Reflecting on Friendship in the age of COVID-19

Hey pals. It’s Matt again. In an age where “these unprecedented times” are in our daily lexicon, and a time where we have to change our notion of friendship, I, a furloughed unemployed person, have a lot of time to reflect.

In a way, I had a head start on a lot of America with the feelings of anxiety, as I’ve been unemployed or underemployed for the past year since I finished my Master’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati in May 2019. I’ve moved around a lot. Four states in the past four years. Been so broke that I don’t really get out of the house much, COVID-19 or not.

So basically, this is a long-winded way of saying that many of my friendships have evolved or changed in the past few years, I’ve identified some recurring traits of different kinds of friendships, how they operate in-person, and how they operate when you are apart. I’ve labeled them as follows: The “In-The Moment Friendship,” the “Mentor-Mentee Friendship,” The “Extrovert Adopting an Introvert Friendship”, the “No Small-Talk Friendship,” the “Hellbent on Being the Best in Your Field” friendship, the “Misfit Friendship,” and lastly, the “Toxic Friendship.”

Before we start, I want to establish that the concept of friendship is fluid, and that while the examples I give best represent the categories, they don’t necessarily mean said friendship *only* exists in that manner. It just helps to have examples.

 

The “In-The-Moment Friendship”

These are friendships that probably struggle the most on a day-to-day basis in quarantine, or when you’re at a distance with someone if you don’t put what the friendship is into perspective.

These are people that are so great at being “in-the-moment,” that their focus usually lies in what’s directly in front of them day-to-day. The people in their immediate life. When you’re around them, they have this magical ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room. They do a great job at making sure that everybody is having a good time and enjoying themselves… in the moment.

That being said, these aren’t friends I typically talk to over the phone for extended periods of time. There isn’t a lot of chit chat when apart outside of the occasional words of encouragement.

But when you see them for the first time in forever, it is like nothing changed. Y’all still hit if off and enjoy each other’s presence, sharing a moment that you can cherish forever.

My best “in-the-moment” friend is probably Terence Davis Jr. He has this infectious energy that lights up any room he walks into. TD is always living in the moment, making the most out of each day.

TDandWhatnot

It’s partially why I think he is so successful on the court, going from benchwarmer at Ole Miss to legitimate NBA stud. He can focus so hard “in-the-moment” that he lets his game come to him, and is able to persevere through the dark times to get where he wants to be with his athletic gifts… by taking it day-by-day and doing the things required each day to continue to get better.

Off the court, he is one of the best people I know. Always making sure the people in his immediate life are taken care of and are having a good time.

Once again, he isn’t somebody I will spend hours on the phone talking to about life and whatnot, but the couple times a year where we are in the same area? We make time for each other, and live the best we can in that moment. I appreciate that friendship a lot.

 The “Mentor-Mentee Friendship”

The mentor-mentee friendship is a special one. Usually brought together when people of similar career interests are brought together, but one has far more experience and knowledge than the mentee, who shows potential, but has a lot to learn.

Todd Abernethy is my life sensei. He has ten years on me, but we share a love for the game and similar life core values. The three years I worked with him at Ole Miss were a Godsend. He helped guide me through tough times, and I kept him up to date with what was hip with the “youths” of America, something very important when recruiting basketball players.

It is an interesting relationship because of the age difference, which means that we learn new things each time we talk. It is important to learn new things and have new experiences. It keeps life fresh.

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 2.12.14 PM

As I get older, which feels weird saying because I’m only 25, I find myself in the mentor role more and more. I still occasionally talk to my former students at University of Cincinnati, and my former campers at Androscoggin, helping guide them through this rocky strange road we call life. It is fulfilling to be on both sides of the mentor-mentee coin, and great to see people grow and become better at their craft, and as people.

 

The “Extrovert Adopting an Introvert Friendship”

For those that don’t know, I’m heavily introverted. Like SUPER SUPER introverted. The “extrovert adopting an introvert” friendships are some of the friendships I cherish most, because not only are they willing to put up with my somewhat anti-social behavior, they really help me grow as a person socially.

They’re the people that see the person awkwardly standing in the corner at the party then strike up a conversation with them. If they have other friends that you don’t know, they do their best to make sure y’all get introduced.

Sometimes, they need to be reeled in a bit, as the possibilities of new friendship and new ideas always excite them, and without a bit of organization, all of their hopes and dreams may only stay hopes and dreams.

It’s a very nice ebb and flow. They pull you out of your shell, and you reel them back in before they get completely sidetracked. One of those yin-yang situations that some of my deepest friendships consist of.

Two people I could put in that category are Browning Stubbs and Maggie Mitchell. They are people bursting with ideas and possibilities, always seeking new stories and deep connections with people.

