Seashells and Friend Collecting


I am not very good at holding on to things or people for that matter. For this reason, I think if that person wants to know me or if I want to know them one of us will eventually make an effort.

Yes, I am willfully independent. Yet another reason I don’t just go jogging lustfully after old friends and lovers. But, I also think, “Hey, don’t force it.” If it works out, great and if it doesn’t also great there are bound to be some people around here that enjoy my company.

My waning correspondence with a handful of high school and college friends reminds me that maybe I am a bit cold. A bit quick to forget people, or vice versa easily forgotten. When in a prideful mood it bothers me that I can be so easily overlooked, but it has its perks.

I was reading an article about intimacy in the New York Times the other day. It gave a long list of questions two people can ask each other to encourage a feeling of love. One question in particular made me think about my friends, “What do you value most in a friendship?”

I met one of my good friends right after moving to Taiwan in August 2013 and he became one of my roommates. Eventually he became my party buddy, drinking buddy, dancing buddy and confidant. Basically he was a stand in for my own brother and sister who were both living 6,222 miles away from me.

This friend strives to better himself, he tries to understand everyone’s point of view and get along with them. He truly has one of the most diverse sampling of friends I have ever witnessed. He makes his hippie mom proud.

I am amazed because he gets along with and even enjoys so many people that can’t get along with each other. When anyone moves somewhere new of course they might hang out with a group in which they don’t like everyone. But after a while I thought everyone pruned down their friend groups to include only the people that added to the experience of life in a positive way. Not true for him.

As I expressed one day to a restaurateur friend, my friendship is not always a renewable resource I have limited amounts of patience and love to dole out over the course of a seven day week. Sometimes my tolerance is high and I am social, sometimes it is low and I am a loner. So when I make plans with people they know I want to see them. My free time means a lot to me. If those people don’t make me feel happy or enlightened I don’t give them my time again. Also if I get a strange feeling they are trying to pursue something romantic I run the other way.

For the small group of individuals I invite into my hulahoop of “anything” I have high respect and high expectations. The hulahoop means they can ask me for anything and if it is within my power I will do it for them as long if it is in their best interest.

My immediate family is always in the hulahoop, and I always have room for maybe two or three other selfless individuals who inspire my trust. This is where I am confused, my friend keeps old friends and continues to make new friends in every social encounter because hey, he’s an accepting guy. However you can only really be close to 150 individuals at once according to Robin Dunbar.

This is my problem, I ultimately want to have maybe ten people that I can have reciprocal friendships with. I send them an email, they send me an email. I don’t want to suffocate them with love or let them freeze dry from inattention like carrots in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. I want most of those people to be in my day to day life because sometimes I need a hug in person.

How can my good friend be a reciprocal friend with me when his entourage includes the whole neighborhood. There is no way he can have that much time and energy to give. This realization made me really sad. Like I said, he’s my brother from another mother and I felt somehow orphaned by my own logic.

This week we made plans to take a train to Taipei on Friday and then a bus on Saturday to the more isolated Yilan county. He canceled on me the next day, it seems he had already committed to a birthday party. “I don’t have an excuse,” he wrote me. Sigh, it’s always someone’s birthday on this island. If you don’t watch out you can get locked into birthdays for a whole month of weekends.

Its sad to be right, but I knew we wouldn’t be able to make plans without the proximity of being roommates. How lovely for me to be able to sort through people like seashells at the beach, each year becoming more forgiving of flaws, but also less likely to take any home. It would be tedious for me to be everyone’s friend. I have the utmost respect and wonder for those individuals that go to the beach repeatedly and still stuff their pockets to the brim, what optimism, what a capacity for love!

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