The Friend Quota

Choose your friends wisely, because when you’ve lost your way and wandered out onto thin ice in the pond of life, they will be the ones to throw you the rope, and the really good ones may even inch themselves out into danger to help save you. I’ve been lucky with friendships in my life. I’m pretty easy to get along with, and I like people, so I am naturally drawn to them. If you are active and social, acquaintances are easy to come by, especially now with Facebook, but really good friends are harder to get and keep. As you age, you have less time and energy for maintaining close friendships – life gets too full. My theory is that most of us probably filled up our friend quota by the time we were twenty-five. We simply don’t have any more bandwidth after that to absorb new friends.

But if you relocate to a new place, you have to start over again making new friends, and since most of the natives in your new city will have already reached their friend quota, you end up making friends with other transplants who are also looking for new friends.  When I first moved to Seattle, I was lucky enough to make the move with my best friend, so it was built into the deal. We learned to navigate our new city together, and it made the transition easier and a lot more fun. We made other friends through work and eventually through our spouses, and after a while, life got pretty full. But these last few years, I worked in a virtual environment, secluded at home and seeing no one during the day. My only contact with people was on the computer, on chat, and on the phone. Sometimes a delivery guy would ring the doorbell for a signature, but that was about it. My husband was at work all day, and he’s not a big talker anyway, so I was incredibly isolated in this environment. How cool to work from home, people said enviously to me, but they had no idea how lonely it was. And when I left Corporate America, even the virtual contact was gone. It was me and my novel and my cats in the house alone all day, bouncing off the walls.

So when I dared to venture out to that Nia class, I had no real expectations, other than to get myself out of the house and get some exercise. What I quickly realized was it was the human interaction that proved the most beneficial to me. Actually seeing and talking with real live people – what a novelty!  But after living in Seattle for almost seventeen years, I thought I had once again filled up my friend quota. I had no expectations other than a fun workout, but Nia also brought friendship into my life. Not acquaintances, but friends. The kind of women you know would do anything they could for you, who are caring and sincere and authentic. Nobody is blowing any smoke. Everyone is individual and honored for that individuality, and everyone is given a turn to speak their mind.  All of this was astonishing to me after living in the hyper-competitive environment of Corporate America for so many years. It truly was a gift, because when I told these women (they know who they are) that I had quit my job and was writing a novel, their reaction was like – cool. They didn’t look at me like a three-headed crazy monster. They accepted me. And I know it sounds sappy, but because they accepted me, I began to accept myself.

There was a moment, somewhere around June 2011, about six months into my new writing life, when I drove a stake into the ground. I made a decision on where I was going from there. The day I left work in December 2010, my plan had been to enjoy the holidays, then work diligently on the novel, and then in May, we had plans to jet off to Tuscany for two weeks to celebrate my 50th birthday. That was as far as I would look ahead. But when I got back in June from a wonderful vacation, I had to start thinking about what my plan was. My novel was nearly done. What then?

So I’m lunching with my Nia buddies after class one day, and casually mention that my novel is nearly finished and I am at a crossroads and need to plan what to do next. One of them says, with all due respect, that she is slightly concerned because it is starting to sound like I may be considering going back to Corporate America. Well, I said, I have to do something for money eventually. And she says, well, I don’t think you should go back. And my other friend says, absolutely, you shouldn’t go back. I have to confess that I was like, really? You mean I don’t have to go back? It’s ok if I don’t? I really had not considered that I wouldn’t have to go back at some point. Sometimes your friends can see a future that you haven’t had the guts the dream for yourself. So I began to scheme from that point on. I got really serious about my book and getting it published. I got more focused on my short-term goals and stopped projecting out to when my money would run out. I started to believe in myself. My mantra became “Stay focused and make it count.” That’s what I did.

I was already leaning toward self publishing, but given the interminably long intervals required to finesse a traditional publishing deal, I had no choice but to grab the bull by the horns and get my novel out there as soon as I could. I didn’t have months and years to acquire an agent and then, if the gods smiled on me, maybe that agent would sell my book and then the publisher would spend another year working out all the logistics of putting it out in print. I needed to make hay while the sun was still shining.

I decided to take this writing thing all the way, and if I wasn’t successful, then I would die trying. I’m not going back, just forward. So once I got very clear on this, it’s amazing how the universe rallied to join me. I found the trail of breadcrumbs again and began to follow it.