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Facebook said I had 718 friends. Thing is, I only accept requests from people I know well in real life — friends from high school or college, old coworkers, and so forth. I don't blindly accept requests from people I don't know because many of my family members value their privacy and are uncomfortable with my "public life."
One thing I love about Facebook, however, is how easy it is for me to stay connected with everyone. It doesn't matter if I move away or they do — we can easily keep up on each other's lives.
Still, 718 was surprising. Scrolling through the list of names I realized there were hundreds — hundreds of people that I hadn't socialized with or talked to since adding them years (years!) ago. I hadn't even been on their Facebook page. I knew this because I was surprised to see they were married, or had children — two things that generally don't happen overnight!
Then I had to face another truth. I had "friended" a number of people to scope them out. See what they were up to and perhaps, size them up. Facebook is sort of like a high school reunion.
This I wasn't proud of.
Lately I have felt guilty about how out of touch I've been with certain friends. The last few years have been a total mad dash for me. I've worked and worked and worked some more. My relationships with others took a back seat. They were the "give" in "somethings gotta give" and while I have success to show for my hard work... what good is it if I have no one to share it with?
I know that many of these friends are understanding, and will be there for me when I come around — a testament to their greatness... and I knew that. I knew that they would "understand," but that doesn't make it okay. It only makes me feel worse.
As I looked around, I realized that I've been
focusing only on myself and my goals. It wasn't that I set out to be
selfish; it's just what happened during the wild ride that has been
Happy Herbivore and this career.
With my hiatus now in full swing, I realize it now more than ever. I stopped calling. I stopped emailing. I stopped reading Facebook's main feed and only checked my personal page and Happy Herbivore's.
I went into total "response" mode — I reacted. I responded. I never instigated. I never took the first step in my relationships.
Relationships — all relationships — are a two-way street.
Then something happened. A friend, who I hadn't spoken to in months, maybe even a year, but someone I should be more in contact with — someone I want to be more in contact with — someone I was once very close to and talked to nearly every day — emailed. A mutual friend of ours had died in Afghanistan.
I was saddened by the loss, and even more saddened that it was something so tragic that got us talking again.
All the while, I was reminded just how short and precious life is.
We're all busy, but we all need to make time to invest in the relationships we have. We have to make time for those we care about. We can't keep saying I'll call them tomorrow or next week or next whatever. That whatever may not come.
Then, suddenly a poem — a poem I cherished as a teenager, but I have not thought about in more than a decade — came back to me.
"Around the Corner" by Charles Hanson Towne
Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.
And I never see my old friend's face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.
And he rang mine but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.
"Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim
Just to show that I'm thinking of him",
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner, yet miles away,
"Here's a telegram sir," "Jim died today."
And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.
As part of my minimalist journey, I've decided to have more meaningful relationships. This includes making a better effort at keeping in touch, but also minimizing who those people are.
I don't really have 718 friends.
I'm going to focus on the people I want and need in my life. I don't need to be "friends" with someone online that I never talk to. People that I'll probably never talk to. People that I friended just so I could size them up. These are not positive things.
So I started chipping away at my friends on Facebook (it's nothing personal), and I'm making a promise with myself to email one of my real friends each day. To see how they are. Tell them I love them. And that they are missed.
I'm down to 516 and I'm working on it. Progress, not perfection!