Live Your Values

Making and Maintaining Friendships with Age (Pt. 2 of 2) with John Gray Williams

August 05, 2020 Episode 9
Making and Maintaining Friendships with Age (Pt. 2 of 2) with John Gray Williams
Live Your Values
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Live Your Values
Making and Maintaining Friendships with Age (Pt. 2 of 2) with John Gray Williams
Aug 05, 2020 Episode 9

In part two of this two-part conversation with John Gray Williams on making and maintaining friendships with age, this conversation features a deep dive into maintaining friendships as an adult. What we look for in friends as we get older, discussing gender and family norms. Dig in for this open, honest, and insightful dialogue between two close friends.

Guest Bio: John Gray Williams currently serves as the Director of Recruitment for the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, and has been in that role since 2015. Prior to that, he worked for five years as a Career Counselor, and had a brief three year stint as an Urban Planner for a civil engineering firm. He holds an M.A. in Counseling from the University of Delaware and B.A.s in Geography and Urban Planning, both from Virginia Tech. He is passionate about social justice work, especially as it relates to LGBTQ, women, and people of color, as well as increasing college access for first-generation and low-income students. He is also a self-identified "map nerd" who loves to travel. He has been on two cross-country road trips, and visited 47 US states and 10 foreign countries. He is passionate about people and hookah, and often finds that the two go hand-in-hand.

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In part two of this two-part conversation with John Gray Williams on making and maintaining friendships with age, this conversation features a deep dive into maintaining friendships as an adult. What we look for in friends as we get older, discussing gender and family norms. Dig in for this open, honest, and insightful dialogue between two close friends.

Guest Bio: John Gray Williams currently serves as the Director of Recruitment for the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, and has been in that role since 2015. Prior to that, he worked for five years as a Career Counselor, and had a brief three year stint as an Urban Planner for a civil engineering firm. He holds an M.A. in Counseling from the University of Delaware and B.A.s in Geography and Urban Planning, both from Virginia Tech. He is passionate about social justice work, especially as it relates to LGBTQ, women, and people of color, as well as increasing college access for first-generation and low-income students. He is also a self-identified "map nerd" who loves to travel. He has been on two cross-country road trips, and visited 47 US states and 10 foreign countries. He is passionate about people and hookah, and often finds that the two go hand-in-hand.

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Bagel: [00:00:00] Hey there, this is Bagel. Thanks for checking out part two of this conversation with the notorious map nerd. It even says so on his license plate. The always insightful John Gray.

If you haven't listened to part one of this chat yet, I highly encourage you start there with episode eight. This episode is the second half of that conversation and features a deep dive into maintaining friendships as an adult, what we look for in friends as we get older, discussing gender and family norms, and when it's time to let go. Let's roll the intro and we'll pick it up right where we left off last week with JG.  

John Gray: [00:00:43]  So moving into college and beyond, I started to notice there's, I guess there's just that critical mass. There's enough people out there ...I guess I started to have this awakening where it's like, there really are a lot of people out there. Good people, good in the sense... Good for me. Right. There are a lot of good people out there who I probably can't stand. But enough, I mean, I said it earlier, my tribe, you know, kind of accumulating people that I click with that are mature. And I think in reflecting on this exercise, for this topic. One of the things that I don't think I mentioned earlier that I probably should have is, independence, is something that's really important to me. I like people who know themselves. And can take action to make things happen in their life for themselves. And, you know, let me come along for the ride. And you come along for the ride with me. I guess it gets back to having friends that you feel like use you, or drag you down, or don't do anything to help build you up that are. I mean, The word toxic friendship gets used a lot. But You know, you have those kinds of friends that are way more of a time suck and an energy suck and make it a real challenge to be friends with. And then you've got folks who are like confident and independent and doing their own thing. I'm going to guess the same characteristics that attract you to a romantic partner attract you to your friends. Like, I don't want, not everyone has bad periods in their life and like people stumble and you're there to help them out. That's what friends are for. But I don't want a friend that's is going to constantly need me to just carry them through life. Plus, why, not only is that more work for me, but then like I'm not reaping any rewards. You know, like here’s the example, of our trip to Texas, you were like, let's do this. If you weren't an independent self starter type of person, I wouldn't have had you too sort of a piggyback with, right. And of course you appreciate me being like a go with the flow, adaptable. Yeah. I'd have a person that made that happen. Like if you didn't have your shit together, you know. But that awesome trip wouldn't have happened. 

Bagel: [00:03:21] Yeah. Yeah, it goes, it definitely goes both ways on that. Cause you're right. I mean, I see the dynamic of like, yes, like you were drawn to the fact that I was like, let's do this and I'm going to put the plan together and it made it. I think what you're saying, what I'm hearing is like, it made it easy for you to say yes. And like be interested and intrigued and.

John Gray: [00:03:44] Yeah, but I benefited from that experience. Like what a monumental, awesome life experience that I now have. Because I know you and you had your shit together and you're independent self starter, like curious.

Bagel: [00:04:00] And what's interesting to me is how that ties to a value that you have. Which is just having experiences. I mean, I don't know if you call that out specifically, but I certainly have gotten to know you, and I know that you value that. Like it's important for you to feel like you, you can rack up these life experiences and have things that you feel proud of that you have been able to do. And not, not necessarily in a competitive way, like look what I can do and nobody else can. But more that, like you want to have those things for yourself. Like you want to be able to experience the world, even if it's just, you know, driving to Texas. Which, you know, let's be honest, how much of the world are we experiencing? But it certainly was a memorable time that you decided to bring up. So, and the other thing I was gonna say is it's a dynamic. So right back at you, like, there's.... Like you helped me fulfill something that I really cared about, which is being able to have that experience as well. And there's no way that I can do that without having people like you to jump on board once I have the plan. And say, yeah, man, I'm in, let's do this thing. And like, I need that person and you've been that person in a lot of ways to balance me out. Like balance out the crazy, like we need to plan this thing to a tee with like, Yes and let's have fun. Like let's make this a fun, memorable experience. Let's shake Joe Biden's hand right now, hopefully there's not too much bad news about Joe Biden in the news, and this will be an odd topic, but at the time it was a pretty cool thing.

John Gray: [00:05:39] Well, and I mean, I guess travel is kind of one of the easiest things to go to. I guess, cause those probably are also like seared in our memory banks in different ways. But you know, when I think about this trip that I just took to Europe with my group of friends, like with the right. If everyone didn't have their shit together, like that kind of trip wouldn't happen. I mean, and there are certain friends and I'm not naming names. I think, you know, one of my all time best friends who I don't see anymore and I can't ever do anything with, because he struggles with alcoholism and works a part time, minimum wage job. And so like, we can't go out to eat together. We can't go to the movies. We can't go on road trips. We can't go to the bar. Cause it's like, everything's too expensive. It's like out of his price range and there's a whole lot of social issues to unpack there and almost feel bad talking about it, but it is hard to maintain friendships with people when you can't ever do anything. So maybe like, hang out and talk while one of us gets drunk. Is that what we're doing right now? No, I'm kidding. 

Bagel: [00:06:56] I think it is actually way to call me out, but that's okay.

 Ready? I've got a bunch of deep questions coming at you. What experiences do you value the most? Which friends do you enjoy sharing them with? What sacrifices do you make to maintain your important friendships? Are they relationships where you feel like you're sacrificing more than you want to?

John Gray: [00:07:25] So yeah, like for me, it's important. Even though I went back to saying like success and money and prestige, and that kind of shit is not important to me cause it's not. But you have to have some sort of like minimum threshold of self-sufficiency to make like a really, I think, fruitful, fulfilling friendship. Where you can go and do things and experience your passions together. And, you know, and just figuring out how to make it work. 

Bagel: [00:07:58] I think that' s a really insightful perspective on friendships. And I think, I have a feeling that there's probably some people out there who may be, have a similar circumstance right now, similar experience. Where maybe they had a friend and they have a friend who they consider someone close to them. But either some life circumstances and or choices made by that person have caused a rift. Where maybe even caused their friendship to stop or cease, or pause. And that can be a really tough thing. And, you know, without getting too much into detail about this one particular person that you're talking about, obviously, I think it's, it is an interesting thing.

And I wonder what I think about with that is like how. How do you know, maybe this can be the context that we talk about it. Is how do you know that that friendship should continue. Versus saying it was where it was and it's time to leave it there. You know what I mean? Like, and I don't know if there's an answer to that question, but I'm just curious on your perspective. Like, how might you navigate or how might someone who's listening to this podcast navigate that? Where they had a relationship that has built up over time and is really strong, but it's hit this rift.

John Gray: [00:09:21] Yeah. dang. I wish that was just rhetorical question that we can think about. Well I think. One thing that's important to me and what had helped this friendship along for so long was commitment. Loyalty, I guess I don't really care that much about that word. I have weird feelings about concepts like loyalty as well as respect. Cause I feel like they get thrown around in such grandiose ways, so many times. But, a historicity, that is a word by the way. That's your SAT word for the day.

Bagel: [00:09:59] I might need a definition on that one.

John Gray: [00:10:02] Historicity is just like, I mean, it's just a fancier way, I guess of saying the history that you have with that with a person or a topic, right. Like, and so me and this person have so many years of wonderful, positive, life affirming moments and memories and friendship deepening and strengthening experiences that I wasn't, I wasn't, I'm not, I don't know.I'm kind of in this weird gray area. I don't want to just let go of all that. Because I've seen this person at their best, but maybe they weren't at their best. Maybe I just was in a different place. And it was okay at the time. Or, you know, they fulfill the need in a niche and my friend group at that time, and I've changed and grown and evolved and gotten more responsibility and blah, blah, blah. And that person has not grown or changed. Or kept up and you kind of keep holding onto it, and holding onto it, and holding onto it, for so long. But then eventually it's just, you start to realize your values don't align as much. You can't do as many things together. They become a burden. and I realized that alcoholism is a disease and it's real, and it's hard on that person. But the other side of that coin is it's hard on the people around them. Right. And at what point do you draw the line between I'm going to keep enabling this behavior versus distance myself until you take some steps. But then I as an aside, I'm like, should I be doing more? Should I be helping you take those steps? I've done that in the past. Is that what friendship is? Do I just need to keep, is that what it's going to be just forever. It's just, it's a constant struggle and we're struggling together and it's hard to answer. Cause I feel like if the answer to that is no, then it's like, damn, you're just like giving up on that person. 

Bagel: [00:12:10] Yeah. And that, I certainly don't mean to put you on the spot with like a current situation, which clearly you're navigating  right now. And so you talk about whatever you're comfortable with. I think you have. But  I just, I thought it was something that other people are probably have experienced at some point. Whether they're going through currently or maybe have in the past of kind of navigating whether a friendship deserves to continue. And maybe this can kind of help us segue unless there's anything else you wanted to add there. I was just gonna say, I think this could help us segue into, you know, what are some of the ways that we look to maintain the friendships that we have and has that changed as well over time? Has that evolved? Are there different ways, I guess that's you maintain friendships with different people because you called yourself a chameleon and there's lots of different types of friendships you have with different types of people and they also have different needs and you probably serve different needs of them as well. What does that look like in terms of the maintaining aspect of friendships over the years?

John Gray: [00:13:19] Well, the first thing that popped into my mind and you know, me I'm an ESFP so Myers-Briggs for all you newbies out there . The S of my ESFP I'm very detail oriented person. So I'm going to like dive right into like really specifics. It's easier for me to go into specifics and then kind of arrive at the big picture later. I, one of the things, and it goes along with my love of travel. One of the things that I always have been very diligent about. Not always, ever since college ended and friends scattered to the wind. One of the things I've been super diligent about is reaching out to friends, anytime I'm in their area . To make an effort to hang out with them, whether that's staying with them, you know, spending the weekend together all the way up to just grabbing lunch. Or popping by their office for 10 minutes while they're on the lunch break. 

