throughout the span of our lives, we encounter many different people, who become useful to us in various ways. the individuals that we come in contact with often rub off on us, leaving a small piece of themselves to live within our minds and hearts. whether good or bad, we learn things from relationships that we form, short or long, healthy or toxic, and from these experiences, we grasp a better understanding of ourselves and of the world with which we are encased.
i want to talk about advice, and about the people who give it to us.
advice can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing, depending on how it is relayed. children and young adults are constantly given “advice”, which is often a cut-and-dry direction on what to do, disguised as a guiding tool. in fact, sometimes people think they are giving advice, when really they are setting limitations.
so what do i think advice is? to me, advice is an idea that is given, not as a deciding factor, but instead as a thought or value or meaning to inhabit a place in our hearts, and be left stagnant until the moment that it is needed, until the moment that it becomes relevant to us. advice is something that is said, that isn’t always relevant directly at the time, but that can be put to use in a future context that we find ourselves in.
this is the beginning of a column that reflects on the advice that i have been given throughout my life- what it means, what it has led to, if it works, or if it is meaningless.
my mom, jo-anne. bless her. seriously. she is a passionate, athletic, business owning, perfect blend of warmth and outrageously-timed sarcasm; a woman who has experienced tragedy, given life to three people, and who constantly makes jokes about her name. a hyphen? she laments. she is a mother when i am uncertain, a friend for every occasion, and a sister for the one i never had. for this first recollection on advice, i want to talk about something that my mom taught me, that has allowed me to better understand people and has saved my heart from a ton of let downs.
when i was younger, i had some issues with my friends. i always had a best friend, someone who i spent all my time with, and then i had a hand-full of other really good friends. the best friend usually shifted every couple of years, after being worn too thin or growing in different directions. i guess this was partly because i was young, but i always seemed to feel that i was the better friend in every best-friendship. i always felt like i was giving more than the other person, that i cared more, that i called more, that i asked them to come hang out more. i was pretty emotional as a child, in fact, i still am, so i think my little heart was broken 10 times a week if i felt like the person i cared the most about didn’t exactly care about me in the same way. writing this down now, it seems like i was actually just a little fruitcake, like i thought way too highly of myself, because i know for a fact i have, and have always had, some crappy qualities when it comes to friendship. anyway, there was one friend that i would constantly fight with, and even if she did something wrong, it would be my fault, and i’d end up apologizing for her mistake. i remember this one conversation with my mom, where she found me crying at the computer desk (r.i.p 15 hour days of sitting on msn), as i’d just been in a fight with this same friend. i spilled my heart out. in between gasps for air and uncountable tears, i explained to her what i have explained to you: that i felt like i always got the short end of the stick. instead of taking my side, and telling me that i should find a new friend, she began to explain something to me that went a little like this:
“emily, i’m sorry you’re so upset. sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want from people, and that’s okay. sometimes people just can’t give us what we think they can; sometimes you can’t ask for more, because that person might be giving you everything that they are capable of giving you. instead of being upset, maybe you should redefine your expectations of *monica, and then you won’t be upset when she doesn’t live up to your standards, and instead you can just take her for what she is.”
my mom went on to tell me that just because i think i’m such a great friend, that that is no reason to believe that someone else can be just as good of a friend. at the time, this MAGICAL IDEA helped me through that specific friendship, but as i got older, i started to apply it to a lot of relationships, so instead of constantly being disappointed in a friend or a lover, i would just think to myself, they are giving me all that they can.
you might be reading this thinking, whoa, this chick lets people walk all over her and take advantage of her! i don’t see it that way, though. i don’t stay in friendships that make me unhappy, and i certainly don’t remain involved in a romantic relationship if i’m not being treated properly or if i’m not into it. this whole idea, to me, is about questioning my standards, and not just feeling entitled to what i deem as the “right” way for someone to behave in a friendship/romance. if i can’t rely on one of my friends for something, i will acknowledge that internally, and i won’t expect it from them; in a lot of cases, i’ll go to a friend who i know i can rely on for that specific thing. the beauty of having multiple friends is that they are all different, and they can give you different things, filling in the spots that others can’t. just like them, i’m a piece of their puzzle, and i do something for them that their other friends may not be able to; they have other friends for the things that i can’t provide them with.
thanks to this advice from my wiser-than-wise mother, i have allowed myself to not take things as personally when it comes to friends, or boyfriends, or colleagues, or professors (or anyone – you catch my drift). if there is a serious problem, i will gently bring it up with a friend, but if it’s something that could very well just be my sensitivity, i’ll try and move along. now, instead of experiencing heartbreak 10 times a week…well, i just don’t.
*does anyone really have a friend named monica? other than chandler and ross…well, for the sake of the story, this “no-good, scoundrel” friend of mine got a name change! ps, we’re still pals!