I emailed a friend last month asking for a favor. We hadn't been in touch for some time and I felt guilty sending a request wrapped in a hello. The reply came back a few hours later.
“I’d do anything to help you. Yes, of course.”
I couldn't stop thinking about it for the next few days. I didn't even reply right away as I tried to put those words into context: I'd do anything to help you.
We met through a web startup and have since shared a few calls and met for drinks and conversation. I wouldn't hesitate to call them a friend.
But there are different types of friend. There's grab a drink friends and email friends and ask for help in the middle of the night friends. Social networks have made a certain type of friendship easier than ever, but also blurred the meaning of the word.
Friendships of every sort matter, but the reply made me realize that this was a different sort of friendship available if I put more of myself into it.
When a new year is on the horizon, I usually have things I'd like to do (or do differently). I might set a goal to read a certain number of books or learn something new.
But what matters more than deep, meaningful friendships? If I could fast forward to the end of the year and find myself with a single new friend of that sort—an ask anything, share life, challenge my assumptions, trusted, and treasured friend—I would consider that an amazing year. In fact, I can't think of a goal or resolution I would place above it. Those friendships change the course of your life.
They also take a lot of work, especially as you get older. There's a time when they seem to happen naturally. Being at work or in school certainly helps, placing you in close proximity to potential friends and providing common ground to build on. But the more we change jobs and cities, and work from our homes and coffee shops, the harder it is to make those connections.
I realize now, though, that any friendship of one sort has within it the potential of friendship of another sort. It's not that it must; a wide range of friendships is a good thing. But what an incredibly special thing it is when it happens.
So, I want to stop thinking of close friendships as something magical and random (and out of my control) and instead, something to be pursued. What it takes isn't a secret—lending a hand and asking for help; inviting often and saying yes when asked; being there and fully present; reading the book they recommend and try the show they won't stop talking about; commiserating over relational valleys; and celebrating the smallest triumphs.
There are people I would love to be more deeply connected to and for that to happen, it takes risk. Not every friendship is meant to be and the moment when you realize that isn't fun.
Now and then, though, something new and profoundly meaningful takes root.
Take a chance on a casual friend becoming a close friend. Send an invite, write a note, lend a hand, stop by unannounced, or send the perfect, heartfelt emoji communiqué. Plant a seed.