The Value of Friends -- a love letter

In the past, I’ve found it very difficult to speak openly about how much I appreciate people without my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. Call it a patriarchal, hypermasculinized upbringing in the modern world, call it a manifestation of a culture of unending irony… overcoming it is difficult, and I have a lot of work left to do.

This weekend I listened to an episode of the fascinating podcast On Being, a conversation between Krista Tippett and Alain de Botton about love. To say the least, it was a breath of fresh air. In listening I started thinking about all of the people I know— the people I rarely see because they live over an hour away, the people I see several times a day, the people I haven’t seen in years, and the people I pass by and with whom I share a few words (if that)— every one of you is a goddamned miracle.

Consider, first of all, the billions of years of evolution of life it take to create each one of these walking emotional computers. Of the billions of people on this planet, you and I get to communicate with one another, and if we’re lucky, we’ll understand one another. Of course, the moments of miscommunication and a lack of understanding are immensely frustrating and even sometimes dangerous, but so often I forget to appreciate the little understandings that are so easily taken for granted: when I mention a game/movie/piece of music/whatever that I like, and you too have been through that exact same internal journey that the best works of art have the power to take us on; a shared caring for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people neither of us ever have met or likely ever will meet; a mutual appreciation for a well-organized agenda; admitting mistakes; praising good decisions. I live for these little moments.

Of course, I still frequently feel like a weirdo. I wrote a blog discussing why I like synthwave, hoping with a kinda immature & childish glee that people would flock to it and nod their heads in agreement to the beat… but it was mostly ignored. I certainly don’t blame anyone for that; I’m sure I could have written it better, or taken just a slightly different angle, or not written it at all. Those moments can hurt. But I’ve also been finding myself in awe of just how rad every one of the folks I consider a friend is.

So without naming anyone or making anyone uncomfortable (hopefully), but also without holding back with the mushy emotions, let me just flat out tell you about some of the moments that highlight what makes you, my dear friends, awesome:

  • When you share pictures of your dog/cat that you know is adorable as hell and you just want the world to share in your joy of this silly, gorgeous creature
  • When you appreciate the subtleties in music and open your minds to unfamiliar kinds of art
  • When you watch a show or movie or play a game or read a book and get to that one part where everything you thought you knew changes and your whole brain is turned upside down by it and you’re screaming about it on Twitter
  • When you see what’s happening in the world and you’ve never felt so much existential despair in your whole life and you think that maybe you just need to give up and put your head in the sand… but still you get up and keep going and fight for what you know is right in whatever way you know how
  • When you post a selfie because goddammit you look good today, and you don’t always think that, and you want others to see how good you look
  • When you talk about how these millenial thinkpieces were old years ago and yet people somehow still read them and believe them and that is some bullshit
  • When I say something immensely stupid, and you say nothing, or you say something nicely, or you say something meanly because you’re sick of my shit… but you still consider me a friend and stand by me
  • When you just shut out social media altogether because of the toxic effect it has on you and others, even though it means there’s some people you like that you won’t get to interact with as often
  • When you post a new thing that you made for the world to see and you’re afraid people will think it’s stupid or no one will really care but you do it anyways
  • When you care about what other people (the right people) think and feel
  • When you don’t care about what other people (the wrong people) think and feel
  • When you treat others respectfully even though you think they’re garbage
  • When you stand up to people who are garbage
  • When you stand up to friends
  • When you stand up for friends
  • When you stand up for strangers
  • When you stand up for people that you once thought were garbage but now you know what real human garbage is
  • When you put your heart and soul into something that you know a good number of people don’t care about, but you care about it, and you know that enough people care about it, and that’s all that matters
  • When you listen to those who know what they’re talking about and ignore those who don’t
  • When you share what’s on your mind even though you’re afraid to
  • When you get out of bed in the morning despite the amount of sheer dread it fills you with
  • When you stop to talk just to say hi, even though you have nothing to say, really; just something
  • When you go to bed at night even though a part of you is afraid you’ll wake up to the flash of an atom bomb
  • When you stand up to and with your own mental quirks and illness
  • When you joke about the absurdity of our new reality because it’s the only way you know how to cope
  • When you scream about the absurdity of our new reality even though you fear that those who need it won’t listen
  • When you decide to make “you” better
  • When you keep being “you
  • When you share your love of any and everything with someone else

…I’ll stop there for now.

Every one of my friends is someone I could write an essay about. Some I know on a deeper level than others. I’ve seen different sides and depths and emotional crevices and pockets of wisdom in different friends. Other friends I know only on a fairly shallow surface level, but even that much is incredible.

By nature I’m a pretty shy introvert; I constantly worry about how I come off to friends, strangers, and acquaintances alike, especially in “casual” settings, and sometimes I just want to hang out at home by myself and recharge—sometimes I really do need that. I’ve gotten worlds better at recognizing when I need this and how to deal with it in the past several years, but I’ve never been comfortable with it, and I still fuck up immensely.

And sometimes I crave human connection despite all the difficulties, to break through the small-talk and the misunderstandings and get to what makes us human, that sense of understanding, that sense of sharing in this fucked-up reality of self-awareness, of being perhaps the only conscious living beings in a seemingly spiritually empty universe. Nothing more, nothing less.

And it doesn’t take much. Just witnessing these little acts of love and defiance and humanity and I fall in love all over again. Not a romantic or sexual love; just the shortest of moments that confirms that neither of us are robots or lizard people.

And of course, I have to give extra-special attention to the one lady in the world who’s decided to make the insane commitment to spend the rest of her life with me, despite all that entails. She’s the realest and most hilarious and kindest person I know, the person I know best and who knows me best, to whom I’ve bared the shittiest parts of my soul, and who I feel has given me the privilege to see her most closely guarded but brightest and most uniquely beautiful hidden flames of wisdom and love. Neither of us are perfect, but we’ve both made a commitment to each other to help each other through this insane life as best we know how. I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s my favorite person. I love you, Elie.

And to all of my friends, I love you. And maybe this is a weird and convoluted way to say so (my word count is currently over 1500, so signs point to “yes, yes this is a convoluted way to say so”), but “I love you” seems to fall so flat, sometimes. I’m not always the best communicator, though, so if this comes across as weird, just take it as a 1500 word “I love you.” That’s the best I got.

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