Saturday, August 17, 2013

Growing the Garden of You

Two weeks ago a coworker who was my mentor and to a certain extent my friend was fired.  Yesterday I found out that he had passed away.  I have a lot of thoughts about this running around in my head, but foremost among them is the feeling that my coworker didn't have a good support system.  His family lives across the country.  He didn't seem to have many friends who could help him out when he was in need. 

Having relationships with other people is a bit like growing a garden.  You have to decide what you want to put in it, how big you want it to be, and whether you want plants that are easy to care for, plants that bear fruit or vegetables, or plants that smell nice and are pretty to look at.  Once you determine that, you have to put in some work to keep it up.  If you don't look after your garden, it might be completely overtaken by weeds or die.

Personal relationships are like that garden.  To have friends takes effort.  First, to make friends you have to be a friend.  You have to be generous and supportive and respectful and interested, and sometimes you have to do those things even when you're not getting anything in return from the other person.  You also have to be careful about who you let into your garden.  If your friends don't make you feel good about yourself and proud to count them among your friends, they shouldn't be a part of your life.  It's okay to have some friends who are just casual friends, people you socialize with but don't expect them to help you move.  But they should still be people who make you feel good about you and about spending your time with them.  Don't let your garden fill up with weeds.

Don't let your garden die, either.  Keep in touch with your friends.  Ask them how they are from time to time.  Make time to see them or call them.  Don't keep saying to yourself, "I should really get in touch with X" and never following up on it.  You never know what can happen.  It's true that sometimes friends just grow apart, that whatever it was that made you friends in the first place can fade away, or people change and their personalities and interests no longer mesh with yours.  But when that happens, don't say to yourself, "I can't make friends".  Go out and actively look for new friends.  Go and try new activities, go to new places, don't be afraid to approach people you think might be good candidates and test the waters.  If it doesn't work out, so what?    Try again.  Don't be afraid of failure.

I wish I could have said these things to my coworker, but I don't know if he would have listened.  I just hope that someone else might read this and give some thought to how their garden of friends is growing.

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