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The Joy of Friendship

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Joy Works Playlist Pick-Umbrella by Rihanna and Jay Z

This memory is as clear to me as if it were yesterday. Indulge me while I include some of the small details. I was in kindergarten at PS 95 in Brooklynn, NY- Mrs. Snyder's class. She was this small framed white lady with a lot of red hair and she wore big round glasses that sat on her nose. One morning, our class got a new student and Mrs. Snyder asked me if I would be his friend because he was really scared and shy. I could never remember his name but he had dark brown hair that came to his eyes and a bright yellow shirt tucked in his jeans. I walked right up to him with my big smile, missing teeth, and cornrows and grabbed his hand. I might have been a little aggressive(assertive) and possessive. We became buddies and one day we had our little arms around each other near this wooden kitchen-I think that might have gotten us separated...omg.

I don't know why I thought about this, but it reminded me of how easy and enjoyable it was to make friends when I was younger. Just think about the innocence of it all. There seemed to be nothing to it. There were no hang ups or trust issues. It was simply, You wanna be my friend? Not sure about you, but as I got older, I became more like DJ Khaled, No New Friends, especially when it came to my professional interactions. Some of this I can attribute to what is called, adaptive isolation, which was in response to being focused on all of my responsibilities (being a wife, mom, student etc.). I just didn't feel like investing in relationships could be a priority. However, much of it was also psychological. I didn't trust people. I built walls up over my career to protect myself from getting hurt or betrayed. When I entered the profession I listened to folks who told me, don't eat in the teacher's lounge, keep to yourself, keep your head down, and do not trust ANYONE. I decided to shy away from people more or less because I didn't want to get caught up in what is often referred to as "da bullshit" (we've all been around it and about it). Sometimes though as Jim Rohn shares, The walls we build to keep the sadness out also keep out the joy.

How do you feel about embracing new friendships? Do you find it natural and easy or are you leery about the idea? Do you have walls around you due to lack of trust? If so, are those walls connected to such things as past experiences, race, or culture? When is the last time that you made a new friend? In Chapter 6 of my book, Joy Works: 8 Lessons for Educators, I talk a bit about creating joyful connections. One thing that often stood in my way was that I enjoyed the safety of a 1:1 relationship. I always felt like having one loyal buddy was enough for me. Well, what would happened though is each time I transitioned professionally, I went through a lonely period until I found a buddy that I felt safe around. I spent a lot of time at work...lonely. Yeah, my walls were way high up.

So let me tell you about 6 years ago when I started a role as an assistant principal, I had already been working in the same school district for about thirteen years. Throughout that time, I really didn't connect with many people on a personal level. I attended a minimal amount of functions and even during professional conferences, I managed to isolate myself. Well, when I became an AP, I really needed a network and friends, and my principal was the first person to show and tell me that. During one of our conversations she flat out told me that I needed a network not only to support me in my role but for my own happiness. I used to watch how she connected with others and could call on colleagues for help and support. She embraced relationships and understood that there were different levels of friendship. Most importantly, she tapped into the benefits of having different levels of friendships. This was eye-opening to me. She knew many principals as casual acquaintances, and they provided valuable professional support and resources to each other. On the other hand, she had her ride or die principal friends with whom she had weathered many storms with and shared her intimate personal and professional feelings and experiences.

Photo Credit: The Opened Box

As I transitioned out of that role, I realized how much I could have benefited from embracing friends at different levels, just like my principal. So I began to do that, being more open when people invited me to friendship. I started to notice what I felt were sincere efforts in my new role and even through social media. I began connecting with people in a beautiful and natural way. My friend Rosalba Rodriguez describes them as "heart connections." I didn't need a whole lot of people but I did need more than one person. I also became more intentional about pouring into others and making time-you have to be available to build friendships.

I feel joy through this intentional friendship building in a few ways. First, I am very inquisitive and find it fun to learn and explore people. I also learned that it's okay to be vulnerable and let my guard down a bit. Yep, eventually I felt okay with people knowing my quirks, I mean you can't hide them but for so long. Having a variety of relationships has opened, no, knocked down doors to new experiences and opportunities. I've been encouraged to engage in new ways of thinking and doing that have taken me out of my comfort zone. Most importantly, I feel like I have help with life. My professional life is morphing into something that I could not be more proud of and I know it has been influenced and supported by the people that have become my new friends.

This is not to say that I still don't have walls up, and in crowd of people I will always prefer to slip away with one person. What can I say, I love intimacy. However, I have learned the invaluable benefit of have having multiple types of friendships. Now that being said, a friendship we desire may not bloom as fast as or in the direction that we want. We may yearn for more closeness or intimacy with someone who keeps us in the casual zone. For some reason it makes us want to be around them even more...right? I think it's because it's hard to accept and we attach our value to how that person responds to us...and well we shouldn't. As Matthew Haig author of the Comfort Book simply says, "Allow yourself to be reached." On the other hand, we may want to take certain friendships slower with someone who is wide open to sharing everything with us. There are certainly feelings and emotions involved in building friendships. I love that I can be more comfortable with sharing that because we all have feelings. I find myself being more sensitive to this because in reality I believe we all desire one thing-genuine acceptance.

Love, Dr. Joy

By the way...share this post and shout out a few of your friends who have helped you a long the way! Also what are some of your favorite songs about friendship. Tag me @joyworkedu!

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