Show Me Your Friends & I’ll Tell You Who You Are

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At sixteen years old, I made the tough decision to eliminate my biological father from my life forever.

Although… if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t that tough at all. He was an unhealthy addition to my life for countless reasons, and when I finally decided to drop the guillotine, it was the most freeing decision I had ever made in my entire life.

Once he was out of the picture, my depression lifted – and along with it, my self-destructive habits and a dangerous courting of suicide. The storm that had followed me through high school and my first year of college lifted too, and I was happier than I had ever been.

From that experience, I learned two things. The first is that people are the single most important influence on our happiness in life. The second is that it’s easier to keep bad influences out, than to get rid of them later on.

Luckily, at the time I had a great support system and an amazing network of friends, which I can still count on today.

Lucky Me

I wrote about these friends in previous articles, and the great luck I’ve had with finding selfless, giving people who understand the importance of living for more than ourselves. These are the friends you  call at midnight to help you bury a body – if you catch my meaning.

My friends come from all over the world, from all walks of life, and all socio-economic strata. Throughout my 26 years, I’ve befriended thugs, architects, hippies, executives, entrepreneurs, college graduates, high school dropouts, and everything in-between.

And not one of them became my friend by accident.

Mother Knows Best

My luck with friendships started at a very young age. I was always the gregarious and precocious child; taking after my biological father who had the natural charm most closet-psychopaths are blessed with.

Perhaps a little worried by my tendency to attract a large “following”, my mother cautioned me day after day with one saying after another. She warned me about the influences of “bad company” and repeated several times:

Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.

I took that mantra seriously, and it really helped me to make better decisions about the friends I kept and how they influenced who I was and who I wanted to be.

Sage Advice from Catholic School

This followed me into high school, where on orientation day they saw fit to share what I thought was the most ridiculous advice I had ever received. Thus, the very first thing I learned in Catholic school was:

Choose your friends. Don’t let them choose you.

Naturally, I rolled my eyes and sighed. Adults and their onslaught of stupid advice, I thought. That doesn’t even make sense. If we are the ones choosing our friends, doesn’t the friend then end up being the one who ‘lets us choose’ them? Wouldn’t that make it impossible for them to follow this advice, which they’re getting too? It doesn’t add up.

But as the weeks flew by in high school, I began to understand the real wisdom behind the seemingly pointless words. I learned that I did not need to be friends with someone just because we shared a common space, or lived up the street from each other, or once had the world in common when we now don’t.

Gradually, I began to understand that as we grow and mature, the friendships that can’t grow and mature with us have to be left behind, or they hinder our development. Thus, as I developed and matured, I made the (always) difficult decision to cut some friends loose and let our relationship fade into oblivion.

I remained civil with them, still helped when they needed it, and even hung out from time to time. But they were no longer a part of my primary circle. As many later matured or developed interests which matched my own, we became friends again. And for those who ten years later have not moved forward at all? – well, I can’t remember the last time we exchanged hellos.

Application to Life Today

After moving to a new country where the only people I knew in my immediate vicinity were my family, I found myself needing to build a brand new group of friends.

But since living in America, I’ve met very few people I actually want to be friends with. I’ve met felons; drug addicts; people who couldn’t hold down a job, even if their life depended on it; serial cheaters; and several who had a wealth of opportunities, and wasted every last one.

The more people like these I meet, the more I remind myself that:

The people we make memories with every day not only affect who we are as individuals, but who we become in the days, months, and years to come.

Of course, we all have our struggles in life – some more visible than others. In fact, many of my friends have struggled with substance abuse, mental illness, and long periods of self-destruction.

The Great Divide

But there are two things that separate my friends from many of the people I have met here.

The first is that my friends have managed to keep it together, and become successful people, regardless of their personal demons. Whether they’ve completed masters degrees early in life, trucked their way through med-school, started successful businesses, moved to new countries and landed big exec jobs, or quit their jobs long before I did to travel the world – they’re all doing great things.

The second is that they never allow their problems to inconvenience others. Many of the people I’ve met here think nothing of bringing sober friends around when they want to do drugs, or hang out with junkies; and constantly expect favours while never giving anything in return. They bank on friendship and a strong past history for loyalty and respect, but rarely ever bring anything to the table themselves.

