Friends Are Overrated

Even your shadow disappears when it gets dark

photo by tihami.ayoub on instagram

As I grow up, I don’t like to befriend the clean-shaven boy with the necktie and the good job. I like desperate men, men with broken ways and broken minds and broken teeth. They interest me, they are full of surprises and explosions.

Now all my close friends, and they’re few, are people who aren’t my age, people whose first language isn’t the same as mine, and someone who doesn’t come from my social class. This is how I see the world differently. This is how I became a better version of myself.

People think friendship should be one of the high points of existence, and yet it’s also the most routinely disappointing thing they have to deal with.

The key to the problem of friendship is to be found in an odd sounding place, a lack of purpose.

Most of us associate friendship with having fun, supper at someone’s house, and share secrets and vulnerabilities… So our attempts tend to go adrift because we collectively resist the task of developing a clear picture of what friendship might really be for. The more you can focus on what you should be doing with every person in your life, the more you would embrace them tightly, or indeed the more you can helpfully conclude that you shouldn't be with them at all.

Back to the high school days, you’ll always catch me sitting in a coffee shop with the same faces trying to impress them with my abilities to teach Physics and Maths, but we always ended up chatting about how we hated the course and how to cheat in the exams.

And even the nights in Rome with some acquaintances where I’m having an extra glass of Burgundy wine, I do tend to predictably spin off into a rant on a strange range of topics: The failings of the in-flight service on Alitalia, Japanese aesthetics, money laundering… Then the conversation is meandering and devoid of any real interest.

In both cases, so often, I go home wondering what on earth the whole performance was really about, I realized that I was trying to impress them out of insecurity, and to break its spell I’m hiding it inside them.

Here I am today, I feel increasingly solid inside, trusting myself more than I trust the crowd, feeling that I might be able to say no to every pointless acquaintance,and not always swaying in the wind. What I’m telling you is:

Cease any friendship that doesn’t provide an added value, and let personal development that lures your eyes to interact socially with people.

But in undertaking the quietly momentous task of telling someone that you don’t wish to be friends with them anymore, you face a practical and a theoretical hurdle. Strikingly, the practical issue is by far the easiest to address. The hard challenge is to accept that you're under no obligation to bow endlessly or limitlessly to the wishes of another person.

A peculiar assumption at large is that good people should never wish to prune their social lives. A friend made at one point should remain a friend forever - if one has any virtue or honor. But such a degree of commitment is as implausible as it's ultimately self-defeating.

Good friendship needs to be sustained by vivid interest on both sides; it's a betrayal of their potential to define them as life-long contracts that cannot be exited without shame.

We all have that friendship that began a few years or even decades ago. They're very kind, you've had good laughs with some cold beers; at one point, you bonded very closely over PNL's music and the funny moments of dating blonde girls...

But life has moved on: their ideas feel a lot less interesting today and you're in a relationship of your own now.

Crucially, you don't need to think badly of someone to have outgrown them; you can even love a person and for a range of reasons never want to see them again. Friends are not toys or illustrated books but they too are, in part, vehicles of development, and may be respectfully sidestepped when their ongoing presence threatens to impede who we want to become.

Wishing to terminate a friendship doesn't have to stem from random infidelity or unfeeling snobbishness: it may simply spring from a sober realization that you're no longer you once were.

You therefore need to imbue yourself with a confidence you might perhaps never have acquired in childhood, the confidence not always to comply with the wishes of other people. Like an enquiry from an old friend about whether you might be free to see him at any time in the coming days. Very gently, after recollecting a funny, touching or warm memory that you have had together, and how different things are today, you might answer simply:

‘Sadly I'm not going to be able to meet up’.

Acceptance is the first step toward peace, so you have to accept that each period of your life has its proper friends.

I guess I have developed into quite another person now, what matters is to keep my progress and cut off everything that used to hinder it. I admit that my life has become a bit boring because I was reckless with it, but henceforth I do greater justice to the deeper promises of my existence.

With that said and I still a small, fragile creature in a vast world, my individual capacities are entirely insufficient to realize the demands of my imagination, so of course I need collaborators, accomplices who can align their abilities and energies with mine, and good connections are the best to help you reach your potential.

Therefore, having fewer connections limiting your networking opportunities, because no matter how intelligent or hardworking you are, someone of lesser intellect and boosted by good connections, will rise above you easily.

So in trying to do life alone, negative outcomes are imminent.

The decision is evident, none of this is cruel: you’re just liberating yourself from the social norms, and as you might expect, there’s a particularly poignant way one can be a social disaster through over-friendliness.

I write half-baked thoughts and some tidbits.