So, after some reflecting on a marshrutka, I came to a realization. In Georgia, and you could even expand this to life in general, it can be difficult to maintain friends. In my control, I'm willing to go out on a limb and narrow to 2 things: 1) I'm overly critical of others 2) Those I'm not critical of feel as though the expectations of a friendship with me are too high. I've been trying to put a finger on this for quite some time. In Georgia, it's more apparent, as there are simply less people to be friends with. I'll make some general observations, some of which you might be able to identify with or already knew, in which I hope not to bore you. ;)
So, in life, let's say you find someone you connect with. First scenario: you spend time together up until a certain point, and you criticize them or a choice they've made, because as their friend, you care about them. Then it's either received well, but often it isn't. Some examples, "he/she's not good for you," "you really hurt my feelings when...," "you should really be more careful," "I wish you wouldn't say...," "I kindly disagree with you on...," etc, etc. The fact is: most people can't take criticism.
Second scenario: you spend time together up until a certain point, and you criticize something in the environment around you. Most likely, it's a person that triggers an undesired effect. Some examples, "Can you believe what he/she's wearing," "I thoroughly disagree with his/her moral beliefs," "Can you believe him/her?," etc. etc Your new found friend hears something, and it connects with some part of his/her self that he/she admires, values, or identifies with. An argument might ensue, or your new found friend might have just made a mental note about you. Maybe that person is disgusted with how critical of a person you are of others. They might also worry, "When will I be criticized?" and come to the conclusion, "I just can't live up to their expectations."
I can say while I've definitely been the criticizer that ends a friendship more often than I'd like to admit, I've also experienced the above scenarios as the offended friend which is why I feel that I understand them. So then, friends, you have 28 people in your cohort of Peace Corps. Do you criticize them? Is it worth the risk of finishing your 2 years with only maintaining contact with 1-2 other people?
I think it also could bubble over into an employer-employee relationship. Everything goes well and everyone is happy until you give a piece of harsh, real criticism, call it feedback if you like. Maybe it's true, but how many people would admit being accepting and open to truth?
That's where I think we bubble down our pool of friends to the "5 Good/True Friends." Everyone says you can really only count your true friends in any lifetime on 1 hand. They are your most valued, loyal and trusted friends. I can say people that I consider my true friends are ones that I can criticize. While there still may be an argument, I know that we'll come out of that argument just as strong as before. I know that I can go to Peace Corps for 2 years; they'll support me through the tough times; and be there for me when I get back.
Have I met any "True Friends" in Peace Corps? And I can answer honestly by saying, "I think so." Time will tell of course. Geography and situation can have a lot to do with creating and keeping true friends. The people in Peace Corps, and in my group especially, are people that I've been through a lot with. I have been extremely critical of my colleagues, and I thank those who took the heat. I thank my "True Friends" back home that take the heat and have done so during our relationships. I consider myself very open to criticism, so feel free to leave it/deal it out any time. My advice to you is, be ready to take it.
I would rather be open, honest, and communicate fully with those around me, than put up a front and give a false smile. I'm a very sincere person. Know that if I'm smiling at you, I mean it. As far as a friendship with me is concerned, if I'm your friend, you meet my expectations. I know that no one's perfect, nor do I expect them to be. If there's criticism involved, we can hopefully resolve it and move on. I use criticism as a tool to keep the relationships around me honest, sincere, and healthy.
I know there may be some flaws in my logic, this entire blog might be written off as too juvenile, or you just don't care. However, human relationships are ones we spend our entire lives trying to understand. I just felt to need/want to get these words out there. Love you guys, thanks for reading.