Alex Williams of the New York Times has a very nice piece on friendships as we progress through life. One of the more salient points to me is that the three elements required for making close friends:
- Random, unplanned interactions
- Setting that encourages letting your guard down
Seems to me that pretty much everything works against that model. As we get older, we tend to live alone and keep space between us. We plan out our days with more or less rigidity. We tend to look at even parties with suspicion – consider how many gaffs happen at office Christmas parties.
This is pretty relevant to the current reshaping of my life. It’s been shown time and again that your relationships are one of the most important keys to happiness – and that’s not limited to having a romantic relationship. In fact, if you’re only close relationship is with your romantic partner, that might actually be much worse than having many close friendships but no romantic partner – particularly if that relationship should ever run into problems.
As I’ve mentioned previously, up until now I’ve been very goal oriented. I’d set out to get something done, and find the right people to do that thing with. Hopefully the people involved would be nice and we’d have fun, but the joy was in whatever we were working on. I’m now discovering that this is a little backwards. In particular, having all of your time dedicated to very structured activities makes it pretty difficult to maintain friendships let alone make new friends.
This is part of the decision to drop getting my Commercial Pilot’s License. The CPL training is excellent and I should do it eventually, but right now it’s not what I need. With all of the changes that are going on, I really need to focus on being well connected. That means the opposite of having highly structured, goal oriented time. The tricky part is going to be not making the same mistake again. It’s tempting to book music lessons or do something else that’s goal oriented, but that’s just regression to old behaviours.
If I’m going to follow what the happiness research shows, I’ll need to plan unstructured time with friends and create chances for random encounters. I’m not exactly sure how to do that just yet, but I can at least start thinking about it. At the very least, thinking about who I want to be around instead of what is a big change.