My Mom and I have discussed this a lot, since last summer. She thinks it’s a cultural thing, and I’ve begun to think she just might be right. But I hope she isn’t. I hope we’re both wrong on that account.

But if this is the norm here, I’m more than prepared to spend the rest of my years in the U.S. with a circle of friends, smaller than a needle’s point. Right now, I have only one friend within a 30 mile radius and I am just fine with that.

Life is about building great experiences, and if you can’t find good people to share them with, be content with enjoying life on your own.

Because if you can’t enjoy your own company, why should anyone else?

While in Illinois, I really hit my limit, getting hardly any time to hide from names and faces. Thankfully, we had one day – or at least a few hours – to ourselves before returning home. Check out the pictures from our brief respite.

43 thoughts on “Show Me Your Friends & I’ll Tell You Who You Are

  1. This was as if I wrote it. I too decided to cut my father (and one of my brothers) out of my life because I didn’t want what they were doing around me. I am not one to stay around someone who makes me feel worthless or scared.

    I have also disconnected with a few friends after I realised I was being used and they were not inputting into the relationship like someone who cares about me should.

    It does take 2 to make any relationship work and cannot be one sided.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you also had an a-hole father not worth keeping around. It happens. But isn’t life much more freeing without them?

      Learning when to cut negative people out of our lives is just as important as showing appreciation to those we want to keep.

  2. I feel a connection with most of what you said, however, there is an abundance of people one would be lucky to have as a friend- and that friend may very well be a felon, a drug-addict, or someone who did not achieve conventional/monetary success. Felons can and do leave prison and open youth-centers that help guide high-risk kids from following the same dark path, drug-addicts are not a single entity compelled to lie, cheat, and steal to maintain the addiction they are likely battling with great shame (and who knows what tragedy may have led them to numb themselves?), and success, well… Shit… there are people who work their fingers to the bone and people who never stop following their dreams, and many of them cannot make ends meet. And these people might very well be the savior in someone’s darkest time, loyal to a degree that saves someone’s life! Truly, I agree with much of what you said. I just feel many could miss on quality friendships if those mentioned souls that carry such stigmas summoned a collective shudder from the rest of the world.

    1. That is true, which is why I pointed out that many of my own friends had endured their struggles as well.

      But they’ve managed to rise above it on all occasions, while many of the people I met were still wallowing or making excuses for their mistakes. Some were proud of going to prison and didn’t care if they ended up there again. Others were not, but were still doing the same things and hanging with the same people/kind of people who sent them there.

      I do believe everyone deserves a chance, but I also know I’m not the one who has to give it. Experience has taught me that you don’t need to do bad things to get in trouble. You just have to be present when those doing bad things are caught.

      I’ll pass.

      1. “I do believe that everyone deserves a chance, but I know that I am not the one who has to give it.” Sometimes you read a sentence three times in a row because it just really makes a damn good point. That was absolutely one of them!

      2. Haha. Well, thank you. When you spend as much time in your head as I do, SOME witty wisdom has got to come out of it. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

      3. No, thank you for seriously being an incredibly open-minded blogger who creates an environment where so many people are made comfortable and encouraged to chime in! You genuinely seem to respect all opinions and that rarity that has completely made a new fan this morning. Lovely to have stumbled upon you. Look forward to reading more of what you share from the time spent in your head.

  3. Hi Alex! I love your post, it’s really inspired me to work harder on my own blog. I still live in the city that I grew up in and one of the things I’ve learnt is that people have a really weird way of popping back up in your life when you least expect it. I’m just about to go to a party with my friend of 29 years and my ex, who she made friends with at the gym without realising who he was. I haven’t seen him in 13 years so it should be interesting! I’ve also learnt that the best friends are the ones that you don’t speak to weeks or months (or even years) but who are always happy to reconnect. Don’t be afraid to let people drift away, if theyre meant to be in your life they’ll find a way back 🙂

    1. Thanks Lucinda! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m always happy to encourage others to work hard on their crafts as well.

      I’m glad you pointed out how great friends are the ones you don’t need to interact with daily to stay in touch. The connection is still sure no matter how long you take to reach out. I’ve experienced that as well. So like you said, we should never be too afraid to let them drift away and come back when they’re ready.

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