I’ve been in the YSA scene for a long time. In July, it will be a decade.
The dominant attribute of these last ten years has been my search for companionship. Now, there’s the understandable search for a permanent mate, but I have also been on an endless search for friends.
Now, you are probably thinking, “but don’t you have friends?” I do have friends, and have always had friends. There have been a smattering of times when I didn’t live near anybody I considered myself close to, but I had a substantial list of people who I knew loved me and were only a phone call away.
I wasn’t looking for friends because I didn’t have any- I was looking for friends because that’s just what I did.
I wouldn’t even sit by my current roommate, Elizabeth, at church. I love her- I positively adore her. We do a lot together and enjoy being in each other’s company. But, in my mind, church wasn’t for people I already knew, it was for getting to know new people. Always new, always more. Never satisfied, always empty.
How was I bred this way? Firstly, I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards those who don’t have friends, who may be lonely. How can I fulfill my responsibility to them if I am caught up with my regular group of friends? Secondly, we are told pretty frequently to “get out there and meet people!” I took the admonition very seriously. Thirdly, and unignorably, I do still want a husband, and it would seem that that would require getting to know some new people.
I live in Mesa, AZ. If you’ve never been here, don’t worry. You’re not missing much. Except for house parties with 300 people. And 5-stake New Year’s Eve dances where there is hardly enough room to walk, let alone actually dance. And game nights where half of the people who shoe up have no idea whose house they’re even at. For some reason, Arizonians like to do things big- bigger than other places I’ve lived. There are always new people to meet. And the bigger the event, the more I felt like I needed to be there.
I needed to be there to make friends, to make connections, to be happy! But, like I said…I already had friends. But I wasn’t happy. Just a few weeks ago, I was driving home from a ward Family Home Evening activity that was not a particularly good experience, when I though to myself:
When will I have made enough friends, and will be allowed to actually start enjoying them?
I have gone to party after party, event after event, looking for human connection. Desperately seeking it. But I walked into those parties with some AMAZING people right at my side. I gave them the designation of “wing girl”- really, a tool to help me get what I wanted in somebody else. I had friends. And I was loyal to them. And I loved them. But I always needed more. I always needed to be looking. I always needed to be finding.
I recently decided to overhaul my Sunday habits in an effort to make it a more Christ-centered, uplifting day. One of my new “rules” was that I was no longer going to socialize on Sunday. I could talk to people, laugh with people, hang out, invite, share…even flirt. But not socialize. What’s the difference? In my mind, the difference was that I was no longer going to seek after new friends for the sake of having new friends. It’s worked marvelously.
More recently, I considered extending that frame of mind to my mid-week institute class, which is attended by a hefty group of YSAs. Or even church functions in general. The issue with that is that almost all of the functions I attend are church functions. Doing so would change the way I interacted with social situations entirely. It would change me, change my friendships, and maybe change my life.
Well, I put it to the test last week at institute. I wasn’t going to try to meet new people. I was going to strengthen the friendships I already had. Instead of constantly gazing around the room looking for my next target, I sought out the people who have already proven to me that they love me and are good for me. I reached out to them, I was joyful to see them, I took comfort in their kindness. It was a beautiful experience. On the surface, it probably didn’t look very different than normal, but it felt different, and it was different.
In the past, I always left social gatherings feeling empty and unaccomplished, because my opportunity to seek out new people had ended. But last Wednesday, I left feeling full, and grateful, and loved.
I of course have no aversion to making new friends, but I can honestly say that I am content with what I have. Not only content- I am thrilled. I recently heard a quote referenced that said that anytime somebody we love walks through the door, we should go insane with joy.
Well, I guess that you can just call me crazy then.