I plop down in my seat and toy awkwardly with the string of my clunky wrist brace. There’s something strange about my wrists in that, sometimes, with no warning sign, it will feel like someone has jammed a thin knife between the carpals that are my wrist—needless to say, it’s painful. Flare-ups require temporary wearing of the brace which I hate because it’s not even black. It’s the orthopedic style with flesh-tones and ugly Velcro. It makes me a bit self-conscious, but not enough that it would prevent me from dulling the pain.
“Oh, Abby! What happened to your wrist?” The girl who sits next to me in class sets her stuff down as she takes her seat, her eyes focused on my hand-me-down brace.
I shrug. “It’s nothing, really, I just have this thing where…”
And before I know it, in the middle of my response, my classmate has turned to someone else for a more animated conversation, not even waiting long enough to pretend to be interested in my reply. My mind instantly turns angry, betrayed. If she hadn’t cared about my reply, why had she asked in the first place?
Even retelling this now, I’m wincing at the burn of that blatant rejection.
Please imagine me giving a wholehearted and melodramatic sigh as I stare catatonically out a window.
Relationships are hard.
When I say relationships, I don’t mean of the romantic sort, although I’m sure those apply. I wouldn’t know, however, because for a 19-year-old college girl I seem to be significantly lacking in the romance department… but that’s a tale for another time.
Essentially, what I mean to say is that relationships of any kind are messy and trying. Even the sweetest of friendships have their tests. Some of our trials even come from people like my dear classmate. It’s easy for miscommunications to occur, and sometimes if those miscommunications pair with a general lack of communication, it can completely wreck a relationship.
People are a vital part of our existence. If you believe in God, you believe that He designed the system intentionally for us to be dependent upon other people. (I mean He created Eve, didn’t He?) And if not, you can go ahead and read one of the many articles written about the experiments done by the students and faculty at Harvard University about the effects of isolation on the brain such as this one: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/10/donald-o-hebb-effects-extreme-isolation. To put it lightly, it’s not good.
What I’m saying is basically this: for those of you who are like me, and crave alone time (I have a friend who insists that he would love to live in the wilderness on his own and make friends with the squirrels (and honestly that sounds incredible)), that’s okay. Still, at some point you’re going to need people, or your brain will not function properly.
However, knowing that people are a vital part of our existence doesn’t make navigating relationships any easier. Interacting with others is a wonderful, hazardous game. Wonderful because people can be the absolute best part of your day, and hazardous because they can also be your downfall. It’s up to us to surround ourselves with people who build us up instead of tearing us down, and furthermore, to not confuse the two.
I’ve learned several times that there are three types of people in our lives: Comrades, Casuals, and Chronics. Comrades are the people who are there for you, and likewise, you’re there for them. The relationship you have with these people will be judgement free, will be full of accountability, and will be loving, honest, vulnerable, kind and (most importantly) mutual. It won’t be one-sided. This is one of the keys to successful relationships of any kind. This is a pure relationship, and that’s not to say that there won’t be bumps (because there always will be), but the love makes it worth it because they are “for you.”
Causals, on the other hand, are people that you might call “acquaintances.” You enjoy being around these people, they raise your endorphin levels, you might go to a party together, but there is no deeper connection like there will be with a Comrade.
Then, there are the Chronics, the most dangerous and deceiving of the three. These people are the ones who constantly have something (usually, consistently the same thing due to a low learning curve) wrong in their lives and form codependent relationships with the people around them, expecting others to swoop in and fix the problem for them. The big problem with this is that they’re easily mistaken for Comrades because the relationship may be deep—but it is one-sided. You may always be there for them, but they may not be there for you. That’s the demise of this relationship. It isn’t mutual.
Comrades may have an ongoing crisis as well and require help, but they’ll, in return, be there for you in your time of need.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help people. I argue that we should be other-centered which is growing increasingly difficult in a time when the whole world is encouraging us to focus on ourselves. I just feel that sometimes, if we continually save people from the same problems OVER and OVER again, they’ll never learn how to help themselves—or others, for that matter. Even worse, in this process we neglect ourselves and our needs—and having needs is not a bad thing because, like I said, relationships are mutual. If you’re constantly helping that someone, you never get a chance to let someone help you, and sometimes, we do need that.
You cannot constantly pour into other people, give to other people, without someone replenishing your supply—because then you’ll have nothing left to pour.
So navigate wisely—I know, it’s much easier said than done. Relationships are much more complex than this simple 1,000 word explanation.
My mind swirls with these things quite often, even as I sat there boiling from the dismissal of my classmate. The wonderful thing about this all is that we have control—we are in control of those we surround ourselves with. That being said… SURROUND YOURSELF!!! Relationships are delightful if you choose the right pals, and man, have I chosen some good ones… But more to come on that later.
Comrades are key, my friends, but this can all be summed up in one simple, glorious, golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated.