A friend told me last night, “Everyone has flaws.” Of course, everyone does. It’s just that when it comes to my best friends, the people i love, i have a much harder time accepting flaws. Because i’m too much of an idealist.
I hold the people i love to a much higher standard. I want them to be perfect. I want them to be the kind of people everyone respects, adores, and emulates. I want them to be the shining ideal of a person, a representation of all the things i stand for. And when they fail to be that, i’m crushed and inconsolable. It hurts me deeply.
And that makes me afraid i’ll never be happy with anyone.
A dragonfly at the SETI campus, 10/15/10
The last three days have been so emotionally charged, i don’t even know where to begin.
Things have been amazing at work. My girls and i have bonded so much that i already get misty thinking about how i won’t get to continue teaching my 2nd graders next year when they move up to the 3rd grade. One of my favorite students took the opportunity of my midterm exam essay prompt to write a letter to me expressing the same exact sentiment, thanking me for all my efforts and dedication, and asking if we can be friends. Luckily, she lives across the street from me, so i’ll be able to hang out with her next year.
The days leading up to the SETI training were so stressful with students mobbing me to argue about grades that the training was the most gratifying vacation i could’ve asked for. It was so good seeing everyone (well, mostly everyone) in one place again; i wanted to hug everybody but there were just too many people. I think learning is my favorite bonding experience. I can’t help but bond with fellow students (i don’t like the word “trainees”), and i just feel so at ease in a learning environment. I’ve always loved school. I love that i still get to go to school everyday, and i hope to learn and teach in some manner for the rest of my life. I want my second home to be a school, always.
And finally, i don’t know what i’d do without the friends i’ve made here. I have friends who travel over an hour just to help me mark essays, and we somehow make a great time of it. I think that in itself is a testament to how amazing they are. And i now have an important person in my life whom i can care for and who cares about me in return. He makes my life here complete.
For once, i’m perfectly content.
Nothing sinks more heavily in your stomach than the realization that someone who you thought liked you really hates you.
More and more, i’m inclined to think that making friends isn’t a matter of chance, or even of preference; it’s a matter of knowing what you want to learn, and recognizing who can help you learn those things. Does that make friendship utilitarian? I don’t know, but let’s take a look what Aristotle had to say on the matter:
It seems that not everything is loved, but only what is worthy of love, and this is what is good, pleasant, or useful. What is useful, however, would seem to be what is instrumental to some good or pleasure, so that what are worthy of love as ends are the good and the pleasant. —Nicomachean Ethics, VIII. ii. p.145
So even if you’re friends with someone because he or she is “instrumental to some good or pleasure,” the end you ultimately strive for is that good or pleasure. The bottom line is, there is some good or pleasure we desire, and we become friends with those who provide us with it.
Let’s start with the goods. What kinds of goods do we seek? Well, obviously they vary from individual to individual, but the one most commonly identified and discussed by philosophers is happiness. It seems that the “small” goods we seek add up to the “big,” self-sufficient good of happiness.
Then let’s assume that we make friends because they help us attain that good of happiness. How do my friends make me happy? Personally, i’m happy when my friends care for me and teach me new things. Some of my friends don’t do either of these things, and yet i call them “friends.”
I think the happiest i was between elementary school and college was in 9th grade, when for the first time, i had a close-knit group of friends. Before then, i had gone from best friend to best friend, once valued friendships dissolving for no particular reason, but in 9th grade, three of my friends and i had the time of our lives in Bio and Phys Ed together. Actually, i don’t know if they enjoyed it as much as i did, but those two consecutive class periods were some of the best times i ever had. We each had our own friends too, and we were never a foursome—the kind of group where if one member was missing, an outsider would wonder why. Instead, we were simply four girls enjoying school, without any obligations toward each other, but still valuing our time together. I wish i still had that, but there’s nothing i can do about the different paths that all the people who enter my life take.
I guess i’m writing about friendship because it’s an area of my life in which i fail so miserably. I don’t know what happened as i grew up, but with each year, it gets increasingly difficult for me to make friends and keep them. Does this happen to everyone? I wouldn’t know, cos i don’t have any friends to talk to about this. Okay, so that might not do justice to the few friends i still do keep in close contact with, but there’s something to be said for those rare but palpable quandaries when i find myself needing to talk to someone other than my parents, and i can’t help but ask myself, ‘Who is the most appropriate friend to talk to about this? Who is actually available? And who wouldn’t mind taking an hour out of their busy night to talk to me?’
Don’t get me wrong; i have great friends who care about me and whom i care about in return. And some of them would probably be offended if they knew such trains of thought run through my head when i need them. But there’s still a lot that i miss about my childhood friendships.
There’s something about late night heart-to-heart’s in New York. The hustle and bustle of everyday life in the city makes you yearn so much for human connection that even sustained eye contact becomes something to be cherished, and soul-satisfying conversations crawl their way into secret repositories, like this one.
While the city was celebrating 420, my friend and i sat in bed, Guinness draughts in hand. We shared our individual pasts, reminisced over our high school years, and revealed our hopes and dreams. Maybe it was the Guinness talking, but maybe it was also our hearts connecting.
For the first time in a long time, i had what i call a “committed conversation.” We each had the other’s undivided attention for once, undistracted by the city’s beauties and failings. The tension of NYC in daylight fell away as we drank, leaned back, and indulged in the silence of my room and the authority—the sweet audibility—of our voices.
Last night replenished my soul, and i’m finally unafraid to plow through the three weeks i have left here.
Today, i got the closure i needed. I was hurt a year and half ago and brutally reminded of that hurt two weeks ago, which made forgiving very difficult. But i’ve come to realize that it’s not forgiveness that matters—it’s the memories. Sure, he’s made mistakes, but somehow, my memories of what he and i shared remain untainted. I recognize the good in him, and i remember the love we shared, and that’s all i need. It’s unfortunate that it had to end this way, but that doesn’t diminish the power of what we had, and it doesn’t weaken the love we still have for each other, and forever will.
Today, we vowed to never forget each other. And that’s enough.
What do you do when he who has hurt you irreparably wants to get back in touch?
What do you do when you can’t forgive him but don’t want to hurt him either?
What do you do when you know that forgiving him would mean hurting your loved ones?
artist credit: Kevin Townsend