Friendship

Consider this page to be perpetually incomplete. Perhaps there is just an outline here waiting to be fleshed out. There’s always more to add, but it was lasted updated on: [8/4/2020]

Sometimes when you meet someone new, you feel a strong connection to them. This can happen for a variety of reasons. But for me, the feeling of connection is always accompanied by a feeling of frustration. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is at the heart of me making friends as an adult.

The frustration results from the new potential friend not knowing anything about you (and vice versa)—despite an excellent first encounter, they don’t know your history or your true level of sincerity about anything. I always have a strong desire to explain myself to these rare people—but this explanation isn’t justification, it’s evidence. I want to be seen and see in return.

It’s like this: you love a thing, whether that is a TV franchise, a book series, or whatever. You’ve loved it forever, and you know everything about it. You love to discuss it. Then, one day, one of your friends begins to also enjoy that thing—they watch the first episode, read the first book, or whatever—and all the sudden you want them to just be done with it. You don’t want to rush their experience, but you want to share your full one with them and enjoy it together. (Adam Smith discusses this phenomenon in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, “Chapter II: Of the Pleasure of mutual Sympathy“)

The same holds true with people: until you know a great deal about them (“watched the series of their life,” so to speak), and they know a great deal about you, you can’t forge a truly deep (Aristotle’s friends of virtue) relationship with them. This process, unfortunately, cannot be rushed, although I’d imagine there are always exceptional cases where things can move faster than usual.

This might otherwise be called the frustration with acquiring old friends. You can’t just make an old friend who’s known you for a while, and consequently understands you more than others might (and vice versa). If you want more friends like this, you have to start today and let them mature over the course of years.

There’s nothing to do about this frustration—good friendships take time to build, even with someone who is remarkably like you. But being aware of the emotion, and why it exists, is beneficial nonetheless. It primes me to cultivate new friendships when opportunity strikes, and to continue to cultivate friendships that I’ve made.

For anyone who’s read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, the desire to be seen and understood by a friend could be called Claudia Syndrome. In this conversation between two vampires, Armand is explaining why to Louis why he’s having a hard time leaving his longtime companion Claudia, even if it is necessary:

“[Claudia is] an era for you, an era of your life. If and when you break with her, you break with the only one alive who has shared that time with you. You fear that, the isolation of it, the burden…”

And then, of course, there is this song: