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open letter to friends
for all of you; not directed toward someone. stop being so vain.
by jeffrey d. walker
9.12.01
general


Hello there. Haven’t talked to you for a while. Or, perhaps I have.

Pardon me. The thing is, while I may well have “spoken” to you recently, I may have done so without communicating with you at all. See, if we were communicating, I might have been paying a bit more attention. Sorry.

Well, I guess that’s one way to start this. That’s what this whole thing is about. The thing about friendship is that it involves two active participants. Two active participants, in this case, does not mean simply conscious people; I talk to the guy selling me a hot dog on the street, but that does not necessarily make us friends. Friendship entails a bit more of a commitment. It's an investment, an investment of yourself into this shared relationship dubbed “friendship.”

Now, I’ve taken a couple of correspondence courses from that Sally Struthers television ad. They’re better than you might fear, but worse than you might hope. I must say that I'm most proud of my T.V. / V.C.R. repair certificate. But I digress.

I was going to say that, in the course on investment, I learned that when you are going to make an investment, you must have something to invest in the first place. In financial investing, this is commonly referred to as “startup capital.” That would be the money you have initially that you use to get more money. But don’t correlate startup money with what you need for friendship. You don’t need money to start a friendship.

You may need money to start a sexual relationship; a lot of potential mates like to be assured that their partner has some capacity to support themselves. It’s sort of a way to judge a person’s character, and that’s o.k. However, if they ask for that money up-front, you may be committing a crime. Check your local statutes. Moreover, needing money up-front to start a friendship is also not necessarily a friendship. That’s called a “fraternity.”

The investment needed to start a friendship is yourself: your thought, your time, some of your caring, the list goes on. Now, don’t yell at me and think that I think I’ve made a glorious revelation there, and that I’ve just been ignoring you this whole time. That’s not it at all. See, the thing is, I thought I was doing it right. It’s the caring part I’ve been blowing. See, I was sort of not interested really.

Don’t take it so hard. I’m not implying that you're not an interesting individual. You’re wonderful. If you were here right now, I’d shake your hand warmly, provided your hands weren’t covered in some peculiar substance. But see, I sort of wasn’t interested in much of anything. I mean, I was in school and participating in life. Just because you’re not interested doesn’t mean that you don’t show up at all. Time goes on, and you have to do something. But just because you are doing something doesn’t mean that you’re really paying attention to what you’re doing. My day-to-day existence didn’t really appeal to me. It wasn’t a depression. I wasn’t sad about the world, or life, or anything. It really wasn’t a feeling sort of thing at all. If I had to comment on it, I felt great.

Actually, it was sort of a waiting. Kind of waiting for the next cool thing to get here. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure what that cool thing was. I didn’t even have a general category, like “work” or “music.” I just figured something would come along. I wasn’t just waiting idly. I’ve been in school in a field I liked pretty well. I’m still playing and writing music. I just was waiting for one of them to get exciting. And the problem with that is that you aren’t really sure where you’re going. You’re just doing. The only place you're going is through the motions.

Now, don’t think that this is some sort of pity hunt, or an excuse for not paying attention. Like, “Poor me! It’s so hard to be me, and so forgive me for not really listening and talking to you this whole time!” It’s not like that. It’s just that, when you don’t really have any direction, you can't focus. And when you are in this state, it’s impossible to be a good friend. Like I said, friendship takes an investment of yourself. And when you aren’t really sure what you are doing things for, you aren’t really complete. The pieces are there, but they aren’t ready. It’s sort of like wanting to offer your new neighbor a cake as a welcome to the neighborhood, but you give them a couple of eggs and two cups of flour, sifted and leveled, instead.

The point is, I’ve gotten it together now. I think I can be a better friend to you. I found my focus. I can’t really, in writing or even in talking, explain what my focus to you is. It’s bigger than simply a goal. It’s not quite like finding Zen. I can’t really convey it in this length of space, nor am I sure I have the words to do so anyway. I also can’t tell you exactly how I found it. I can note some reasons: one is music, one is a wonderful girl, and one is a sort of an understanding of where I’ve been. There are countless little things: the help of a kind stranger, the confidence in my abilities from someone who had no reason to offer me a chance, the helpful piece of advice from someone who owed me no loyalty, the respect to let me figure out things for myself my way instead of trying to force their own remedy down my throat.

Anyway, I’m not waiting for the big great thing anymore. I realized that the big great thing happens every day if you make it happen. It involves trying and doing, and sometimes failing, but trying again. It involves caring about what is going on now, instead of waiting for a reason. You make your own reasons.

So now that I’ve gotten myself together, I have the necessary “start-up capital” to be a friend. Maybe you never thought I was a bad friend, and now are thinking less of me. For you, I’m sorry. Should I offer you eggs and flour as a make-up gift? Instead, just know that if you never thought I was bad, it can only get better. If you did think it was bad, it will get better for you, too. If you were worried about me, you can relax.

If you aren’t my friend, this isn't an open invitation to become one. You should have your own by now. Make sure you are yourself for them.


ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER

A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker

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COMMENTS

jael mchenry
9.14.01 @ 8:36a

This reminds me of Tracey's marriage column -- setting the record straight about relationships. Whether it's friendship or marriage, the idea that you don't have to work at it is a huge misconception. Unless you're friends with your clone, there will always be disagreements, differences, failures on somebody's part. That doesn't mean the friendship's over. It just means you've got something else to deal with, whether you deal with it by talking about it, ignoring it, compromising, what-have-you.

I learned this in fourth grade, when I was crying because Jenny didn't talk to me at recess. She said, "Just because I don't talk to you at one recess doesn't mean I'm not your friend anymore."

joe procopio
9.20.01 @ 10:04a

I never really liked you either.

Just kidding. I struggle with this often as well. I think the key is to make a bunch of time and just call or visit people out of the blue. Friendships need to be fostered, and we tend to forget that. But the day I find that my closest friends are those I spend the most time with (mainly, work), is a sad sad day. Nothing against the people I work with.



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