According to Facebook, I have 457 friends. I am not the kind of person who will accept just any friend request, either. To be my friend on Facebook, I have to at least know you, or remember meeting you. I am Facebook friends with a few people (and if you are reading this: it’s not you) whose faces I couldn’t quite remember when they asked me to be friends. But after a while, my memory kicked in, and I accepted the request.
Despite the large number of Facebook friends, I sometimes feel that I am lacking in good real-life friendships. A reason for this could be that I have not been living where I now live for very long. I moved here in 2008, after graduating from seminary. My wife grew up here, so she has plenty of friends who still live in the area. I have become friends with some of them as well. And yet, it sometimes happens that when we are deciding what to do on a free evening, or a weekend, we can’t think of anyone to call.
The problem isn’t that I don’t have friends. Of my 457 Facebook friends, I am quite close with several of them. But those people with whom I have formed close friendships usually live hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. It seems that I have not lived my life in such a way as to have a lot of friends who live close by. Let’s recap:
When I graduated from high school, I moved to another state to go to college. This ensured that I would not be seeing friends I made in high school on a regular basis. I would see a few when I would return on breaks, but now that I am out of school (and hence no longer have regular breaks), I don’t make it back as often. Many of the ones I have kept in close touch with don’t live there anymore, either.
When I chose a college, I went to a private one rather than a state one. This ensured that most friends I made while there would inevitably be from different parts of the country. When I was in college, I made many friends, but I didn’t know a single person from my hometown.
When I graduated from college, I spent two years in Europe, teaching English with a missionary organization based in California. This ensured that I would get to know a lot of Europeans who don’t get to my side of the Atlantic much. It also ensured that most of my fellow American teachers would be from different parts of the country.
When I finished teaching overseas, I decided to attend seminary in Vancouver, BC, a place I had never been in my life. This meant that in addition to the many friends I had made from various parts of the United States and Europe, I would add friends from Canada and elsewhere in the world, while simultaneously adding to my total of American friends from various places.
Now I’m starting over again in a new place, and I guess I have myself to blame for the lack of good friendships. It’s true that even if I had stayed in one town my whole life, many of the friends I made there would have moved away by now. Despite this, I still feel that by all my moving around, I have been part of the problem rather than the solution.
It is also true that if I had stayed in one town my whole life, I would not have been able to see all the places I’ve seen. I’m definitely grateful for the places I’ve seen, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met. I have grown through my experiences, I have wonderful memories, and I now have friends to visit all over the world – if I set aside the time and money to visit. All the same, though, I think I’m ready to be rooted. The problem is, rootedness doesn’t happen quickly. Friendships sprang up quickly in school because there were so many of us in the same position, and often living in close proximity to one another. Building friendships in a new city is much harder, and slower, work. So if you’re my Facebook friend and you live in Bellingham, let’s spend some time together. I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, at least if I can help it.