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. Dear Alex,
    this post is just sooo honest and relate-able I can hardly find any adjectives to describe my feelings! Hope you understood how I feel LOL! Thank you for writing such a beautiful blog!

    1. Thank you!

      Are you also an immigrant here? Someone pointed out that expatriates experience this alienation more than others.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting and I’m glad the post hit home and really resonated with you. Come back for more! 🙂

      1. No i am not an immigrant luckily 😂😂 but my cousins are immigrant on UK they share me these feelings once they get drunk 😂😂😂 and yes i will definitely come back

      2. LoL at “luckily”! Tell me about it. It’s no easy feat. Interesting to see that this is the same in the UK as well, at least for some of us.

        I look forward to seeing you again haha

  2. I quite like this post, and in my experience, the quality of my friends have really influenced the quality of my life and my attitude towards it.

    I find it hard to cut off old friends, though, even when I am tempted to. A part of me wants to know that someone will stick by me when I am at my worst, and be patient with me when I deserve it the least. So maybe I reassure myself by trying to be that person for others, even if I feel inadequate at it sometimes or that it wouldn’t be reciprocated if the roles were reversed.

    But I have chosen to allow certain friends to drift away because of reasons and I try to remind myself that I have a limit to how much abuse I can endure. I think for me, learning to understand that I neither can nor should endure abuse from friends is a part of me growing in humility. It’s like the person who tries gambling because they don’t think THEY’D be vulnerable to addiction. There’s a part if me that is inclined to think that I can tolerate bad behaviour from friends yet remain strong enough to be unaffected by it in my own life, but intellectually I know that feeling is a lie and if anything, I am more sensitive to it than most people. So I have to remind myself that I am not that special compared to most people, for whom it is obvious to me how they are influenced by the attitudes around them. And for me that’s about reminding myself to be humble.

    And if I do that I remember to protect myself and take care of myself, and become stronger and healthier for that reason.

    But it’s still hard to know when to draw that line, to cut ties with friends and allow them to drift away.

    1. I definitely believe we should stick with our friends through thick and thin, but not always in the same capacity as before. That’s why I explained that even though I don’t keep those people in my primary circle, I still help them when they need it. It’s like falling out of love, but managing to remain friends.

      You sound like a great friend to have, such loyalty. However, don’t let people abuse your generosity. If the love and loyalty isn’t mutual, sometimes it’s time to just let it go. It doesn’t mean cutting them off forever. Sometimes you must leave adults to do adult things IE figure out life on their own.

  3. Erm, where you living, girl? You make it sound like nearly everyone in America is a junkie or a leech or otherwise toxic, which I can assure you is not actually widely accepted and is not “the culture.”

    Perhaps you have moved around many times and have a different experience, I don’t actually know, but I have read here and there before that it is generally harder for expats to make friends, regardless of where they are, but not necessarily to anyone’s fault.

    Another idea that occurred to me is that once people start getting older, especially if they’re coupled, they also generally don’t make as many new friends, and *that* may well be a cultural thing.

    I think it does take a bit more effort to meet people these days, as you mentioned with your friend you meet on the internet, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily. Definitely no reason to hang around with the junkies who were introduced to you, or people who only suck the life out of you.

    1. LoL. I live in Atlanta, and many of the people I met were in/from Illinois, California, Louisiana, Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, and Tennessee.

      I didn’t say everyone in America is a leech or toxic. I obviously married one, and my stepdad is Haitian American. However Americans do have a more individualist and “privileged” culture, which I have never seen among other Caribbean people, or my European friends.

      I’ve never had issues making friends, as I also spoke about in the post. Just yet to meet many people in America I would even want to be friends with. I’ve left the door open to see who comes walking by, but as I’ve said, I’m perfectly content with going it alone if it comes to it.

  4. Some of us are just people passing each other at different times in our lives. Some leave a mark. & Some stay for good.

    It can get painful at times, though, I know. Isn’t that what makes us more grateful for ourselves & the ones we do love? <3

    1. Yes, some people are meant only for a season, not our entire lives. The sad part is when people try to drag those people with them through life. It’s like trying to keep a snowflake frozen in the midst of summer. It just doesn’t work.

      1. I hear you on that. I was guilty of carrying dead weight for many years. Always being “too nice” & all that. With age comes wisdom…

  5. This really resonates with me. I don’t have a huge number of friends and the ones I have are spread all over the country – and the world. I sometimes think I should have more of a social circle close to me, but I feel that maintaining relationships takes too much energy and time to invest in people you don’t have a real connection with. I count myself lucky to have a couple of friends who are always there when I need them and who I can count on to help bury the bodies – and vice versa. And relationships which are damaging definitely have to go!

    1. Good to know I’m not the only one who’s seen this and taken the approach I have.

      Forced relationships of any kind are a waste. I think many people here force friendships with other people they don’t even like just to have friends and to feel social or popular.

      1. I think a lot of people everywhere do that -in rl and online. I think some also do it out of a sense of duty – especially when it comes to family. I’ve given up trying to have healthy relationships with some of mine and cut them out of my life and this shocks some people.

      2. Well it doesn’t shock me at all. I don’t speak to an entire half of my family, on my paternal side, not just my father. They were all part and parcel of the whole thing. I remind myself that if I can get rid of a whole half of my family, I can get rid of anyone.

  6. I don’t know that the shallowness of friendships is so much a cultural thing as an internet thing. It seems like, while social media is great about allowing us to connect with people no matter the distance, it makes the connection so easy it becomes almost meaningless. It gets taken for granted and similarly, I feel like social media often promotes narcissism and a me, me, me mentality. But perhaps since the internet is such a big part of American life, it could be construed as part of our cultural landscape.

    I moved recently as well and have found, when working from home and being an introvert, it is hard to make social connections outside of housemates and family, especially in the suburbs, so this post really resonated with me. It’s such a shame that true friendship is so hard to find.

    1. Thanks Katta! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one experiencing this problem here.

      The funny thing is though I met most of my amazing friends online and through social media. And the one good friend here, I also met online. The other people that I’ve met in America were all introduced to me by other people and almost every last one left me thinking… What the hell..

      America does have a very strong individualist culture though and maybe that plus the narcissism from social media are to blame.

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