It’s an interesting task to take inventory of the friends one collects over the years. I find myself doing this from time to time, and end up always comparing and contrasting the various sets of people who wandered into my life and stuck right there. Some unexpectedly, others were a little more predicted.
The friends I feel safe enough to open up to are those that I’ve had since my youth. Some dating back to pre-school, others from high school. And I know it sounds like there may be quite a collection, but really there are only a handful. While each of these people are different in their own right and most are not friends amongst themselves, it seems typical that I would befriend them still after all these years. We’ve shared a lot of growing together. Some academically, some socially, or spiritually. And we respect each other.
When I first moved to Florida in 2002 I realized how much I had taken these wonderful people for granted. I missed them. I found it difficult to meet friends without the “training wheels” of living in the same community where I grew up. How do people do it? I hadn’t a clue. I did befriend a couple who lived across the street from me in the rental house I shared with the “ex”. It was a bad neighborhood, and they were a young couple like us who just moved to the area to be close to the husband’s naval base. We spent many weekends with them. Laughing, playing cards, drinking, swapping stories from our respective towns where we grew up. Two years later, they moved away – relocated with the Navy to Maine, and now in California.
Most of the people I came into contact were colleagues from work, and in most cases, I was at least 15 years younger than them, which obviously created some obstacles. But, when I was sent to California with a team of 10 Floridians to work for 3 months, it forced a friendship between us all. There’s something about red-eye flights, long hours, and living in a crappy Extended Stay hotel that is being renovated that truly brings people together. Our backgrounds were so different (aside from the common occupation we shared), ages varied, priorities and even positions within the company were not all the same, but we really bonded. Even after we had all left that company, we remained in touch and tried to meet for lunch once every 6 weeks or so. But despite our friendship, these weren’t the type of friends to hang with on the weekends. It just wasn’t the right fit.
At the gym, I hoped to find another woman my age to talk to, hang out with occasionally, maybe go to the beach or a movie together. But, if you know anything about women and gyms, you know that they do not speak to each other while there. I don’t know if it’s the competition aspect or dedication to the task at hand, or just being uncomfortable in general, but women barely make eye contact with each other at the gym. It’s a strange phenomenon that has always bothered me, and makes me feel very self-conscious. Is it me? Do I smell? Whether it was me or not … I’ve never been successful.
I even tried making friends at a church that I tended to visit. Boy, was that an adventure! I should have known better than to attend a church in Jacksonville – the proverbial BUCKLE of the Bible belt. It was a small church with a VERRRRYYY tight knit community. They were a huge family actually, which has its appeal. I’m not knocking the family feel of the place, in fact I quite liked it due to the fact I had no family nearby and the support would have been nice. However, it was a fair weathered family. After 3 months of attending services, they ostracized someone from the congregation (a member of 20 years) because she had said something hateful about another parishioner. Talk about judgmental. Don’t get me wrong … there were plenty of church members who thought this treatment was detestable and they stated so. There were church meetings, conversations in public & private about how the situation was handled and as a result many families left, including myself. I don’t mean to get all preachy here, but – come on! Who among you is without sin? Huh?!
Anyway, the point of my message here is that I was having a hard time. Finally, at my last position in J-ville, I hired two individuals to work for me. One was an HR Generalist and the other, an Administrative Assistant. Both women were from very different backgrounds, but I liked their work ethic and personalities. That was 2 years ago. I am still friends with both, but of all the friends I have come across in 28 years these two boggle my mind, the Administrative Assistant more specifically.
She’s the type of “friend” who has perpetual personal problems. You know the type. Most of the problems could be avoided, and are caused by her own irresponsible behaviors, but she never seems to learn from the mistakes and instead of facing them head on, cries on whoever has the closest shoulder. So, I accept this fact about my Admin Assist. friend and move on because she is a fun delightful person. And, being someone who takes her role as a friend very seriously, I’ve tried to counsel my friend on some things she could do to improve her various negative situations. I’ve even taken HOURS out of my day on more than one occasion to develop plans and budgets and scour the internet for ways to assist her, but nothing ever seems good enough. She continues to deny responsibility for her actions, and when something else blows up in her face, you can believe she will be calling me to ask for help. I’ve never answered a phone call from her when she just wanted to chat. It’s always “something”.
Two weeks ago, she called me panicked because her car broke down and she needed to get another one, but only had $500 to spend on it. She is too broke to afford monthly payments, and she wanted me to help her fix the problem. I suggested a few friends of mine that may be able to help her, then I suggested that she look on Craigslist for a car. I told her to put the $500 away, and then use $500 from her next paycheck to buy a $1,000 car that will be suitable for driving her and her daughter to and from work/school. She played helpless, so I offered to hop on Craigslist myself and find a car.
After spending 2 hours on the internet and emailing her a list of links that I felt were appropriate choices, do you think she even bothered to hit Reply and offer a “Thanks”? Nope. She didn’t. Seriously! I don’t want a medal here, but at least use the energy to respond with a 3-letter response, “Thx”. Something!
So, I had decided that was the final straw. The next time she called to ask a favor I was going to lay it on the line and explain that I was finished being taken advantage of. Today, she emailed me.
I asked her to give me a call when she had a minute, which she did. She didn’t want to make small talk, or even tell me what was going on in her life. She focused solely on her problem of the day – her job. Since I left the company last year, she now has a new boss who hates her and vice versa. She received a very unfavorable annual review and wanted my input on what she should do. I told her. She asked if I had any contacts in the area who may need her services. So, all in all, we hung up the phone and I had been given yet another assignment … forward her resume to my contacts in Jacksonville. It happened so fast I didn’t even see it coming!
I am such an enabler, and I hate that! So, I’m now in my own “what do I do” situation because I do not want to expel any further energy helping this person who seems to only take, take, take. Nothing I do to help her will ever suffice because she is the type to suck a person dry, and she doesn’t want to live her own life. She wants other people to take responsibility for her own plight. Oy!
What would you do?