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Time For a Friendship Audit

May 28, 2017


Sometimes an idea comes triggered by the most unlikely of events. This is the case with today’s article. This is not what I had planned to write for this week, but then something happened that made me change my mind. I will continue with what I had planned to right next week but for today, let me share my epiphany moment with you.

It all started when this friend of mine sent me a whatsapp message on Saturday morning. The actual text was, “Morning Liz. How is you, family and neighbors?” The part about the neighbors caught me by surprise because it is not every day someone actually takes an interest in their neighbors. Think about it, when was the last time you asked about the well being of your neighbors, or your friends’ neighbors? It is an unusual occurrence.

Anyway, I decided to play along and answer his questions as he had asked them, so I told him, “We are all good. But I don't know what problem the neighbor's pigs are having. Been Making lots of noise...” At that point he just cracked up and sent me a voice note to prove it; I couldn’t see him but I could tell he must have been tearing because of laughing. I could also tell he thought I was making this all up. So I decided to further describe our neighborhood to him...

Actually we live in a very interesting neighborhood”, I told him. “On the right we have a neighbor with a chicken farm. Sasa usiku Umeme ukikatika (when the power goes off at night.....)” to which he responded, “I can understand this... We used to have chicken at home when I was growing up in Bahari Beach... Umeme ukikatika mnapata singo za singeli...(which means when power cuts the chicken sing)”.

For those who don’t know, “singeli’ is a kind of genre of music in Tanzania where the beats are so fast they are not even fit for an aerobics class. Plus the singer sings 2000 words per minute! Now imagine chicken “singing” singeli in the dark.... that’s our neighborhood.  By this time, I was laughing too at the thought of chicken singing, but I was not through with describing our neighborhood.

Then on that neighbor's left (the one with chicken) which is still our right” I said, “you find the pigs. Wengi tu yaani. Asubuhi wanaamkaga na mood swings kweli. Kama leo.... (very many of them. In the morning they wake up with mood swings, like today)”.

On our left sasa (now) we have not animals but weird human beings...” I continued. “One loves hosting parties almost every weekend/holiday; loud music, women laughing like they are recording a taarab video, and people parking their cars mpaka sometimes tunakosa njia ya kupita sisi... (they block the way so we can’t pass)” Of course the conversation was very long and I don’t want to post it all here.  What you’ve read so far serves the purpose I wanted it to, which is to describe those who surround us.

When we first came to this neighborhood, it was very quiet. The neighbor on our left was still building her house and so she wasn’t living there. The guy with pigs didn’t have pigs then; he only used to grow sukuma wiki among other green veggies. The party animal on our left wasn’t such a party animal then but as years have progressed, I’m not sure what has happened to him but parties are the order of the weekends. Mid-life crisis maybe? I don’t know but could be. We have another one who has dogs. The only thing is that there is a madman who likes annoying the dogs at around 2am nearly every night, causing the dogs to howl and bark in anger. Yes, that’s the interesting neighborhood we live in.

Describing our neighborhood to my friend made me realize one thing; there are two groups of people you cannot choose in your life; your family and your neighbors. I say you cannot choose your neighbors because unless you buy all the land surrounding your home, you never know what kind of a neighbor will come next to you. Same case applies to our families; unless you are adopted (and you chose who you want to be adopted by), you do not have control of who your birth parents will be, who your siblings will be or who your great grand parents will be. You find yourself in a specific family, bearing specific names and you have nothing you can say about that.

But here’s something else that I realized; that even though I don’t have control over who my neighbors and my family members are, I have all the control in the world to choose who my friends will be and who will not! How is that for a great tradeoff!

Choosing friends is very important because your friends can either cause you to progress or to retrogress. I have shared an excerpt of an article I found here, which addresses the issue of friends and friendship. 

We are social beings and need to be in the presence of others. Many times, however, those who we choose to spend our life with can have an immensely negative impact on us. We should therefore be very careful when it comes to choosing friends, so that we surround ourselves with those who help us find happiness, instead of those who contribute to our suffering.

There are two kinds of people: those who burden us and those who uplift us.

Those who burden us are those who we don’t truly resonate with, who don’t have a similar mindset to ours, who we can’t truly communicate heart to heart with, who don’t understand us and who we don’t feel connected with. Those people are making our lives more complicated, and, whether they realize it or not, they are putting obstacles on our way to happiness instead of helping us reach quicker to it.

Those who uplift us are the people we can consider as true friends. They are those who can understand us and connect with us on a deep level. They are those who care for us, love us, and wish us the best in life, doing their best to help us grow into the best version of ourselves. Those are the people with whom life can be turned into an amazing journey, filled with joy, love, and freedom.

Obviously, if you desire to live happily, you should surround yourself with those who lift you up and not with those who bring you down. But how can this be achieved? By creating meaningful relationships.

We are living in a culture where people have become alienated from one another. Most of us feel lonely in a cold world that we think is separate from ourselves and possibly threatening to our well-being. Hence we don’t dare to come close to our fellow human beings, afraid that we will risk getting hurt by them. And, in one sense, that’s a logical choice, considering how competitive people have become with one another. But, on the other hand, we miss out on the beauty of friendship.

To me, even if we risk being hurt by others, there’s no point in living closed to ourselves and feeling lonely, afraid to connect, love, and communicate with people. We all deep down desire to feel connected, but we’re living in a way that prevents us from forming intimate relationships. We’ve built big walls all around ourselves so people cannot approach us and come in touch with us. We’re doing everything we can to avoid communicating and sharing our being with others. Or we communicate only on a superficial level, without sharing our true thoughts and feelings.

It’s time to break down those walls and come closer to each other. It’s time to stop feeling lonely and instead start feeling connected. Of course, I am not saying that we should spend our lives with any person we come across — instead, we should pick and choose carefully the ones we feel most connected with. But in order to do so, we first need to let go of those ones who we don’t connect with, even if we’ve spent all of our past together, and open our hearts to embrace new people that we meet in our life’s journey,

Friendship is a sacred thing, and once we learn to be true friends, our life is going to be completely transformed, in a tremendously positive way.

It is time to do a friendship audit if you haven’t done one in the recent past. Remember, you might not have the control over who your neighbors and family are, but you sure have complete control over who your friends should be. Choose them wisely.

As you choose your friends remember this very wise quote by Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” With this thought in mind, how do you rate?


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 28th May, 2017, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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