Bagel: [00:14:16] That happened before? I do not recall.

John Gray: [00:14:19] Because I mean, I really do value those face to face interactions. Never been much of a phone talker. Although, I mean, things are changing in this COVID-19 pandemic, zoom world that we live in.  But like, it's almost, I mean, I think I've even told you this before, when you're always so amenable to having visitors. It's just like, it's weird how frequently we see each other. We also don't live that far apart. But do you remember that one time I told you or you were there. Of course. 

Bagel: [00:14:38] It was great!

John Gray: [00:14:50] Yeah. I was on a date with that guy and I was on a road trip. His name was, and we were driving through Wilmington and I felt so guilty that I could possibly be in a city that you lived in and not like reach out and be like, Hey, I'm here. Let's hang out. So we met up and we went to the Dixie diner. Right?

Bagel: [00:15:16] Yeah, Dixie Grill.

John Gray: [00:15:19] You were the third wheel on that date with me in that random guy. Because it was just like, I had this overwhelming like sense of like obligation to our friendship. Like I can't be in Wilmington, North Carolina, six hours away from home where Bagel, one of my best friends lives and like, not see him. Like what if he found out I was here? And didn't .. really, it was out of guilt and fear.

  Bagel: [00:15:47] What is your version of the third wheel diner call? Is it trips to visit friends? Quality time sharing experience together, calls, gifts, memes on a birthday, a loving letter. Who are the people in your life that you simply couldn't pass up an opportunity to connect with?     

I could see that face that you would make, if you hadn't told me. And the next time we saw each other, you felt like obligated to tell me. It would be like  "I got something I got to tell you" and I'll be like, "okay, that's fine." I might've been upset for like a second, but I wouldn't actually have cared. Cause you know, if you got a boo, you're trying to hang with, Hey man, that's your thing. But I was glad that you did reach out to me. Cause I mean, obviously I was able to hang out, like I didn't have anything going on. I was able to come hang out with the diner, but that does speak to, I mean, I just feel like that does speak to you and who you are is that, it's really easy to. I mean, I'm, I'll be really honest and transparent. I'm sorry for anyone who's listening. But there are plenty of people that I would love to see everybody everywhere I go, but lately I've been realizing like I physically and mentally can't do it. Like I can't see everybody in the Northeast every time I drive up there, every time I go home and there's plenty of people I've had to skip over and it's hard. And I maybe don't tell them that I'm coming up there because I don't want to deal with the guilt. So I think it speaks to you. Not that you do it right for every single person, it speaks to who you are that you do try to make that effort.

John Gray: [00:17:24] Well, but I know I'm just going to relieve you of all guilt right now. Back home, your hometown is different. And like all bets are off because the critical mass there is just untenable, because what happens to you when you go back to Jersey or the Northeast as you so eloquently, put it The Tristate area. 

Bagel: [00:17:45] Right. There you go.

John Gray: [00:17:47] The same thing happens to me when I go back to Virginia Beach. I can't see everyone. I've got my dad, my stepdad, my brother, my godmother, aunts and uncles, friends, former coworkers, those like other mothers, people that I told you about, like.

Bagel: [00:18:03] There's only so many meals when you're there for a long week or 

