Should certain friendships have an expiration date? You know, like Parmalat?
OK, it’s not necessarily the nicest of questions, for sure, but it’s an honest one. I mean, imagine if you lived your whole life on a boat—think Noah’s ark! Just as Noah was in charge of filling his ark with animals, you would be in charge of curating the crew on yours. Who would you invite to weather the storm with you? How would they work together in close quarters? You’d want to choose people who are strong, positive, resilient … people who wouldn’t drive you or anybody else crazy after a few days at sea. Inevitably, you would have to turn some people away. You would do this all with the mindset of building something bigger than yourself.
Not just a collection of people, but a community.
In real life, we are all at the helm of our own arks, determining who we allow into our lives to join us for the ride. Most people have a blind spot when it comes to their choice. They don’t realize that they have the power to choose and design their friendships, or don’t see the reasons behind why they chose their friends in the first place. They’ll remain loyal to friendships long past their expiration date, or continue to show up at parties that stopped being fun a while ago with friends they might “love” but don’t necessarily “like” anymore.
Ever hear the expression “alone in a room full of people”? It’s not a great place to be. It was in this exact place that I found myself in my mid-twenties. I had a big group of friends, but very few deep connections. I had collected people from various stages of my life—high school, college, summer jobs—who were all friends with different parts of me. It was my eclectic gang, but I couldn’t honestly call them a community, or even put them in the same room together! I had friends I liked but never saw, friends with whom I had unresolved issues, friends who partied a little too much. I felt uninspired, lonely and stuck. Where was my rightful tribe?
(Warning: I’m going to age myself now.)
When I heard that lyric from Pink Floyd’s song “Breathe,” “All you touch and all you see is all your life will be,” I had a big realization: It was me who created this scene! Once again, there was no maybe about it. It was my own hypocrisy that had caused my discontentment. I wasn’t in love with my group of friends, but I hadn’t been doing anything about it. I continued to tolerate them and inwardly judged them, but avoided having honest conversations that might make a difference. It was my M.O. to put all my marbles into a relationship with a boyfriend, so I could avoid having to deal with how disconnected I felt from everybody else. I had a revelation: I was just like my mother, who had my father and two best friends, and then a rotating cast of so-so acquaintances. That was the last straw. I knew I had to do better.
If I created this problem, then it was mine to fix, re-imagine and re-invent.
I literally went through my community and confessed what a fake I had been. Telling the truth in this area was one of the first big plays I made for designing my life. I had an image of what I really wanted: Friends who were incredibly smart, creative, passionate, responsible and kind. I craved a community of people who knew everything about me, that I would feel proud and honored to be part of. In crafting the details of this dream community and its constituents, I recognized a few red flags that wouldn’t fly. I finally understood the magnitude of friends as the family you choose, and I didn’t want to tolerate mediocre friendships anymore. I wasn’t OK with having friends who were cheaters, downers, heavy drinkers, party people or liars.
Not on my ark!
I ended some of these friendships and salvaged a few others by having some tough conversations. Some of my friends also had a list on me! But the truth is that most of them faded away as I started to become a different person. Having a new standard for the type of people I hung out with changed my own priorities and behaviors. I stopped being the cruise director that tried to fit everybody together, and instead started drawing the line and creating boundaries I felt good about upholding. As I spent less time with people who didn’t interest me, I had more time to seek out new ones—who were easy to find when I looked in the right places. Over time, I started attracting new friends into my life that fit the bill for the type of community I wanted to create, and I watched with gratitude and amazement as that community grew around me and flourished.
To this day, I have a dream for the friends and community on my ark. It’s the same dream that informs the work I do and the company I have developed over the past 20 years. I have a vision of building the world, of inspiring a new way of thinking, of raising human consciousness.
This is a big dream—too big to accomplish on my own. That’s why I populated my ark with the best, most inspiring friends I could find. Life is wildly more fun when you spend it with people you really love.
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This post originally appeared on handelgroup.com.
Photo credit: Matheus Ferrero, Unsplash