Friendship.

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My best friend, Monica and I at Badlands National Park

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. And I will continue to say it. I’m a woo. I love the challenge of meeting new people, making friends, and winning others over. For me, meeting people and making friends is thrilling. It’s an adventure. A high.

It’s always been easy for me to make friends and it’s something I am proud of. My ability to win others over and build friendships is part of who I am. You don’t typically see me without someone by my side.

I like to think that my personality attracts others and that is why I have a tendency to make many friends and why I can jump from group to group. But I have never thought about what actually goes into making friends. Until recently.

As I continue to assess my values and the things that make me tick, I realize that the things that I value are things that I see in others-especially those closest to me. The most important aspects of my life are shared with the most important people in my life. I see my values embodied in the character traits of my friends.


I am not trying to brag or to scream about the multitude of friends that I have. The intention of this post is not that at all. I just want to explore the inner workings of friendships and how friendships evolve over time as we as individuals evolve and transform as we experience the world around us.

I believe friendship is fluid. It is something that takes work and constantly changes. We have the ability to put thought and effort into friendships and to change our minds about friends at any time. I believe that the roles that our friends play in our lives are fluid as well. People enter and exit our lives at different points for a reason. The role that they played years ago may be different from the role they currently play in your life.


I have best friends, ride or dies, close friends, acquaintances and friends-of-friends, convenient friends, and even online friends.

I have childhood friends, high school classmates, college roommates, and colleagues that I consider friends. Each one serves a different purpose in my life. Each one is wildly different from the next and is valuable to me in a vastly different way.

I believe we have relationships with different people for different reasons. Friends come and go at different times of your life. And sometimes this is hard to grasp. In fact, I really struggle with this concept. As a woo, I fight so hard to build a relationship and cultivate it so that it grows, and sometimes I feel like I put far more investment into my relationships than others. That’s fine, but it can be exhausting too.


When I moved to South Dakota, I knew no one. This was exciting. It meant there was a new challenge. A time to build new relationships and make new friends. That’s exactly how I approached this move. And I have made some amazing new friends in the short time that I have lived in Vermillion.

In reverse of this, moving far away meant long-distance relationships with all of my friends from Michigan. I didn’t think anything of this at the time. I was so excited to try something new and I felt so strongly about the relationships that I had with my friends that I didn’t think that the distance would be a big deal or that maintaining our relationships would be difficult. I was wrong.

It takes a lot of work to maintain long-distance relationships. I see why long-distance romantic relationships don’t always work out. I totally get it now.


I guess these thoughts have crossed my mind because I just spent the majority of my spring break by myself and while it was refreshing, it was also lonely. Suddenly it felt like all of my friends were gone. I realized this week how convenient college is and how you become friends with people because they literally live with you and you see them every day. This is not what it is like in the real world and I am not sure that I am emotionally ready for this absence of friends. I realized how much work I put into the relationships with those around me as well as the relationships with my friends from home.

I was reminded of this post I saw a while ago. I have followed Jedidiah Jenkins on Instagram for some time now, and I am often inspired by his words. It is people like him who reiterate my love for language, words, and the power of voice. In this post he writes about friends, and this concept of “friendlies”. I saved this post as a reminder for moments like this-when I am feeling the inconveniences of long-distance relationships and maintaining friendships as an adult.


I guess what I am trying to say in this post is that if you’re reading this, you probably know me pretty well. We have a friendship, a relationship that is special. One that is far different from any friendship that I have with anyone else. Know that I value you. I love you. And even if I don’t call, text, or write you every day-or even every month-I still consider you a friend. I know that you are here to serve a purpose and bring something of value to my life-and I yours. It may be guidance, a listening ear, laughter, advice for the future, a refined sense of adventure, or a new music selection. Whatever your role in this friendship, I appreciate it. Thank you!

Huge shout out to my supervisor, Sarah, for shedding some light on adulting and maintaining friendships. I appreciate you listening and pulling me out of my spring break funk.


Remember…find your tribe and stick with them.

Big love,

-Joel

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Dialogue.

