They say your 20’s are meant for finding yourself and your 30’s are for sorting out and getting comfortable with what you want in life. Personally, sitting here in my 30s, I’m finding that what I want most is good relationships with people in my life. If you knew me in my teens, this is probably kind of shocking – back then, I had a handful of people I could tolerate, let alone love. But I’ve never been vocationally driven, creatively over-ambitious, or heard a biological clock ticking to the point of deafening every other thought. As I’ve moved out of my teens, out of my 20’s, and now into my 30’s, PEOPLE matter most to me, and my relationships are what push and pull me in a hundred different directions so that I feel like I’m getting the most out of life.
I’ve always hated the line “You complete me.” Part of this may be because I was on the Rolls-Eyes-At-Tom-Cruise bandwagon before there was a bandwagon. Mostly, I just think it’s a horrible idea because no one person can ever completely fulfill you. It’s a dangerous, romantic idea to invest all happiness and well-being on one person (think “Twilight” style). That way disappointment lies. And resentment. Anger. Often, divorce. No one, no matter how wonderful and no matter how much better they make your life, is perfect all the time. Putting that kind of pressure on a relationship of any kind – marriage, BFFs, doctor/patient – can be disastrous.
And that’s why I’ve learned that I have to let relationships be whatever they are, not what I might want them to be. You can’t make some work, no matter how hard you try to invest and make someone an important part of your life.
- That cool girl might not want to be your BFF, but she could be someone you enjoy immensely whenever your paths cross.
- That person you worship as a mentor might not have time to take you under their wing, but you can still learn from what they can give.
- That guy might not love you like you wish he would, but he could be a great friend who cares about you.
I’ve learned to let relationships be what works. You don’t need to throw people away if they don’t completely fulfill you. That one person might be great in one specific area that everyone else misses, so let other people be the rest of what you’d want from that person.
The reverse is true too. I’ve found I often fall into the trap of trying to be everything for someone. I want to give someone whatever they need from me, whenever they need it. But that can be exhausting and relationship-ending too. I grow resentful, even if I am kind of encouraging them to be emotional vampires. Some of these relationships I’ve learned I have to back off from. I can’t complete people all on my own any more than anyone else can complete me all on their own. But I can be something for them – just not everything. I can still give advice or support when an emotional vampire really, really needs it. I can still send a joke message to that awkward friend when I find something I know he’ll enjoy. I can exchange low-maintenance emails with that girl who’s life has moved in a different direction from mine. I can’t force these relationship be what they once might have been, but they can still mean something to me, each in their own way.
Of course there are different levels of connection, and some people complete us more than others. I have an amazing family, and I have a close circle of friends I love dearly who feed me and love me and get me – we all have these people, I hope. But even in this group of people who fulfill me, it’s a group effort. I get different things from different people – the strain of fulfilling a person’s needs is best passed around, I think. I don’t go to my girl friends for advice I know I’d respect more from my parents, for example (that might seem abnormal, but there it is – my parents are awesome). I likewise don’t expect my parents to understand memes about “New Girl.”
- I have a friend I talk to about hairstyles.
- I have a friend with whom I discuss religion.
- I have a brother with whom I share more personal life angst than I dare expose anyone else to.
- I have a friend who shares my hermit/introvert problems.
- I have a childhood friend who gets my past and how it still affects me today.
- I have someone I met at a party who is more supportive of my books than anyone in my day-to-day life.
- I have an author friend who knows the writing headspace and also knows that sometimes I just need a break where we have stupid conversation for an hour.
It’s good to have people to count on. Everyone in your “inner circle” shares something unique with you, probably. It’s good to have go-to people. It’s good to know who can handle what level of your crazy.
For me, I also know that, no matter how much I love the people who fall into the categories above, I’m always going to need new people too. It’s not that I get bored with people in my life
too often… but it’s nice to bring in new blood and see more of humanity.
One of my favorite quotes:“Sometimes you run into someone, regardless of age or sex, whom you know absolutely to be an independently operating part of the Whole that goes on all the time inside yourself, and the eye-motes go click and you hear the tribal tones of voice resonate, and there it is – you recognize them.” – Anne Lamott
And it’s these “ah-ha” kindreds, as well as these people who have something that makes them completely stand out, that maintain my faith in humanity. I think you also have to let these people just be what they are without forcing these “single serving friends” to mean more than they can. If you meet someone on Twitter who shares your love of Supernatural and you go on to become BFFs, great. If someone shares a great moment with you and you never hear from them again after that day, that can be great too, if you look at it right. Let it be what it is.
I guess all this boils down to letting go of control. Control of other people. Control of relationship definitions. Control of what you think you need and what you think you need to be. Let everyone in your life have their own space that is just theirs and don’t demand they fit the mold of some idea in your head. With less pressure, less expectations, who knows? You might find fulfillment from a thousand different sources.