The Ones We Choose

February 10, 2009

To paraphrase dialogue from House, one of my favorite shows, life is a series of rooms. The quality of  a life is determined by who we spend time in those rooms with. Now, in many instances, we don’t get to choose who’s keeping us company. When we go out in public, we don’t know who we’re going to run into, and who is going to decide to talk to us. We have no control over that. Likewise, we don’t have control over who we work with, (unless we’re self employed), or even what family we’re born into. It’s true that if we don’t care for our families we can sever ties with them. In that respect we have some measure of control. But I think it says a great deal about who we are by who we choose to surround ourselves with. The people we choose to occupy our rooms reveal the qualities that we, as humans, value.

I remember when I was younger I didn’t necessarily feel that way. If I had some friends that maybe were a little disreputable, as was certainly the case, I always felt a need to defend them. They’re not so bad, I would say. They have qualities that aren’t immediately evident. They’re just misunderstood. In some instances, I believed that. But in other cases, when someone said to me, you’re hanging out with so-and-so, they’re a bad seed, I could deny it, but in my heart I knew that it was true. Did that make me the sort of person that they were, due to judgment by association? I hoped not, but maybe, when it came right down to it, I didn’t really care as much as I let on. I couldn’t have, otherwise I would have severed ties with these people. But why did I choose the crowd that I did? It’s a question that I didn’t think about then, but is of interest to me now. I think loyalty had something to do with it. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and consequently, I felt a fierce sense of attachment to those that befriended me. If they did right by me, I would do the same for them, even if I didn’t always agree with their actions, and believe me, I didn’t. But there was another aspect to it as well, that I probably wasn’t ready to admit to myself then, but can without difficulty now. I was living vicariously through them. They were trouble makers, and it’s what I wanted for myself. Even if I couldn’t match them, in terms of the petty crimes that they would perpetrate, for the thrill of it, if nothing else, I came along for the ride. I had my own reasons, that I won’t elaborate on much here, but suffice to say, I wanted to thumb my nose at the establishment, I wanted to rebel, I wanted to cause some trouble, and those around me allowed me to do that.

Of course, that was many years ago, and a lot has changed since then. My priorities are much different, and I’m glad of that; if they weren’t, it would be an indication that I hadn’t had any personal growth in the past decade and a half. Do I still hang out with the same crowd that I did then? I’m in touch with some of them, but I don’t see them often. I moved on, geographically as well as personally. Many of them have stayed in the same place, on both counts. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s their prerogative, and we all have our own lives to live. But it strikes me that these days, I value different qualities in people than I did in years past, qualities that are more in tune with my current philosophies. What are they, you ask? It’s a valid question, and one that I’m not completely able to answer. If there were any similar qualities between the people I’ve chosen to fill the rooms I occupy in the past few years, one would be that, quite simply put, they care. Oh, some of them might have a dark or ironic sense of humor, but beneath this exterior, they have a capacity for kindness and a depth of compassion that, I think, is part of the reason that attracted me to them. Their temperaments might be different. But whether any of them will admit it (and some of them probably wouldn’t), deep down, they’re good people.  That, I think, was not the case in years past. I think that in my youth, I was attracted to people more toward the opposite end of the spectrum, those who, beneath the exterior, had less redeeming qualities.

The other commonality I’ve noticed among my friends of recent years are artistic leanings. This covers a rather wide range, but of course, art takes many forms, so that must be factored in. Whether they do it to try and support themselves, use their crafts for supplemental income, or whether they do it for passion rather than profit, many of them seem to feel the need to create. This might have been true of some of my friends in years past, but lately I’ve noticed it more.

What, then, can be taken from all of this? If my summation is correct, which is that those we choose to surround ourselves with embody the qualities that we ourselves possess or aspire to, then it means that their qualities should be reflected in our own. Is that the case with me? I have to say that, yes, for the most part, it is. Let’s review. If those around me have compassion for others and a depth of enjoyment for the experience of their lives, even while grumbling and maintaining appearances to the contrary, does it then follow that the same is true of myself? I have to say that yes, it does. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty in my life that bothers me, as I’ve posted about on this site, and doubtless will again, but I think the difference between the current me and the me of years gone by is that while my outward demeanor is much unchanged, it is my inner belief that is different. Before, down at the core, I thought that everything was bleak, and that the intrinsic nature of the universe was a cruel, insensitive, and arbitrary thing. Do I believe so now? I still do, sometimes. But I think I have achieved a greater sense of balance that might have been lacking before, so that I have, perhaps for the first time in my life, hope. It is a miraculous thing, hope, in the truest sense of the world. Hope is the beginning of miraculous events. One can never take place without the other.

As for whether I am artistic, as those around me are, I don’t even need to waste any time pondering that, as it is obviously true. I spent the first seventeen or eighteen years of my life searching for a voice, and I’ve spent the last ten years watching it and feeling it and listening to it grow stronger. I know this process will continue, and that has been part of the reason for my making the choices for friends that I have. Artists seek each other out. Art can be a lonely business, but at some point, we all need to crawl out from our caves and convene with one another. It is either that, or go mad, which some end up doing…it can be great for the art, but not so good for the soul.

In the end, I think what I’m trying to say is that where before, I didn’t believe in the validity of our friends (and lovers) defining us, now I do to a much greater degree. There’s a reason why we pick people to share our lives, to share our rooms. Sometimes the reasons are not completely clear, even to us. But I’ll conclude by saying this. Sometimes a little self-reflection on this matter is a good and a healthy thing. Why do we choose to spend time and remain in touch with the people we do, while others are discarded along the way? It is not by accident that these things happen. We choose the people who are best for us, who nurture us, who challenge us…or we don’t. Either way, it says a lot about ourselves.

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1 Comment

  • Reply M February 20, 2009 at 5:16 am

    Heh. You were my troublemaker. I wanted to be as sassy as I recall you were (oh yes, you were). I knew my parents would light my ass up though.

    Ditto on the loyalty. I sometimes wonder if I’m loyal to a fault. It’s one of the few traits I strongly display. The connection of shared experience in memory can be more real that what we touch. It is for me. I don’t commit to much but if I give you my friendship, well, you’ve got it forever. I don’t have many friends because of that, though.

    Hey, maybe that’s a cancer thing.

    And I hear you on seeing in your friends what you have inside. Not only on the creativity but also on consideration and a… tolerant and open viewpoint.


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