I am a conversationalist.  I love to create space in which we can talk for hours, and indulge in meaningful conversation.  This week the concept of dialogue has been brought up to me multiple times, and has had me thinking about what it means to create dialogue.


My Sociology of Adult Education course has a great emphasis on classroom discussion and participation.  For this to be effective and meaningful we must first know what it takes to create dialogue and how to engage with others correctly from a sociological standpoint.  Last week, we started with a segment dedicated to creating dialogue.  I have been thinking about it ever since.

Maybe it was already on my mind, because I had an amazing conversation with one of the students that I advise, or maybe it’s because I am a natural communicator, storyteller, and lover of words.  I am not sure, but this segment of class resonated with me.


We discussed how the three pillars of successful, effective, and meaningful dialogue are Love, Humility, and Faith.  Creating rich dialogue and conversation with others requires a great deal of these three things.  Let me break it down for you.

Love:  To engage someone in conversation-I mean conversation, not small talk…anyone can engage in small talk…and I HATE small talk.  Let’s get deep, people!-you must express love to them.

Love is a commitment to others-I am not talking physical, or sexual love, but emotional love-and being vulnerable enough to share, and discuss things of importance and meaning is an act of committing yourself to someone.  This takes shape in many situations:  first dates, job interviews, shared taxi’s, and with the person sitting next to you in class.  Think about how you met your best friend.  It probably started with small talk or a shared interest, but with more meaningful conversation, you realize that you care deeply for this person, you connect with them, you love them, and this friendship is a commitment that you’ve made.

Love is an act of bravery.  You must have the confidence and willingness to make the first move, open up, start the dialogue.  It’s the reason why we talk about weather and have awkward moments with the people we don’t know very well or care much about.  We don’t show bravery for those we don’t love.  If you’re brave enough to let your guard down and to love the people you interact with you are brave enough to engage in dialogue.

Humility: Dialogue requires more than just showing love to the person/people you’re engaging with.  It requires more than the bravery and vulnerability that it takes to open up to someone.  It requires humility.  You must truly listen to those you’re engaging with as well.  You must set yourself aside for a moment and listen to everything that they have to say.  If you are listening with arrogance or the sole purpose of responding, the dialogue will not happen.  It will be a one-sided conversation, or it will end in small talk.  You will not grow from this interaction, you will not gain meaning from it.  Dialogue requires two or more people who are willing to listen to those that they’re engaging with, and to listen-truly listen-and learn from your partner you must have humility.

Faith: The third pillar of dialogue is faith.  You can only create dialogue with someone if you have faith that it will go somewhere.  You must set aside your differences, biases, judgement, and doubts and have faith in humankind.  Dialogue requires that you have faith in creating conversation, re-creating conversation, and learning as you go.  It means making mistakes, tripping over your words, getting choked up, and still having faith that the conversation isn’t dead.  Faith is all about trusting that even when the conversation is tough or leads somewhere unexpected, that it will yield growth and maturity, that you’ll learn from this experience, and it will lead you to a closer relationship with those you’re chatting with and knowing that when it goes sour-because faith also means being critical at times-it’s OK.


These three pillars are so important to my work as a Student Affairs professional-as well as in all other fields-and in moving from small talk and casual conversation to meaningful dialogue.  They’re the reasons why I love working with students.  They allow me to get to know the students that I work with.  They help me to share my story and to encourage my students to do the same.  Love, humility, and faith are the reasons why I am able to create horizontal dialogue with my students and in turn build relationships and connections with them.  It all happens through courageous conversation aka dialogue.


Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how I engage in dialogue over the past week and really concentrating on how I converse with those around me and what I am communicating to them.  Am I building dialogue?  Am I allowing my students to feel comfortable creating dialogue with me?

Today, is Valentines Day and since love is one of the three pillars of creating dialogue, I thought I would share some of my thoughts.  It’s also the perfect day to express to the ones you care about how you feel about them.

I challenge you all to have love, humility, and faith, and tell someone you care today.  It doesn’t have to be someone you’re romantically interested in, just someone you deeply care about.  Express your love for them, and start building a world of healthy dialogue.

 

Big love to you all today,

-Joel