It’s a little something I call “forced friendship”.
It was always a bittersweet moment when as an elementary school student, I would walk into the classroom Monday morning and realize that my desk was on the other side of the room. I would now be sitting next to other kids that I hadn’t necessarily been around much before. This also meant I would no longer be sitting close to the friends I had made while at my previously assigned seat.
Boy, this is just a life metaphor waiting to happen. Don’t beat me to the punch…
Do we choose our friends? Yes. But so often, by default. Whether because of proximity through work, school, church, current circles of friends, or even marrying into a family, we find ourselves in what I call “forced friendships”.
And I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. It’s good.
I use the word “forced” because the reality of friendship is that we don’t usually go out to places looking for friends. Friends just happen. We end up in the same place at the same place, often on a reoccurring basis. And in each location, the people that have the most in common or whose personalities compliment each other the most, are naturally going to become friends.
It’s not typical for one person to walk up to another person that they barely know and say, “Let’s be friends.” Because it’s much more natural to let the Assigned Seats of Destiny direct us in our human relationships.
The concept of forced friendship became apparent to me in 2008, the year that my sister got married in January, and I in July, just six months apart. In the same year, I gained a brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) on one side of the family, then seven brothers-in-law (my wife’s brothers) and two sisters-in-law (my wife’s sisters). Before 2008, I had no in-laws at all. In a matter of six months, I acquired plenty of them.
And through that process, the ones I have spent the most time with became the ones I obviously know the best, and therefore, have the strongest friendships with. We are family by marriage, but that doesn’t take away at all the friendship aspect of it.
Each one brings out different sides of my personality, hobbies, and interests. As we reflect our similarities and common ties.
For example, my sister’s husband Andrew and I are just a few years apart, having grown up playing the same old school Nintendo games, both having grown up in Alabama, and both obsessed with LOST. In fact, he’s the reason my sister started watching LOST, which is why I am now obsessed. Throughout the week, we send each other stupid website links and YouTube videos. The perfect combination of a brother and a good friend.
On the other end of the brother-in-law spectrum, there is Tom up in Pennsylvania, who is the husband of my wife’s 2nd oldest sister. We only see each other about twice a year and there is about a 10 year age difference between us. In fact, he and my wife’s sister got married when I was in Junior High and they had their first kid the year I graduated high school.
Yet we have a whole lot in common. When our wives are together, we let them catch up. And we just do our own thing. Whether it’s playing cards, shooting pool, watching movies, or playing with the kids. We live the laid-back life together.
Being around him is like that seeing my life ten years into the future. What little recent experience I have being around kids is from his two daughters. I watch carefully how he talks and interacts with them. His calm-assertiveness gives them the direction they need while still keeping the environment positive and loving.
Having the ability to choose isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s better for someone or something else to make our decisions and life plans for us. The funny thing is, the friendships I have sought out after never seem to last, like a trend or a fad. If anything, those friendships are the ones that actually ended up feeling forced.
Whereas the forced friendships have always seemed natural. So there we have it, friendship is a force. And with all there is to gain from forced friendships, I can’t help but be thankful for assigned seats.
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