good life with kaitlin o’connell
Part of cultivating a good life is continually nurturing your friendships and being a best friend for your friends.
When I was in grade two, my best friend Ashley moved away. I remember moping around, sad and complaining that I had to find a new best friend because everyone else had one. My mom wisely told me something like this: “Kaitlin, best friends are not just something you have. Focus on being a best friend for your friends. Be the kind of friend you want to have.”
Fast forward. A few years ago, I was traveling to Winnipeg every week for my job in business consulting. It was tough, but after a few months it had become routine and I was used to it. One night I was eating dinner with my laptop (per usual), when I had a troubling realization: I was spending more time watching my friends from the sidelines (through social media) than I was being a part of their lives. It was a hollow and lonely feeling – one that had resulted from months of letting myself get totally caught up in my own life. I had missed events with friends because of last minute work deadlines. I had put off replying to friends’ emails because I was busy and overwhelmed. I had turned down their invitations to meet up because I was tired from the long hours and travel.
I was not being a best friend. I was not putting in the time to nurture my friendships, and thus I was taking them for granted. Soon after, I made some changes (long distance phone plan!) and created some new habits (weekend brunch!), and thankfully, I still had some very cool and understanding friends who were happy to have me back.
These days, I try to remind myself to be a best friend, especially on those days when I’ve had a busy week or I’m tired or I’m just feeling lazy. I remind myself to make an effort to do the following:
Connect regularly with them. I aim for in-person meetups with my friends in Victoria – dinner when we can or a quick coffee when we’re swamped. I have phone chats with my friend in Vancouver. I send conversational emails to my friends in Australia. I try to make sure I’m not relying solely on text messages/social media to keep in touch.
Show a genuine interest in them and their life. I try to stay up-to-speed on the day-to-day stuff as well as the big stuff. I ask about things I know they care about. I keep a note on my phone (for each friend) of things I want to remember, like names of key people in their life, gift ideas, or special dates that are coming up.
Celebrate their successes and happy occasions. I like to make a big deal out of birthdays. I make sure there’s a card, balloons, and at least one candle so they can make a wish. I know, I know, but it’s fun at any age! I like to send flowers to their office when they get recognized at work. I try to attend their competitions and dance shows so I can cheer them on. I love to host – from holiday parties to casual dinners – so we can all just hang out together.
Stand beside them through challenges and crises. I try to be supportive, trustworthy, and non-judgmental when they are their most vulnerable with me. I give hugs. I show them my vulnerable side too. I say yes to girl’s night out following a bad week at work or a break-up, even if I have to change out of my jammies. I say yes to favour requests, even time-consuming, inconvenient, or boring ones.
Make an extra effort when situations change (and they will), such as co-worker friends who leave your workplace, friends who move to another city, friends who have a new baby, etc. When there’s a change that impacts how/when we can connect, I make an extra effort to create the “new normal” and to let them know that they’re important to me.
Some of the most powerful and important moments in my life have been created with close friends – moments when I was being totally and honestly myself and felt understood, known, seen, accepted, and loved. Close friends are truly a gift – a very special part of life – and it takes time and effort to create and nurture these friendships. It is so worth it.
P.S. In case you were wondering, that is my friend, Jenny, with me in the 4×4 photo, and in many of those adorable 2×2 photos behind us. She is seriously the best. We’ve been friends for over a decade now, and so to celebrate, I printed all those awesome photos of us and slid them into a Project Life® Mini Album for her. A fun and easy gift to show her the special spot she holds in my life and in my heart.
Kaitlin O’Connell is a part of our 2016 Creative Team using physical product. She currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia and has an amazing boyfriend named Scott!
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