StubbMan

They have this comforting energy that makes you feel valued, and the conversations are endless. Endless to a point where you start talking on the phone, and next thing you know two hours have passed— yet you could talk for two hours more.

MattAndMags

Sometimes, getting them to be on time, or limiting distractions can be a challenge, but I would not trade these folks for the world.

The “Not a lot of Small-Talk Friendship”

These are the friends you can talk for hours with, know them for years, and only just find out they have a sibling you don’t know about.

That is me and Dwight Coleby. Dwight is probably going to be the best man at my future wedding. (When I say future, I mean very far future. Extremely single at the moment. Sorry Mom.)

MattAndtheDwightMan

We just flow. Similar interests, similar core values, and a friendship where we can talk about anything going on in our lives. That being said, we apparently skipped a lot of the small talk, like “family,” because Dwight just found out I had a brother the other day.

We spend so much time talking about basketball, dating, school, moving around etc. that I forgot to mention I have a brother. Oops.

Most of our friendship has been from a distance because he transferred to Kansas after our Sophomore year. However, we are always there for each other. Dwight and I will be friends for life.

 

The “Hellbent on Being the Best in Your Field Friendship”

These are friendships where if you didn’t share the same interests, you probably wouldn’t be friends. However, since you do, and you’re competitors, you respect the hustle and the amount of work they put in to be the best.

For me, that friend is probably Stefan Moody. We rarely talked outside of the basketball court. We probably wouldn’t run in the same crowds if it weren’t for hoops. However, when we are both on the court, the respect is there.

In pregame warmups he would shoot 40 footers, and I was his rebounder because I hustled the hardest to grab the board wherever the ball may fly. I can’t tell you how many time I would walk into the practice facility to see him getting extra shots up at 9:00 PM on a random Tuesday.

Of course, I would rebound for him then too. Stefan Moody is probably the best pound-for-pound basketball player I’ve ever been around. We probably wouldn’t be friends if it weren’t for hoops. We don’t have any pictures together, which in a way, is a perfect way to describe our relationship: Business and respect. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

The “Misfit Friendship”

Most of my friends probably fall into this category. Just a bunch of weirdos that hang out together for some reason. We are all wacky, different, and bring something strange and exciting to the table.

Randy Morgan, Breck Jones, Collin Brister, JP Bieller, Jared Cox, and so many other people that will all probably make fools of each other for the rest of our lives. We bust each other’s balls, talk about sports, and just sit back, relax and be weird.

I love all of my misfits. We stick together.

The “Toxic Friendship”

The “Toxic Friendship” is the toughest one to deal with, especially during a quarantine situation, because a toxic friendship is based off of hope and manipulation rather than substance.

You may have great chemistry with them when you are together. However, when you’re apart? They don’t respect your time. There is an asymmetry in effort. They may say one thing, then act another.

Because that chemistry is there, you hope that they will come around, and hope that things will get better and you are just in a rough patch. However, sometimes a good friendship can turn into a toxic one.

I’ve had to let go a few people in my life—- some of which I’d been friends with FOR YEARS because the effort was no longer there. Sometimes they start dating someone new and then their whole world becomes that person. Other times, they have demons they have to fight. Heck, sometimes it is your own demons that push them away. Most of the time it’s a combination of the two.

In my current personal experience, I’ve had three good friends, friendships that lasted years and very meaningful to me, end in being “ghosted” this year. No explanation. No closure. Just the pain of abandonment, and the endless questions and anxieties of what went wrong swinging through your head driving you insane.

When you’re trapped in your home, with only thoughts and possibilities– instead of being able to see your pals, these toxic friendships can take over, since you really want to “fix” things and make it go back to the time when you had that chemistry.

However, it takes two to be able to fix things, and sometimes the other just doesn’t want things to be fixed, and it is time to close the book. Even when that book has no clear closure.

That doesn’t mean you have to demonize the person you’re breaking the toxic friendship with, though. You can appreciate the times you had together that were good. You can note that while it no longer is a viable friendship, there was a time where it helped you grow as a person, and you enjoyed each other’s presence.

Good times are not wasted. Trying to recapture those good times with someone that clearly does not want to is a waste of time. And it is OK to hurt and mourn the loss of a friendship. As well as it is much harder to move on when you can’t really meet new people in this time of COVID-19. But one must fight the temptation to go back to a toxic friendship.

Conclusion

I’ve failed so many times fighting the temptation to go back to toxic friendships– but it is time to move on, and time to focus on the better kinds of friendships that I listed above. I am deeply appreciated by those that keep it in the moment, all of the mentors and mentees in my life, the extroverts that adopted me, the people that I don’t need to small talk with, and the numerous misfits that come together to make life a better thing to live.

My hope is to be a better friend to those, and spend less time trying to rekindle toxic friendships that only lead to misery.

 

 

 

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