The inconvenience of friendship

Living in a city sometimes feels like walking through a corn maze at night when it comes to spending time with friends: you’re all in the same general space, and you know they’re not too far from you; when you finally run into them you’re relieved — “I’m not alone after all!” — but with an accidental half turn away you lose them again, and it’s anyones guess when they’ll reappear. We all feel this, and sometimes even love cities for this very reason; we love the anonymity of being a single barnacle in a harbor at low tide, minding our own business amongst millions more doing the same.

But sometimes this loneliness — when it loses its mystique, when its luster fades — is felt more acutely. It begins to feel oppressive. We start to wonder about whether the city is all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe those friends of ours who never left home were on to something. They had a community, and they stayed for it. This is a conundrum which lacks a panacea. And if you feel as I do, you know that this feeling ebbs like a buoy, tossed about by circumstances beyond our command; here today, gone tomorrow.

If I’ve acquired any bit of wisdom on this subject, it’s that friendship is rarely convenient for both parties involved. Yes, there are the anomalies, relationships which work so seamlessly and seemingly devoid of effort, so mutually beneficial are they. This, I think, is one side effect of real love: you identify something so crucial, so beloved, in another person that you decide to make them a part of your life, no matter the effort.

But for the friendships that don’t inherently light that flame, I remind myself that inconveniencing oneself for the benefit of strengthening a bond is a worthwhile endeavor. Go meet somebody for dinner even though you really want to go home to your couch — you haven’t seen them in weeks. Ride the train across town because somebody wants to make you dinner — it’s a long ride, but maybe it’s also highly desirable alone time in disguise. Go out of your way to see old friends when you’re in a place of your past.

I think there are two ways to look at these scenarios. The first might be why should I spend time pursuing friends that don’t reciprocate that effort? But friendships are not that simple, and we have only so much opportunity to meet people in the first place. So instead I choose to see this in the second way: we all feel a bit guilty in our occasional reclusiveness; maybe it’s possible that a little bit of inconvenience on your part is the key that unlocks a lifelong friendship.