I originally wrote this post on my way out of Tanzania back in January. I started drafting it on the flight from Kilimanjaro to Mombasa and I finished the draft on the flight from Addis Ababa to Hong Kong. In the week following that, I cleaned it up (as I do all my posts) and actually scheduled it to publish at the end of my Kilimanjaro series. Then I pulled it from the lineup. I felt that it was too soon and wanted some more time to be sure. I think it’s time now.
I think most people who know me would say that I’m a pretty friendly person. It’s my disposition; I’m generally sunny and warm (much like the weather in Jamaica). I also genuinely care about the people with whom I choose to be friends.
My circle of friends used to consist mostly of the friends and relatives of my then-partner, as well as whoever wanted to be friends with me. That’s a side effect of being a people pleaser; I just wanted people to like me, so as long as someone wanted to be my friend (unless my “spirit never tek them”), I was good with that.
Then came the Great Breakup of ’14.
I started shedding friends. To do this, I decided that I needed to have a cutting standard. My simple standard was that if a person had what I felt was an unwholesome character or if they were someone who I didn’t believe could help me be a better person or who I felt didn’t mean me any good, then they had to go. This made cutting remarkably easy and I ended up with a very tight inner circle of 3 people, a middle circle of another 3 and an outer circle of 3 or 4. Everyone else who was not cut off were either casual friends or simply acquaintances to whom I had no particular objection.
This cutting exercise culminated in me clearing out my phone contacts at the end of 2015. My rule of thumb for deletion was: if I hadn’t spoken to someone all year, they clearly weren’t important to me and I clearly wasn’t important to them so it was time for their information to stop taking up space on my phone. That brought my contacts list down from almost 1,000 to just over 100.
I say all this to tell you that I haven’t been looking to collect new friends. As friendly as I naturally am, I don’t particularly want new friends right now; I’m good with the ones I have. New acquaintances are nice and I’ll always collect those – there are some really interesting people out there who have very interesting things to say – but I don’t want to be friends with them.
Then came Kilimanjaro. I found a friend in Africa.
At first, I didn’t know that I had found a friend. But after spending numerous hours together talking and being silent, I found myself with a feeling of regret when it came time to say goodbye. The feeling of regret was surprising; I wanted more time to talk and to be silent.
I wondered if perhaps I was being overly dramatic; intense experiences can do that to you. Maybe I was misplacing my warm and fuzzy feelings of successfully meeting the Kilimanjaro challenge. But that wouldn’t account for the genuine respect and liking I had for my new friend.
Of course, I’m not an idiot; you can’t truly know a person after just a few days. That takes years. But in Jamaica we have a thing called “spirit tek.” My spirit tek my new friend. That is to say, my spirit recognised someone with similar values and a particular strength of character and was indicating to me that this might be someone worth knowing.
I think God has blessed me with a new friend. Time will tell.