how to love people.

I often think about writing a book with the above title, but as my whole life is a testament to the pitfalls of inventing titles before books and suffering similar fates to those who put carts before horses, maybe it’ll just be immortalized here.

Another thing I often think about is how I don’t have very many friends.

Except I realized that’s not true, see.

What I don’t have, what I am missing, is people on whom I am emotionally reliant. With most things of serious right-at-the-core-of-my-being impact, it’s an all-star trio of my parents and Sam, with Derek running a close second. That’s it. I don’t even emotionally rely on my siblings.

Now, admittedly that’s kind of sad (and perhaps one day I’ll devote a blog post to unpacking why and when that happened and whether or not I should adjust), but let me tell you something that isn’t.

I do have plenty of friends.

I’m doing a thing now in which I send actual, physical birthday cards to the people I really like instead of hiding behind a Facebook greeting and adding a few extra emojis.  You have no idea how nice it is to write to someone, “I wanted to appreciate you on your birthday, with love, Red,” and know that they’ll get to open their mailbox and discover something, to tear open that envelope, to maybe keep the card for a while, like I would.

Tonight I made the complete list of people in the calendar year I’d want to send to. Wanna know how many are on it?

Forty-four.

Not on this list are my parents, sisters, anybody else related to me, or Sam. Forty-four people whom I like more than Facebook wants me to settle for, culled from my college years, four summers of camp, and the odd high school friend (*cough* Derek and Hannah). People who have been kind to me, in some cases far more than I deserved. People who deserve better than the two smiley-face treatment instead of one.

What do I mean I have no friends?!

And so, I have decided to shut myself up by creating the following stupid epigram: “The way to care about people is to decide that you do.” I’ve found already that lo the more I respond to people’s snapchats (even if it is only with a handful of emojis) the more they send me. What do you know, if you reach out to life it will reach back. I think I’m learning to make my peace with a handful of emojis and realize that not every relationship needs to be a deep-conversations-on-rooftops-at-midnight kind of connection in order for two people to appreciate each other, that sometimes a handful of emojis is enough to say, “Yeah, you matter to me.” But also I want to really have people mean something to me beyond that, and to mean something to them.

A flaw in the CLV model (at least to me) has always been that things felt during the glorious, intense summers seem to disappear during the year. Often I find myself not believing in my friendship with somebody because it’s January and the only time I see them is July, or because I haven’t seen them in two years. That’s ridiculous! So I’m fighting it, in my small handwritten-birthday-card way. Same thing with the ever-so-common scenario at school in which I walk right by somebody I like very much in the library, because both of us have so much work to do (and because this campus is weirdly unsociable, but that’s a topic for another time). I want to fight that. I used to voraciously read the Reader’s Digest because I was a weird kid, but something Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote once has stuck with me for a very long time. It was advice she got from somebody else, but it was, “When in doubt, always do the positive.”

I want to feel less alone in this wild universe, and if all I can do is a handful of emojis, a handwritten birthday card, and the occasional ‘How are you?’ message, then that’s what I’ll do.

 

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