Life without friendships is like an uncut diamond. Yes, it is still a diamond - but it doesn't have the sparkle or beauty of diamond that is faceted.
Why is it that some people have the gift of making friends? All my life I have been blessed with the ability to make friends easily. I wasn't the most popular kid, the smartest student, the prettiest girl, the most well dressed, wealthy, or athletic. So why was friendship an easy thing for me? I don't really know, but I am guessing that making real friends isn't based on any of those things.
I do have 2 qualities that helped me. First, even as a child I seemed to have a kind of "radar" to avoid people who were not good for me and to cultivate friendships of those who made me more complete. I don't know were that ability comes from - maybe everyone has it, but some people may not listen to that small voice of warning. It has served me well.
Secondly, I accept all personality types. I try hard to look beyond the shell of a person and even the persona the person projects to understand why they act in a certain way. Yes, this takes effort and patience at times. Not every encounter results in a friend, but I do try to understand. Life shapes us and sometimes it creates protective shells making some friendships not possible. But I do see it as a challenge to understand. My best example of this is when I met my husband. He was, even as a young man, a bit of a hermit with a small circle of friends. I was the opposite. I was an education major, with a minor in Drama. Drama - you know what that means - I was outgoing, had tons of friends and not shy at all. We were very different (and we still are). I met him as a college student working part time in a college print shop. He was in charge of the printers, and the lady who hired me was in charge of the front processing area. Prior to introducing me to all the staff, she warned me that he was very quiet and only talked to her. I should not take it personally. HA! I love a challenge!! :-) Silently (and instantly) I vowed that he would talk to me as well - and not once, but as a regular thing. We would be friends. I would be part of the small (exclusive) circle of friends. Yes, that is what I would do. In fact I would get him to ask me out! Yep, that was my goal. Now I didn't actually plan it out 42 years into the future - I was only 20 at the time and I only thought about the next 30 minutes or so! But some friendships just evolve beyond friendship. :-)
And so I am blessed with friends. There are a few that stand out above the rest, mostly because of their longevity even after long periods of separation. One woman has been a friend since the age of 6. We were friends until she went to private high school and I went to public high school. Fortunately we reconnected in college, and were close friends through our early married years, then drifted apart again, but now as seniors we have "drifted" back again. We share a history that spans our lives. That is a hard thing to ignore.
Another friendship began in an usual way. I was engaged to be married and I volunteered to teach the equivalent of Sunday School for the year prior to my marriage. During that time I met a man who was committed to becoming a priest and a friendship sprung up. I think he said his first mass the same day as my husband and I took our vows. We couldn't attend each other's important life changing events, but the friendship continued. Our paths have crossed mostly through email over the years, but we are back in contact again ... just like nothing has changed. Of course in both these friendships, life has molded and shaped our opinions and they aren't always the same, but the friendships remain ... regardless.
Another friendship was made more than 20 years ago. I met this woman in the workplace. We worked together, struggled together, suffered together and celebrated together through years working in the same area. We even competed for the same job - something that would have torn other friendships apart - but we survived it all and even though we have retired into different states, with very different lives, we are still friends. I miss not seeing her.
And now as a senior, I am thrilled beyond measure to find that I still am making friends - my knitting group, my Tai Chi group - these relationships have grown and are evolving, and I am confident that "friend" will be the relationship I have with some of these wonderful people.
Yes, friendship needs to be part of my next 20 years. I have watched several of my elderly relatives lose friendships to death, relocations, or just neglect, and fail to build new social circles - allowing their world to shrink. That won't be me. It's on my list of 20!!