Friendship: A Miracle of Nature
As human beings, we are drawn to certain types of people. By nature, distinctive qualities in others attract us. Whether or not others are exactly “like us” in age, sex, religion, ethnicity, or any other differentiator, we find qualities that link us. These qualities can be in areas we might not know much about, or in aspects that we have in common. For example, a jock might be attracted (in a friendship-seeking manner) to an artist because art is something that the jock may know little about and may be interested in. Alternatively, jocks may also naturally be drawn to other jocks because they share a common element of athleticism.
In my life, I find that my friends pull me in different directions, draw out different aspects of my personality, and encourage me to try things that I would otherwise consider out of my attainable zone of exploration. Each of my friends or group of friends differs from me but simultaneously proves similar. I often adopt certain traits of friends and reject others, depending on whether the trait expands who I am as a person and completes what I believe to be the missing links of my developing personality. I have my challenging, scholarly friends at Westmont College, my artistic, unique friend Kristine, and my comfortable, active group of friends, Beka, Matt and Dave.
Coming to Westmont, I knew I would encounter an entirely different class of people from my friends at home, simply because the environment and rigor of the school are things that I do not have at home. In time spent within the property lines of Westmont College, I am challenged and stretched, enlightened and confused, all in more ways than I can dream. Not only do my friends at Westmont encourage me to become a critical thinker and challenge my beliefs, but they also encourage me to do something about the things for which I care most. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end that day we become silent about the things that matter most.” My peers at Westmont challenge me to not “end my life,” but to be active in my faith and to use my gifts and resources, knowledge and power to make changes from local to global levels. For example, after a conversation regarding a Westmont student’s empathy toward the homeless living in our area, I felt convicted and compelled to start collecting apples from my hall mates in order to take them downtown and hand out to homeless while striking up conversation. When I perform action alongside verbalized ideas, I feel more truthful in my speech because I actually follow through with my concerns and attempt to bring change.
Living with a randomly assigned roommate and sixty or so other hall mates, I encounter and befriend all types of people. The friends I have here often are people I may not have been friends with had they gone to my high school. Through living with them, I witness the multi-layered identities of each person. I allow opportunity for friendship and consistently, each individual proves a great friend, regardless of differences in background, activities, or anything else. This teaches me to open my mind and allow for change. My peers constantly dig deeper into advanced ideas and engage in intellectual discussion of science, religion, social issues and other significant topics and issues. This lifestyle is not one to which I was heavily exposed in high school, and so it consistently proves a challenging lifestyle to maintain as it requires much intellect, research and critical thinking. Even though I engage in many of the same conversations with my “comfortable” group of friends, my Westmont friends take the discussion to new levels, which are often outside of my comfort zone. This encourages maturity, as this group is the most intellectually stretching of my friends.
On a more extreme side, my friend Kristine from home reveals a more original and creative side of me. Kristine and I first met in junior high orchestra as we both played the violin. I was fascinated by her ever-changing hair color and sense of style, and she was fascinated by my sarcastic wit. We are plainly opposites. My hippie, yoga loving, natural food eating friend helps me discover the side of myself that I hope to further delve into. My favorite word to describe Kristine is unique, and she laughs at me for giving her this label. She sees herself as mainstream, even though everyone calls her “artsy.” She spends a great deal of time painting, practicing yoga and drinking tea that she creates from leaves that she buys in the raw. Kristine has had the role of my yoga partner for several years, and my artistic advisor for the “Rock” project with which I recently dabbled. Kristine created a new level of unique when she decided that she would carry with her everywhere for six weeks, an eight-pound boulder. She had no explanation for the project, other than that she was involved in an independent experiment. Her creative nature fascinated me, to an extreme that I later adopted her project with a few added adjustments.
Through my friendship with Kristine, I am able to expose the right side of my brain, and experiment with creative and natural lifestyles. We love to bounce ideas off one another. I help her select the new shade of pink to adorn her hair and she helps me with my latest health food smoothie concoction. I might never have given yoga or raw tea a chance had I not befriended Kristine. With her, I unlock passions within myself that I might not otherwise uncover. I respect and admire Kristine and her unusual lifestyle. Although we’re very different, somehow we mesh in vibrant, electric ways.
My core group of three friends from home is probably the closest to me in personality. One girl and two guys, they are highly motivated in school and in life. They are spontaneous and adventurous. I find myself most comfortable around them. I am able to discuss any family or personal issues with them and not feel intimidated or judged because I feel they best understand me. We have similar upbringings and can empathize with one another on a great number of levels. When asked how we became friends, I cannot supply an answer. The four of us were simply drawn to one another over the period of junior high and high school. It was not a noteworthy, distinct event– it simply happened.
The four of us fit together precisely, with each of us taking on a different major role in the collective friendship. These roles were not assigned, they artlessly developed. Each role is specific: I am the planner, Beka is the entertainer, Matt is the networker, and Dave is the realist. I feel these friends dig to my root, because around them I have learned to be comfortable with who I am, since they accept and love me unconditionally. Whether I do or do not feel like thinking critically about an issue, or can muster the energy to be unique, I know that they will not change our friendship, because we know one another well and accept flaws and embrace strengths in each other. As I remember our shared nights on my deck watching the sky and dreaming of our futures while reminiscing on our past, I feel that Beka, Matt and Dave are my siblings.
Although sometimes I worry that I limit myself to a specific group of friends, it is when I step back and look at the direction in which my friends pull me that I truly see that they are each largely different. While I have a group that I am comfortable with, I am also creatively stretched and intellectually challenged by others. Naturally, we find friends who are both similar to us and dissimilar to us in order to reveal and expand multiple layers of ourselves. We befriend our polar opposites in order to gain insight, while we also befriend people like us, in order to share common experiences. My friends naturally develop and enhance different aspects of my personality, whether it is my comfortable self, my tree-hugging side, or my intellectual identity. All of these selves are collectively who I am, and who I have become largely by the urging of friends. Differences in friends expand our personalities and complete us as well-rounded individuals; it is a true mystery of nature how such vast differences among friends bring out the best, the underdeveloped, and the unseen in one another.