Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Should finding friends take "planning?"

I've been thinking a lot lately about whether making friends and building friendships should need "a plan."

definitely didn't "plan" these elementary friendships :)

For the record, "plans" are the story of my life. In junior high, I planned my ideal class schedule for high school. After college, I planned a three-month trip with an old friend. Before law school, I planned out an entire relationship with a guy (it didn't work out; definitely for the best). And my emotional happiness often depends on these plans. Plans that fall through make me unhappy or frustrated. Even plans that work out don't always make me as happy as I thought (and I discover making the plans is more fun than the actual event...) If you've ever spent months planning a trip and relishing every second but then ending up disappointed when it doesn't go quite as well as planned, I'm sure you know the feeling.

"Having a plan" is perhaps the most familiar phrase in my family besides our constant usage of the word "yay." Growing up, we were expected to have a plan for our summers, with our allowances, for college, in order to get birthday thank-you's out on time, etc. I distinctly remember creating PowerPoint presentations to help pitch my plan to my father (not sure I ever actually gave the presentation, but I definitely drafted them).

the friends you don't get to choose....your family! ha!

Both of my parents are intense planners. My father, a petroleum engineer, used to plan quarterly meetings with each of his children to discuss their life and its plan. Once we had a coffee (or later, beer) in our hands, he would slide a piece of paper across the table: the meeting minutes and plan for our hour together. I'm not exaggerating here.

I know I also get this from my mother (Hi, Momma!). She is a serial and meticulous planner. Here are some examples of things she plans: vacations down to the hour, meals when we're home for Christmas, her outfits, her own blog posts and writings, their house renovation. These are definitely all things deserving of and benefitting from her planning. And my father's planning has likewise always been deliberate and helpful, especially in avoiding aimless wanderings of adolescence. I've definitely been privvy to the virtues of planning and am grateful for their guidance (and plans!).

But is planning always helpful or good? Two weekends ago, my sister-in-law and I were talking about planning our lives (she's back home now and is planning her next few months). We both know people who plan things so much that it seems like there's no room for creativity, no room for, as she put it beautifully, "the movements of God." When I do make room for God to work in my life, He does! Or, when I don't always have "a plan," one eventually appears and often, it's more perfect than what I could have envisioned myself.

In December of 2014, Lewis and I (mostly me) were having a mini-crisis of planning. This was all precipitated by the fact that I needed to decide in which state to take the bar exam. I wanted to plan this with Lewis - I was in love with him, I wanted to be with him - but! we were not engaged. And even if/once we were engaged, there was the question of "when to get married" and "where to study for the bar exam" and "when to move." I was graduating in May and taking the bar exam in July - so we had to plan around those two, immoveable dates and it seemed like nothing was possible !! oh the drama!!

It came to a head one Friday night when I had a major meltdown. So unhappy with our plan-less and doomed future, I said to Lewis (and this is verbatim) amidst tears and snot, "Even if you were to propose tomorrow, I would say yes but I wouldn't be happy about it!"Guess when Lewis proposed. Of course, I did say yes and WAS happy about it after all. Here's evidence:

Once we were engaged, the ball just started rolling and doors opening. Our church was available on the date we wanted. The reception was available. I registered for the bar in Colorado. We found an apartment with a lease until August. It just...worked! I couldn't really have planned it better. And while the lack of a plan was initially terrifying, it was also refreshing to not have to control every.single.thing. When it comes to friendships, who wants to plan out every coffee and game night and phone call? No thank you.

So the other day when my mom asked, "What's your plan for meeting people?" my gut reaction was "Ugh, I don't want to plan this! I just want organic friendships to spring up! I want the spark!" For most of my life, this has been exactly how it's happened. You meet someone in a class, in a group project, at church, wherever - and BOOM instantaneous spark. Alternatively, you're in the same class from grades 2-10, have known these people your whole life, or are family friends - so, friendships just sort of happen. Fast forward to now, though, and there are no friendships just "happening." I'm no longer in school - thankgodneveragain - and actually/sadly rarely even leave the apartment. When I do, I go to Target, the gym in our complex, the grocery store, or some other random errands.

best high school friends

I think what this all boils down to is despite my love/hate relationship with "plans," if I want to make friends, it's definitely going to take a lot of effort. We don't have kids whose parents we can hang out with. I don't have coworkers. (Lewis's coworkers are lovely but there are only like 6 of them and they're all male...) Everyone in our massive apartment complex keeps mostly to themselves. We (thankfully!!) know a handful of people from Lewis's college days and friends of friends who have graciously invited us out with them. They are all wonderful and I hope we keep it up.

But that's JUST IT. We're gonna have to keep it up. Reaching out and making plans and basically dating these people to create that nice foundation of friendship. Should friendships require planning? I have no idea. But do they? Yes, I think so.

THE *as of now untested* FRIENDSHIP PLAN by me
1. Realize you have no/few friends in town. Check!
2. Be sad and write sad posts that make people sad. Check!
3. Get over yourself and put your brain to work. Check!
4. Call/text/reach out to whatever lifelines are available aka old friends and tenuous ones.
5. Accept every invite that comes your way.
6. Actually talk to people in the elevator of your apartment complex...
7. Buy more chairs and invite people over.
8. Go to ANY event that encourages conversation (exception: speed-dating), such as Theology on Tap.
9. Stay behind at the end of Mass for 10 minutes and say hi to the priest who will hopefully introduce you to every young adult in the parish.
10. Pray! :)

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