, as our world has become more complex and challenging than ever, there are also new possibilities for forging the very connections we need to confront our new troubles.
Your most intense friendships – the ones which bond you to certain people as tightly as family – are forged during dramatic times, when you were younger and it the whole world felt brand new and endlessly exciting. Think about it. You probably formed close friendships when you were in high school, or in college. You might also have bonded with the friends you made at your first job.
Those are the kinds of bonds which last a lifetime. These are the people you stay close to even when your life circumstances change. Even when you back different political candidates, or live on different continents, or fall into completely different tax brackets.
The older we get, though, the harder it seems to form close friendships. Sure, we still meet people, and we still form connections. But it’s not the same. Many of the friendships we create as adults are easy come, easy go. We make friendships that last a season or two and then end when our circumstances change.
Why is that?
I’d say that what really bonds us to other people is a deep sense of trust. It’s the trust that the other person truly sees and knows us and that, even after truly knowing us, they still like us.
That sense of trust is earned through shared experiences. The more of them we have, and the more intense they are, the deeper the bonds will be. That’s because intense experiences expose us. They leave us vulnerable. Our true selves are exposed.
When we’re younger, we have a lot of extreme experiences – we take risks, we try new things. We fall in love, move to another country, or quit our job suddenly. And we’re in it with all these other people having new and formative experiences.
But as we get older, we all get better at protecting our deepest selves. We take fewer risks. We don’t tend to get into extreme situations as much. There’s less adventure in our lives all of a sudden. And that means that we can stay locked up in our private lives, without exposing our inner selves to new people any longer. All of which results in fewer close friendships.
The word forge is an opportune one. It’s as if there are two pieces of metal that, through repeated action, are bonded together. That kind of bonding doesn’t have to end with adulthood. We just have to keep ourselves open to adventure, to change, and to new possibilities. Today, as our world has become more complex and challenging, there are also new possibilities for forging the very connections we need to confront our new troubles.