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Headshot of me with long hair, pink lip stick, light makeup Kara Babcock

This year I learned: friendship is a verb

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I’m not always down for a “year in review” kind of post, except maybe for my reading—it’s not that I dislike them, but hey, they require effort. Yet 2017 has seen so many dramatic changes in my life that I feel the need to set something down in this record for posterity. Disclaimer: I know that 2017 has been a shit year for many people, but for me personally, it has been rather great. If you aren’t interested in reading a post filled with unbridled positivity, I understand.

Firstly, obviously, I bought a house! This was a long time coming, though I did accelerate my timetable somewhat. Four months in, and I have zero regrets. I am loving this life. I’ll talk a little bit more about how living alone in a house of my own has changed things for the better later in this post.

Secondly, I quit my part-time job as a gallery attendant at my local art gallery (read more on that in this blog post—I was good about documenting changes as they happened!). I had some trepidation about this. Aside from the (small) drop in my income, the gallery was a significant source of socializing for me. I was going to miss my coworkers. And, indeed, I miss them in certain ways (though I see some of them even more often—more on that). But I don’t miss working there that much! That isn’t to denigrate the gallery itself, or the job I did. I’d just outgrown it, and I’m glad that I realized it was time to move on now. Quit while you’re ahead and all that.

So the last half of 2017 can be summarized in the word adjustment. I’ve adjusted to living on my own. I’ve adjusted to having the one job. And I’ve adjusted to being far more social than ever before.

My initial vision for living in my own home included an added “hermit” clause. That is, I was thinking I’d see friends maybe a few times a month and otherwise live in urban seclusion. Boy how wrong I was.

Partly it’s simply because I now have the space to play host (and apparently I’m good at it). I can have friends over whenever, on my terms, in this lovely space that is mine. I can invite them to drop by casually, on their way to or from somewhere else, for a cup of tea. Not having to go out, to meet up, definitely makes me more interested in seeing people. And when they aren’t around, when I’ve just come home from an entire day of being in a classroom full of people, I have blessed silence, alone with my thoughts—and all of you people here on the internet.

But that’s not the whole reason I’ve been socializing more. See, it’s not like I’ve become more outgoing. I’m not making a lot of new friends. I have always preferred to have fewer, stronger ties than several, weaker ties, and that hasn’t changed. So I’ve been spending more time with certain friends, and it has been great to watch these friendships grow deeper.

One of my gallery coworkers quit around the same time I did. Up until that point, we’d been working together pretty consistently every Tuesday evening. I was going to miss our conversations. And, because I can be insecure about my friendships, I was worried that we wouldn’t hang out much after we were done at the gallery, despite assurances otherwise. Circumstances and time have proved me so very wrong, much to my satisfaction. She plans to move to Montreal in May, and while I am sad that will take her out of my IRL sphere and into the online one, I am excited for her to embark on this new journey, and so proud that she finally started her own blog. (I look forward to soon being an expert-by-proxy in fashion—that’s how that works, right?) Among all the wonderful ways our friendship has blossomed: we’ve begun cooking together every couple of weeks, to help her hone her skills, and rewatching Buffy while we’re at it.

I also made a new friend through the gallery. We only worked together once, but she didn’t even need the enforced proximity of working together to decide she wanted to be my friend (sometimes I am difficult to befriend, because I am reticent to expand my social circle, and I apologize occasionally to my friends who have to work so hard to get to know me!). And then in October, at her suggestion, I introduced her to Doctor Who. When she said this was going to be a regular thing, I was excited but also took it with a grain of salt—it has been my experience that most people treat such commitments more loosely or lightly than I do; I don’t blame my friends for it, because I sometimes get a little too fixated on these things. I was envisioning a casual, every-other-week-or-so kind of arrangement, as with cooking/Buffy with the other friend. So you can imagine my heartwarming surprise when this friend very adamantly stuck to our weekly plans. Since then, we have watched Doctor Who together every Sunday night, alternating at each other’s houses. And there are no words sufficient for how much this new friendship has transformed my life for the better. Some people you meet and take a long time to become close to, for whatever reason—and others you barely get to know before you feel like they’ve been in your life forever.

Reciprocation, if you haven’t noticed yet from this post, is a big deal for me in friendships. I recently started listening to the Friendshipping podcast, thanks to Desert Bus. (A whole podcast dedicated to giving advice about friendships? Yes, please!) The podcast’s theme song includes the line, “Do friendship at the problem.” And I just love that. I love the implication that friendship is a verb, because when you really think about it, this is so true. Friendships don’t just spring into being naturally, nor do they remain stable without tending from both friends. Friendship isn’t something you possess; it is very much something you must do.

If one asks me what my most significant moment of 2017 was, “buying a house” is an obvious but also superficial answer. My most significant moments of 2017 were the moments I looked around and realized that, 10 years on from high school, 5 years into my teaching career, and 4 months into home ownership, I am blessed with numerous relationships that make me better. My most significant moments were the ones where I made a conscious choice to do something to change, ameliorate, or take a chance with one of my friendships because I felt safe and secure enough doing so. We are, none of us, the same person that we were a year ago—but in the case of this year, I am very much not that person.

So, I am going into 2018 in a state of profound happiness and satisfaction. I have every reason to hope that this next year is going to be even better, that my friendships are going to continue to provide me with warmth and love and the particular sort of social stimulation my highly abstract mind craves—and that I, in turn, will continue to provide my friends with love, support, and kindness.

The world can be a dark place sometimes, and I know that for some of us, in many places, 2017 made it seem much darker. Yet we can, each of us, through our own small acts, bring some light to bear against that darkness. I know that sounds corny, but oh well. Here’s an example: I have been making a conscious effort to compliment my friends more frequently—and not just casual, “Oh, you look good today” kinds of compliments; I’m talking genuine compliments that remind the friend of something they are uniquely good at or something that makes me grateful to know them. Because if their day is going well, then I’m adding to that feeling; if their day is shit, then maybe I can help turn it around. Never underestimate the power of simply taking a moment to show a person you really see what it is that they are or do.

I began this post by warning it would contain unbridled positivity. I mean this not in the self-help sense, but as a description of my present state of mind. Unbridled positivity does not mean always feeling happy or good. I know there will be moments—minutes, hours, even days—in 2018 when I am sad or blue or just generally lugubrious about my situation. I am only human. But I will experience these moments against the backdrop of a much richer environment, one where I have people around me who are giving me what I need. And this knowledge makes me feel so good right now, so positive and hopeful for this next year, that I just had to write about it. This is a record of what I am feeling right here, right now, so I can always come back to this and be reminded that, yes, these are the moments that matter.