Why Do Friends Stay Friends?
You have lots of friends at any point in your life. What makes some of them friends for life?
We’re almost arrived in the tiny town of Sligo, somewhere in the northwest of Ireland. A friend from business school is getting married and we were not only invited, we’re actually going. We were in Holland anyway and it’s a quick flight just over an hour. Still, it took quite the planning (kids away at sailing camp exactly this week, coordinated with getting them there and back, etc.), flights, hotels, costs, etc. If we were in the States right now, I wouldn’t have made the trip, but seeing that we were in the neighborhood, it worked out perfectly.
But when there’s something you really would like to do, it tends to work out. Maybe not perfectly, but you’re going to make the extra effort. It would have taken no effort to have politely declined the invitation. For a destination wedding, it would have been completely understandable.
But there were around 100 students in that business school class 20 (gulp) years ago. The guy getting married wasn’t even in my class. How do we become (and stay) friends while most don’t? Yes, of course, duh, you have things in common and you make an effort to stay in touch, I get that. But still.
You Usually Have a Choice
You can make most things happen. It’s usually a question of sacrifice: how much are you willing to exchange of what you have to get what you want? If it’s a good friend, you can make it happen. Of course, if it’s just not possible then it’s not possible. But if you really want it, you can make it happen. You’ll work towards making it happen. Sacrifice, priorities, and choice. They’re all intertwined.
A few years ago this same friend was flying through San Francisco, but his layover when from 10 hours to 2 hours. He would have time to just say hello. I drove to the airport and then drove him and his boys to In-N-Out (at their request) and drove them back to the airport. But I made the effort. I specifically remember the day, it was a day chock full with activities, but I made the choice, the sacrifice based on priorities.
There’s something of a balance or “karma” that you can build up, use, and take from in friendships. It’s not math, it’s not science, you can’t really add up the numbers, it’s more of an art. It’s also, like most art, subjective. You might think you’re better friends with the friend than the friend does. But that’s OK, in a way, it doesn’t matter.
We arrived in Sligo now and the first thing I thought of was how happy I was to be here. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t kept in touch, if we didn’t make silly trips to In-N-Out over the years in between transpacific flights to and from Beijing. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t always made it happen. I suppose that’s what good friends are—and how they stay good friends.