.On Friends & Friendships.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” —C.S. Lewis

Throughout my adult life, I have spent many minutes that have amounted to many hours and maybe even days thinking about friendship – what it means, whether I am good at it, how much of it I have compared to other people, and what I need to do (or not to do) to obtain a certain amount. I have to add that I never really had a huge crew of real friends. Maybe a bit over a hand full. I have many friends from all different areas of phases of my life, each tucked into their own neat little orbit and only colliding on rare occasions. Also, combining friend groups is hard. Making new, genuine friends as an adult is even harder – for me. It takes me a while to really trust someone. I don’t have this anxiety, this need, to go out there and meet new people and make friends. Lately, I started thinking about the future of friendships. A good friend of mine just came back from a mission and I actually had tears in my eyes when I saw her. We don’t spend a lot of time together but when we do, it is awesome. Just the knowledge that she is here is enough for me.

With this pandemic, possible lockdowns, and this slightly buzzing anxiety what will happen next, friendships feel more important to me than ever, but in a completely different way. There is still a sense of pressure, but one that is more internal-facing. One that asks me not what I am doing to make more friends, but instead what I am doing to serve the friends I already have. How can I give more and ask for less? Am I reaching out only when I need something, or when I think they might need something? Maybe “pressure” isn’t the right word, because that tends to have a negative connotation, and there is nothing negative-feeling about this desire. It feels more like a kind of yearning, born from the tender space between missing and wanting to be missed in return. While making new friends will always be a worthy pursuit, re-investing some of that time and energy into the ones I already have and love is often even worthier. I am getting better and constantly learn how to get it right, this friendship thing. Especially after big disappointments when you think you are friends with someone and they rat you out behind your back. I again have distinguished between certain kinds of friends and friendships I have formed. I learned that I have to be careful who I talk to and about what; and who my real friends are.

Since I moved to Vienna, I have made friends in aisles at the local supermarket and in bookstores. Sometimes it is just a few minutes of lively small talk, other times it has a Humphrey Bogart-level of promise. It is comforting, in any degree, to feel seen by another person. Once, on a solo trip to the Albertina Museum in Vienna, I said, “So we meet again!” to a woman who wandered near me into all of the same rooms, and we later ordered snacks at the café. A couple of months ago, on a train ride from Coburg to Vienna, I hit it off with a dentist from Bosnia who told me his life story for four hours straight. And for my gold medal of serendipitous friendships, I met my first friend here in Vienna at the Schönbrunn Labyrinth. We sat on a bench next to each other, both glued to our phones while enjoying the sun in fall. We started talking when my son asked me for the millionth time if he can go to the water park part of the playground. “I won’t get wet, I promise,” he added. My now-friend next to me just told me, “They will always get wet!” I responded, “Does it get easier when they get older?” “Nope, just differently interesting. Many days, I am f***ing exhausted!” The friendship was established then and there and we spoke for three hours straight, walked home together, and exchanged numbers.

One secret to deeper friendship? Doing something random and talk. Whenever I meet with my friends, it is just the simplest things, such as sitting somewhere, having coffee, and we can talk for hours like we have never been apart. I also believe in quality over quantity. With these close friends, there is never weirdness, everything is clear, we are there for each other no matter what. I realize and accept that we are all busy at points so there is no resentment or guilt and I am happy to spend time together whenever we can and there is always love when we connect. This is the secret to friendships for me.

 

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