Do your friends look like this? (please say no, please say no, seriously, please say no!) Good, because mine don’t either. Actually, I have no idea how to describe, categorize or even explain my friends or my friendships because I’m at a point where I’m not sure who my actual friends are. I at least know they aren’t a homogenized collection resembling any given 90s TV show cast. However, I keep asking myself…Do I have any friends? Do I have any real friends? Am I just surrounded by a Facebook list of hundreds of acquaintances? The truth is I don’t know.
Yesterday, one of my biggest inspirations in community leadership posted a comment on Facebook about former friends and how things are different now that she’s at a different place in her career and life. It really struck the proverbial chord. I too am at that place…a former “titled” individual who lunched, dined, schmoozed and hobnobbed with the “finest.” But long gone are those days and I am my own free-spirited leader; hustling and pounding the pavement in the good name of mental health. I wonder, do those friendships from my previous circle transfer over to this one? Am I worth the same to them now that I’m on my own? Or were they just transactional friends.
Now, I’ll admit transactional friendship wasn’t even in my vernacular until yesterday when another inspiration of mine, one who speaks out for social justice, brought it up as a response to that post. Ding! Ding! Ding! There it was; reality staring at me in midst of a Facebook response. I had many transactional relationships and perhaps I confused them with real relationships. And no, they are not the same.
I recently read that NEED drives friendships. If you have some type of need, you pursue that relationship. It could be professional, emotional or financial. After all, why do we have friends in the first place…because the need to be social and have companionship. I don’t have that need. I do better off on my own and admittedly, I’m not a very good companion anyway. I don’t have the professional need either. Spending time with people for professional gain is not my thing. It might have been once, but I realize its superficiality is not good for mine or anyone’s mental health. So what about the overall transactional need from me?
Well that’s easy. Most people in my circle these days started transactionally and easily moved into real deal friendships. They are lovers of art, culture, politics, social justice and of course, good ole’ mental health. They are interested in me and I in them and what they have to offer; not in terms of tangible or emotional goods but opinions, creativity and differences. They have value which is a genuine and rare commodity.
Think about your friends. How many of them add value to your life? Not just to make you laugh or to have fun with but have you over for a holiday when they know you have no family in town or text you when you are sick as a dog asking if you need anything. Yeah, some may argue that those are transactions but I say no. They are offering, not taking. They are not earning or gaining in return.
In today’s day and age of digital friendships, which I seem to have a lot of, we forget how real friendships and bonds are made. I know everyone’s vacation plans, dinner menu, broken down car story and good/bad parenting stories. But how well do I know them; their favorite artist, political views (other than Trump/Clinton), their childhood stories or heartaches. And let’s face it, people don’t share their grief on Facebook unless they’re asking for prayers or someone has passed. And that’s fair because who wants to bog down anyone with their problems.
Speaking of which, that why I chose to share my truth and continue to do so. It’s not just because I was starting a non-profit or giving a TEDX. It was because I knew I couldn’t be the only one out there like this. It’s surprising who came out of the woodwork to reach out to me and who didn’t.
Right now I’m an island unto myself and I’m okay with that. It’s liberating. I’m learning who my people are and they know that with me, they get the real deal. So transactional friends be gone; nobody got no time for that!