What’s Your Definition of Friendship?

It’s been exactly one year since I posted anything on my blog. I’m not sure exactly what’s kept me from doing so, especially since I’ve written in my journal with every intent to post consistently during that time. Two years ago, I was sitting on the balcony of a cafe with two of my best friends, halfway through the Rickshaw Run in Darjeeling, India, as the sun was going down amidst beautiful clouds that enveloped Mount Everest and K-2. I wrote about the 46 things I’d learned in my life, one for every candle I’d blown out. Last year, 13 days after the 13th (my birthday) on his birthday, I shared a letter that my dog Jack wrote to my family after he had passed away. He had some things he wanted to say. Posthumously, I let him have his way.

My plan is to post at least twice a month for the remainder of the year. I’ve got a lot to say, and so much to share. I think it’s time…

Today I wanted to share something I started writing on the eve of New Years Eve 2016. It’s taken over 16 months for me to post it.

30 December 2016

How do you define friendship? What does being a friend and having a friend mean to you?

With the new year, I recollect upon the many friends I have, each and every one of them a blessing; and blessed that I have had the chance to spend so much time with them the years of my life.

What is a friend? A friend of mine asked me recently what my definition was, and what I thought a best friend was. There’s the dictionary definition:

friendship: the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friend — a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Reading it makes me realize what an inadequate definition it truly is. Muhammed Ali (RIP)  once said, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” The Champ was onto something.

Friendship is not about what they can do for you. When I was a kid, I read the book “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. “Why did you do all this for me?‘ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,‘ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.

I knew very early on that I would need to make friends and that they would not come to me, especially since I had a fairly nondescript personality as a child. I was so shy in school growing up, partly because English was my second language and partly because I was a sensitive nerdy bookworm, but I had a whole world living in my head. It would take me years to get out of my shell and force myself outside my comfort zone.  “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” (A.A. Milne, “Winnie the Pooh”)

Maybe because of that, many of my closest friends I knew the moment I met them. I didn’t want to chance exposing my insecurities with someone I thought would take advantage of it, so choosing the right friends i.e. good people was paramount to me. I’ve been blessed with that gift from an early age; and love comes naturally from that moment of recognition. “There’s not a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met.” (Jim Henson, “Favorite Songs from Jim Henson’s Muppets”). Even then, I felt the friends I’d met, I’d known forever. “Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.” (Richard Bach)

My friend DaveRisner could have the most friends from anyone I know; he’s one of the hubs in my wheel of friendships. Our buddy Joe always says that not only is he the most interesting man in the world, but he’s also the most interested. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” (Dale Carnegie) To those that don’t know me well, I use the word “best friend” more than most. To me, it makes all the sense in the world.

So I came up with my very own definitions for friendship, all of whom are friends to this day…

  • Friendship is looking back on the two people who raised me, not even close to friends when I was growing. That was not their job. In the years since becoming an adult, through thick and thin, my parents have been there for me. They’ve been my friends. That was exactly 48 years ago.
  • Friendship is walking down the corridor, the new kid at West Lafayette Junior High School in Indiana, meeting who I thought was the only other Indian kid in my class. After asking, “Where are you from?” he responded, “Milwaukee.” That was over 32 years ago.
  • Friendship is a roadtrip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe visiting my little brother’s best friend of (at that time) 15 years. I would visit him again and again in San Francisco, at some point during that journey, becoming my best friend too. Years later, my brother would be his best man; and I would officiate the wedding. That was over 30 years ago when we first met, and over 20 years ago when he was not only my brother’s best friend, but also mine.
  • Friendship is going to the prom with one of my best friend’s sister, who was also a close friend. Through marriage and motherhood, we’ve never missed a beat, becoming even better friends. That was over 28 years ago.
  • Friendship is helping one friend move from his high-rise apartment downtown Chicago to an apartment in a three-flat in Lakeview, meeting his future roommate (and later mine) realizing that he was not only the most interesting man in the world, but also the most interested. His first words were, “Dude- we’ve got less than two hours. I rented this van from a couple Mexicans hanging out in front of our place. Five bucks, two hours. Let’s get a move on.” That was over 22 years ago.
  • Friendship is meeting identical twin brothers, whose names I’d known for years cos we grew up in the same hometown going to rival high schools, and for no discernible reason, I didn’t like. Years later, after I became roommates with Mexican-Van-Guy, who lived with them in college (another example that we are all connected, and how small this world truly is), I would meet them for the first time. Within two hours, the only words we said were Chewbacca’s howls and growls. That was over 20 years ago.
  • Friendship is crossing Southport Avenue in Chicago saying to my buddy that I had met only a week prior, “Dude — this may sound weird, but I love you man. And I think we’re going to be best friends for the rest of our lives.” To which he replied, “You’re right man. That’s weird.” That was over 18 years ago and we’re still best friends.
  • Friendship is driving south on Ashland Avenue with a dear girlfriend talking about our other dear girlfriend when all of a sudden heading northbound on the same street at that very moment, we both hear a sonic boom of a voice shouting a hearty hello, laughing and smiling at our other dear girlfriend’s sudden appearance, cars crossing in the wind. That was over 17 years ago.
  • Friendship is interviewing with a kid who was six years younger than me, giving me a chance with a job and company that would eventually change my life, and by extension, the lives of so many others. That was 14 years ago.
  • Friendship is meeting a buddy at that new job, knowing that I recognized him, but couldn’t place it, and during March Madness that year, we both agreed, “Hakim Warrick is sick!!” That was over 13 years ago.
  • Friendship is meeting another buddy who would become one of your closest friends, but at the time I thought was going to beat me up cos he was defending a friend of his, who happened to be the only friend of mine I could affectionately make fun of. That was over 12 years ago. Friendship is going out with that same friend years later, when we would both meet his future wife at the same time at a birthday party we both attended, a night he originally did not want to go out, but I convinced him to.
  • Friendship is every interaction with an Auburn alum, this coming from a lifelong Notre Dame fan and Purdue alum. Whether it’s the first time, tenth, hundredth, or a thousandth, every single one of them treats me like I am family.
  • Friendship is working alongside so many wonderful and good people at Careerbuilder, Glassdoor and now Upwork.
  • Friendship is being with my dog Taylor, and Foster before him, and Jack before him. And it’s Kalib and Lawrence and Marvelous and Mason and Tucker…. the dogs in my life and in the lives of my family and friends.
  • Friendship has for me so many more definitions… friendship is smiling. Friendship is laughing. Friendship is crying. Friendship is flying. Friendship is fighting. Friendship is helping. Friendship is being. Friendship is doing.

My buddy Derek sold his home in Santa Monica, donated or sold most of his possessions, and left at the end of last year to travel around the world. “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” (Stephen King, “Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redeption”)

I love my friends. Through them, I have met other friends, and through them, others, and so on and so on. While I love being by myself, I love being with my friends. They are the family that I continuously choose.

“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”
― Albert Camus

What’s your definition of friendship?



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