If you were only allowed to have five friends in the world, who would be your five?
The number 3 person on my list asked me this question the other day. And in turn I asked it to a few other people. You’d think it’d be awkward to ask this to someone who is definitely not in your top 5 or vice versa, but I think it’s a mark of a sincere friendship if you can feel comfortable enough with someone to understand and not be insecure about that. Anyway, it’s an interesting thought exercise. A nice caveat is that these are 5 friends excluding your future spouse/life partner, and your family. So no, you don’t have to worry about fulfilling your sexual needs and figuring out who to spend time with on the holidays.
My first three names came quite easily.
Number 1: My best friend. I’ve known her 8 years. We know the best and worst parts of each other, and we accept each other for everything that we are. We support and encourage each other in both personal and career growth. And when I make mistakes and want to crawl into a hole and never come back out, she doesn’t pull me out, she’ll crawl right in there with me. If I told her I murdered someone, she would respond: “I bet they deserved it.”
Number 2: My best friend at work. We have the same work ethic and drive, but also the same thirst for life / fun / adventure. The kind of person where we’ll kill ourselves to get s*** done but at the end of the day hide out in a conference room drinking mimosas to unwind.
Number 3: The person who asked me this question. I can talk to him about almost anything. And we enjoy doing anything together. And if I asked him to fly with me to Greece next month, he would probably do it. I need that kind of person in my life. The kind that is always willing to go on adventures with me. Because yolo.
At this point, I stopped being so sure. These would be my only friends for the rest of my life. The last two people would need to be able to fill whatever needs or gaps the first three couldn’t. Plus I have so many wonderful friends my life, and the idea of having to exclude them felt really awful. But that isn’t a reality I have to ever actually deal with it, so treating this like the thought exercise it is, I tried to consider what exactly it is I value in a long term friendship. And what qualities, to me, makes a person irreplaceable. It was surprisingly not a very long list, but friends are all about quality, not quantity, right?:
1. They love me for, not despite, my flaws. (And vice versa). #1 and #3 especially never make me feel bad about my flaws. They accept them and know I’m constantly working to make myself better. It’s incredibly difficult to find people who can’t help but judge you and hold your flaws against you. Even harder to find people who accept your flaws. And the hardest thing to find is not someone who blindly loves you, but rather someone who knows your faults yet appreciates that those faults are part of what makes you, you.
2. We think similarly. Not in that my friends always agree with me, or even that we have the same philosophy or attitude towards life. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that we can describe our thought process towards something to each other, and the other person would just get it. Perspective empathy, if I had to coin a phrase. I guess this sometimes results in having similar mindsets towards work, having fun, friendship, and life in general. Which is also nice But not necessary.
3. Mutual respect. It’s amazing how important respect is. Respect is what drives you to answer that text and not forget to answer someone, no matter how busy you are. Respect nurtures consideration and thoughtfulness towards another person. Respect means not doing hurtful things like dating your ex-boyfriend or lying to you or talking about you behind your back. Respect means being willing to tell you like it is, because they want the best for you. Respect means trust. Because would you ever respect a person you couldn’t really trust?
4. Supportive. Sounds obvious, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really like to show any weakness. I don’t like needing anyone. So if I feel comfortable enough to share my woes and weaknesses with a friend such that I require their support, well… they’ve crossed a bridge that many people haven’t. And I will have crossed their bridges too.
5. Makes me feel alive. Yep. The first four seem cookie cutter; this one less so. Make me feel alive. I could say: “Challenge me and push me outside my comfort zone” — but the reason I want to be challenged and pushed is because it makes me feel alive. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, but I enjoy the thrills and highs life can provide. I’m often content to sit in my own bubble of stability, so I need a friend whose energy I can build off of (and vice versa) to create the kind of memories and excitement that you remember years later with a huge grin on your face. That quick rush of crazy should I really be doing this and your friend answers why the hell not?
Quality 5 is how I filled the last two spots. Number 4 is an old friend who I didn’t initially include because we don’t think similarly and her approach towards life is one I don’t really understand, but I think that’s how she makes me feel alive. She will do things for the sake of doing them and enjoys them in the moment, and doesn’t get caught up in the end (means vs end) the way I might. To feel alive, you have to live in the moment, and this is something spending the last 5 years with her has taught me well. And she has also been with me in some of the darkest moments of my life. That girl has seen me cry. Supportive AF.
My number 5 was almost my last ex-boyfriend, because even now, he still fulfills 1-4. But I get enough of 1-4 from the others, so my number 5 is someone I dated last year. Not really him, exactly, but everything that he is. Events and circumstance make it hard to actually be good friends, but while he somewhat fulfills #2 and #4, he fulfills #5 very well. But that in of itself isn’t why I value him. He makes me feel alive while at the same time is an interesting combination of the first four people on my list. A great combination of the qualities I admire and the flaws I embrace.
I guess my number 5 is a cop-out, since it isn’t a real person but the idea of. I think I’ll leave that spot open for someone to fill one day.
Try this thought exercise. You might be surprised at how difficult it is. And how difficult picking that last person is. (And if you really feel bad for excluding some of your friends, you can do what I did and tell yourself they’d fit perfectly into your top 10 ;))