I was practically in tears when I called him. I was having one of those terrible nights where everything felt so completely out of control. I was calling him back, aware that he probably needed some sort of favor from me. But I was already so stressed. When he answered the phone, he tried to be funny and clever, but I instantly started venting.
“Hold on,” he said to me. “Give me a few minutes and I’ll call you back.” He’d been busy when I called him back.
We hung up.
When he called me back a little while later, I had calmed down a little bit – although not entirely – and definitely didn’t feel like talking about what was wrong. But he prodded a little bit, and I finally tried to explain. I’m not sure if anything I was saying that night made any sense. I knew I was feeling extremely stressed and overwhelmed. I knew I’d already cried twice that night. But explaining that and what was going on in my mind in that moment was so much harder.
He’d called me first because he needed something, but he still took the time to listen to me. And when I asked him what it was that he needed anyway, he tried to brush it off and told me not to worry about it. Before the conversation was over, though, I found out what it was that he needed help with and told him I’d do it.
I was having a bad night, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be a good friend. He’d been there for me despite his busy schedule, so the least I could do was reciprocate.
There have been many nights like this – nights when I was having a bad night and a friend dropped everything to be there for me and nights when I’ve paused my own problems to be there for someone else.
Sometimes, that’s what happens in friendships. I’m not always good at setting aside my own problems to be there for someone else, but I do know some of my friends have done that for me countless times.
It’s easy to forget I’m not the only one with problems. I know there have been times when I’ve been upset that one of my friends hasn’t called or checked up on me only to find out that friend was also going through a hard time.
Even if you’re going through a hard time, try to take a minute to check up on one of your friends. If you miss someone, send that person a quick text to let them know you’re thinking of them. Send people letters and emails or call them on the phone and tell them how much you care about them.
I tend to expect way too much from other people. I act like they owe me all their time and attention, but what have I done to earn it? What have I done to show them I care about their friendship as well? I’m not saying that people will always reciprocate or that people owe you anything if you decide to reach out to them. Yes, friendships are supposed to be give-and-take, but it’s better to do nice deeds without expecting anything in return.
That’s what I’m trying to learn now – to give without expecting anything in return. In theory it sounds easy, but sometimes it’s easier to wonder why a friend doesn’t treat me the way I expect. I think part of the problem is that I set such high, often unrealistic expectations. Also, people are flawed and imperfect and express themselves in various ways. Acknowledging that they do put in some effort is so important in order to keep friendships and feel satisfied with them. I’ve been learning that a lot lately.
But even if you’re going through a hard time, you can be the one to reach out to the people around you. Do good deeds. Be a nice person. Make conversation with the barista taking your order. If you open yourself up, you might be surprised by some of the reciprocations you do receive.