How To Make Really Great, Life-Long Friends

What I Learned From Navigating the Mysterious Problem that is Finding, Building, and Maintaining Friendships

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I didn’t always have such a solid network of friends. When I first moved from Texas to New York, I had an incredibly hard time adjusting from the southern culture of my hometown community, to the cooler, suburban-wealthy culture in Westchester. I was too young to have social media and quickly lost contact with my friends from Texas, while unable to connect deeply with anyone in my new school. Everyone already knew everyone else and it didn’t help that I was just one of two Asians in the entire school — socially and culturally, I felt isolated.

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But I was just a child, and children have more room to be honest in their loneliness. I was especially fortunate because I had adults who would look after me to make sure I found the right group of people to be with. Slowly I found other people who welcomed me into their circles, and together we would spend hours playing and killing time, bonding over our hobbies and interests.

The second time I moved it was arguably harder to make good friends. Maybe it was because I was older, and I didn’t have the same network of teachers and parents who would guide me through the steps, or maybe it was because it was from America to Japan, and there was a much bigger cultural difference to adjust to. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was alone again.

Unlike my first move, I was determined to redefine myself as a likeable girl who could easily fit in with a crowd, and so I immediately stuck myself to whatever group of girls who would take me. I’d sit with them at lunch, I’d talk to them in the hallways, we would watch videos together, and we would laugh. I thought that if I stuck with them long enough, they would eventually feel like real friends, but I looked on with envy toward those who seemed to have their close-knit group figured out.

Eventually too many years went by, grounded into a group of people I didn’t feel a part of. Perfectly kind and perfectly nice people, but I still didn’t have the feeling that we would stay in contact past high school. Was it the people? Or was it me? Why was I unable to connect with anyone in a meaningful way? At first I wondered what was wrong with me, and how I needed to change to make friends. Eventually I became comfortable in my emotional solitude, silently convincing myself that this was okay. There would be other opportunities to make friends, and there was no need to make myself do it now.

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But I later realized that like building great wealth, finding great friends is some luck, but it’s also an active effort. After taking a chance on myself and opening myself again to the once-was mysterious problem that is finding, building, and maintaining friendships, I forever changed the way I perceive making important relationships. To make the close friends I have now, I really only followed two ideas, that the key to making life-long friends is within your power as long as you do this: 1) Choose wisely 2) Give back

Choosing wisely

  • It seems like a selfish and deplorable thing, to be selective with your friends. Since our elementary school days, we’ve been taught to be open, accepting, and to be friends with everyone. But honestly, what good is this advice if we can’t make any meaningful connections with the people we spend time with? Friendship is not a numbers game, and it’s not about being nice.
  • People need to be kind, and people need to be decent, but kindness doesn’t necessarily equate friendship — a much deeper level of camaraderie and understanding between two people. And to reach this level of harmony, you need to be selective.
  • Choose the people you want to become friends with wisely, but this doesn’t give you permission to make quick judgements about other people. It’s quite obvious but we often don’t do it enough — you need to talk, get to know, and try to understand other people, and then you ask yourself: “Does spending time around this person, make me a better person?”

“Does spending time around this person, make me a better person?”

Giving back

  • Selfishness is the kryptonite to any budding friendship. At best, the friendship just won’t last, at worst, it’ll become a toxic chain that drags you down emotionally and mentally.
  • We are not entitled to a friend’s support and laughter. While any strong relationship needs this, it’s important to show gratitude and reciprocate the attention that those who matter provide for us. Gratitude isn’t necessarily a chore, as it’s innate for humans to want to show this to those we love and appreciate — many of us just don’t know how. Either we’re confused as to how to show it or we’re embarrassed by it, but I learned that showing gratitude isn’t an option in friendship.
  • Gratitude is not necessarily buying flowers or thank you cards, but it’s about being present for the other person. This means listening when they talk, acting when you can help, and showing them you care even when they don’t ask for it. Continue to give back to the people who make you a better person, and people worth keeping in your life will reciprocate the support.

My friends are essential to me.

They build me up, support me, and make my life whole. I spend hours talking with them to no end, laugh until tears form, and my favorite memories are shared with them. When life gets hard or confusing, they ease my burden and pull me through the dark times; when they’re going through a painful time, I pour my heart out in easing their hurt.

Finding and making great friends can feel difficult, but there is definitely someone for everyone out there. Keep trying, talk, and learn about other people. Choose wisely, but don’t make quick judgements. And when you find those special people who help make you a better person, give back to them with your whole heart by being present for them. It’s a long game, but anyone can be a winner.

It’s not like I have many friends, but the friends I do have I consider life-long, and I swear that makes all the difference.

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If this article was any use to you, please leave a comment or email me at kokumura@kakikata.space! I love hearing from individuals, learning from them, and the personal stories people have to share. I reply to every single email I get, and want nothing more than to support those who are looking for a bit of guidance and ways to help themselves.

Kind regards,

Kaki

Written by

Raised in Tokyo; living in the US. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: www.kakikata.space 🌱

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