Why You Should Only Be Able To Count Your Good Friends On One Hand
It was all about numbers when we were growing up.
When it was time to plan parties, to host sleepovers, to worry about who was going to get ready at whose house before the dance, we worried about how many would come.
We aimed high, subscribing to the philosophy “the more, the merrier,” never really wondering whether or not more was really merrier, never really asking ourselves if bigger numbers, bigger crowds and bigger circles translated to fuller hearts.
When we're younger, we have lots of friends. We surround ourselves with moats of friendship that keep us safe and protected; they layer us, safeguarding us against the elements and remind us that things are always better when there's more.
We're told that more is good – that more is always better – and we follow that faith in more. We follow it blindly, never really lingering on the idea that maybe more isn't always better, that maybe more is just too much.
So we throw parties. At first, we're just 5 years old and surrounded by all the girls in our kindergarten class.
In the blink of an eye, we're 8, renting out party rooms at our favorite gymnastics studio to tumble and flail around happily while surrounded by girls and boys in our classes at school.
Without even knowing it, we're 13 and coming into our own for the first time, staying up late with scores of our best friends gossiping about what our last names would be if we married Johnny or Jason or Luke or Tyler.
When we're not looking, 16 is sitting on us and we're sneaking downstairs to play Seven Minutes in Heaven with Brendan while Maya keeps mom distracted upstairs.
And somewhere in the maze, we learn high school's most valuable lesson. We learn to swap friends in and out, almost weekly, because we're closer with her than we are with her and she keeps better secrets than last week's best friend.
We keep a rotating schedule of girls we love and trust. We keep them close because most times, we do love them, but other times we realize that high school is the first taste of the real world that's waiting for us just behind the walls of homeroom and you need to do what you need to survive, even if it isn't always pretty.
High school teaches us that our safety net needs to be bigger, that it's better to have so many friends than it is to have just a few, reliable ones. We learn that maybe more really is merrier – even if it is just for a moment, even if we can't promise it will still be that way tomorrow.
Before we leave what we know for college, we promise our girlfriends that they'll always be our best girls. “No one,” we say, “will ever replace you,” because we really think that there will be no one else. We don't think that will be room for anyone else.
So we spend time with everyone — the girl we sat next to in Statistics, the guys who ate lunch six tables away – just because we can't bear the thought that things will never look like this again.
We can't go off into the unknown without bringing that safety net forward. We can't sleep at night without holding on to that blanket because what's out there and waiting for us is too far away to see. It's too far to know.
But is more really merrier? Does it translate to fuller hearts? To happier memories? Are we really losing if we have less? Less love, less friendship, less communication to maintain?
I've always only had five best friends – for as long as it's worth remembering, anyway. When I was younger, of course, I swapped friends like I did fresh clothes, but when the time came for friendships to really matter – when the tough stuff set in, when the tears flowed and the first hearts broke – when the damage rolled in, there have always been five people to count on.
It's exactly one handful, I know, but it matters. It makes it merrier. It makes every day, every moment, every laugh, every giggle, every mixed emotion and high and low better.
There has always been five of us. It makes me happy. I feel protected knowing that somewhere, they are sending me well wishes.
I feel safe knowing that there are four corners of my life, experiencing things and people and emotions and feelings and though they are physically far from me, I'm still right there with them. I feel safeguarded knowing that this world may not be rainbows and unicorns and smiley faces, but this world is full and happy and five.
When I'm alone, there are just five phone calls to make. Just five people to share things with. It comforts me, even in the worst moments, to know that there are just five pieces of the puzzle.
And though time will test us again and again at our weakest, there will still be just five. They are the protectors of my universe. The phone calls that I'll make from my jail cell. They are enough. Five is a good number. Five is everything.
There are fewer hugs to give, yes, but there is more time to hold on. There are fewer people to call, of course, but there is more time to spend on the phone. It's fewer people to love, but more room to love them.
A few is enough. Less, it turns out, can be more. You just have to phrase it right. You just have to make it right.
When we're younger, of course numbers matter. At our most basic, we're humans just trying to make it by. So we’ll stock our shelves, our hearts, our heads, with more. Because we know that we're bound to lose some on the way.
We make friends with the bully in fifth grade because we know it's better to be in her good graces than it is to be against her. We tell ourselves that real friends can come in the form of lots of girls. We pack extra because we're not sure if we'll need it. We give ourselves more because we're sure it will be merrier. We're sure it will be happier.
But as we grow up and shed the things that scared us into silence when we were younger, we realize more isn't merrier.
It doesn't have to be. We don't have to make it that way. We learn that the clichés are true: Real friends are more important than more friends; it is quality over quantity
It is more important to make those hugs a little longer and less important to spread our arms wider. It's more important to keep those small few – those small few who mean so much – closer than to keep them in line with everyone else.
As we get other, it becomes less and less about the numbers and more about the people. Instead, we surround ourselves with people who know the stories better than we do, with people who know the words better than we could ever sing them.
We love them harder, hug them longer, kiss them sweeter. We don't worry about the more because what we have may feel smaller in size, but it's bigger in meaning.
We don't plan the parties with the ornate guest lists and the activities. We don't stress the RSVPs or the photos because we don't have to: The people we love are already here. They've been here.
So how could more ever be merrier when what's less has always been greater?
Less, it turns out, has always been more.
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