Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art … It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. ~ C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
When the school year began just over four weeks I ago, I was not hurriedly preparing for the new school year, I was preparing for a new life direction. Since then most days have been anchored by two goals: making progress on my “50 Life Stories” and looking for meaningful employment that is purposeful without being all-consuming. Both goals energize me, but sometimes this new path also terrifies me and leaves me questioning my decision to act on my desires. This was especially true last week when one of my job pursuits turned into a third interview, with a required presentation at the end of the interview. As a veteran teacher, I have presented to students thousands of times, but this presentation took on a heightened stress level that was further amplified by the pressure of interviewing, that immediately followed needing to walk two blocks in downtown Phoenix during the hottest part of the day. By the time I arrived, I may not have looked a hot mess, but I surely felt it.
I have been focused on accomplishing personal and professional goals, but what I have discovered is that this new life walk has given me pockets of time during my week that I did not have as a high school teacher. As I embark on my newfound journey of change, I greet each day with astonishment. I am astonished at the limitless possibilities of each day. I am also astonished at how much time I devoted to my former job and how little time I devoted to so many other aspects of life, like cultivating friendships. With newly discovered pockets of time in my schedule I am seizing the opportunity to act on inspired friend moments, instead of brushing them aside because there just isn’t enough time.
Although I allowed my job to consume most of my time over the last several years, having and being there for my friends has always been important to me, and I have instilled the same values in my daughter. I made the extra effort to drive her long distances to see old friends whenever we moved from one community to the next. This effort took planning, time, and resources, but I wanted her to stay connected to people and build lasting relationships that would endure beyond the limitations of distance. Now, as a twenty-something she has friends across Arizona, California, Oregon and beyond, and she understands that there are forever friends who will always be there for her and then there are friends who show up for only a short time, and for a specific purpose. Both friend groups are blessings and regardless of the friend label, both groups should be appreciated, valued, and protected. The most sincere and authentic way to appreciate, value, and protect my friendships is to be the type of friend I want to have. I aspire to be one who loves unconditionally, listens actively, laughs authentically, and leans in, during life’s highs and lows.
My work schedule was demanding and time-consuming, but I have made efforts to maintain and value my friendships through the years, including the relationship with my best friend, my husband. I have also started friendships in our “new” city of seven years that I am grateful for, but I have also had to regretfully say no to many friend moments, that sometimes arrived in the form of an inspired idea or gesture that could not be fulfilled due to professional obligations. Reflecting on many regretful “no” moments, I now realize a “yes” response may not have noticeably changed anything at work to anyone, except me, but it would have enhanced the overall quality and spontaneity of my life, and perhaps the lives of those I cherish.
I have prioritized my job search and my story writing, but I have unintentionally prioritized connecting with friends too. Doing so has added more unexpected blessings along this journey of intentional change. Work is necessary. Creativity is a must. Creative work is divinely inspired and always the goal. All those gifts are enhanced when we have friends who can share both the trials and triumphs. Authentic friends are the result of living with intention and purpose, not just expecting and receiving. I was reminded of those truths this week. Sharing my job search experience with a few friends, stopping by a friend’s new school site for a campus tour, and scheduling time to go to the art museum today with another friend, reminded me how fortunate I am to have supportive people in my life who should hear more enthusiastic “yeses” instead of more regretful “nos.”
Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.