John Gray: [00:18:06] Yeah. So no, it all bets are off when you go home. But one thing that I do try to do is rotate people through. So, and the other thing is, is people got to meet you where you're at. Because when I go home, there's this one other mother, she'll probably never listen to this. Her name's.  And I have breakfast with her at Charlie's Diner every single time I'm there because she always says, yes, she always says yes. And so many other people, when I try to meet up with them, not my dad. My dad's always available. Cause like he doesn't do anything except like work and like tinker around his house. But you know, and people are busy and I'm not begrudging anyone. But there's a lot of people who won't make time for me. Like, Oh, I'm so sorry. Like, you know, I'm not available. Or I wish it had more notice, you know, cause sometimes I give people like I'll text them like a week in advance. We were like, Hey, I'm rolling through next week. Sorry. I wish you'd let me know sooner or like  I can't always do that. So there's, there's a little bit of onus on the other party. If that other person is flexible and adaptable, I don't even like to say if they want to see me bad enough. I mean, there could be a little bit of that too. You know, it's all about priorities. And if you want to try to squeeze me in. That's fine. I have one friend who has like multiple grandkids that she, like, she's like a young grandmother that she's like the main caretaker for. And she's like, I would love to see you. You have to come to my house and we're going to order Chinese takeout. And we're just going to hang out and like, try not to like, let these kids kill each other, you know? And that's what our Hangouts are like, because she, you know, she can't go out and hang out with me at a restaurant or go to a movie. It's like, I got to go to her house and hang out with her while she's babysitting her grandkids. So anyway, physical in-person efforts when I'm in proximity to a person is one thing that I do. Another thing that I do is texting people randomly when something happens that when something occurs in my life, that reminds me of them. You know, I mean that I saw a thing that happened, I'm driving through their hometown. Like every time I go through West Virginia, I always text different things. Take a picture of a sign, you know, of the exit for her hometown, or like, you know, take a picture of West Virginia. And I like cross it out and write Best Virginia and then write not. And so, you know, and then. There's other friends. I think another component, this isn't so much something I do to try and stay in touch with friends. It's just sort of like a byproduct of certain friendships. It's cliche, but it's true. We all have those friendships where it doesn't matter how much time goes by. You pick things right back up where they left off. I have a lot of those kinds of friendships and I'm just super grateful for them. Because maybe that person lives in an area that I don't visit very often, I have a friend in Los Angeles, like, it's not like when I go to DC, it's like, when am I in Los Angeles? Like, yeah, once in the past five years, you know? Like, is that enough to sustain a friendship? But you know what, it's enough because my friend who lives in LA. Every time she's back on the East coast, she always comes to Blacksburg and stays with me. You know, it's like, we don't talk every day. We don't see each other very often, but if you have those kinds of deep connections. And this gets back to my values, authenticity, vulnerability. I actually don't think I mentioned vulnerability, but I think it goes hand in hand with authenticity. How can you be authentic if you're not vulnerable? And having deep meaningful connections with people. I'm such a conversationalist as evidenced by the fact that I'm rambling on and onward. 

Bagel: [00:22:09] So, one thing that you talked about that I think is really on point in terms of more so in the developing and making friends side of things. Is this aspect of vulnerability that you just talked about.  I had a revelation, if it felt like, within the last year where I started to realize that. You know, again, just like you described, I feel really grateful. Like I have a lot of really good friends, a lot of close friends and a lot of friends in general. And I feel really lucky. I don't, I don't necessarily feel like I'm doing anything far reaching to have this friend group, but I'm being myself and I care about people and I have people that care about me and it's really a great thing. What I've realized is the people that I consider to be closer friends. I don't even want to say like my best friends, but the closer circle of friends that I have. I noticed that there was this underlying theme or pattern among all of them. And it was this willingness to be vulnerable. And I started to realize too. So, you know, I've now lived in Charlotte for a little over three years, I guess we're coming up on three and a half. And to be really honest, it had, it was a pretty big struggle. The first couple of years when I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina from the Northeast, that was struggle on its own because I didn't know anybody. I moved to a town where I literally had just met my coworkers, but that was about it. And it was a solid year before I like really even got any level of comfort with people and it still took a little while after that. But here in Charlotte, it took me awhile. And what I'm noticing now is the friends that I've been able to get closer with, and when I look back on the course of my whole life and the friends that I consider to be my closest friends, it's this pattern of them willing to take the walls down and be vulnerable and maybe share something that they were struggling with me. And my personality like latches on to that, like, you know me, like, I love being able to support people. And when someone's going through a tough time that it's almost like something instinctively turns on in my brain that I like, I want to figure out how to support that person. It's almost just like you talked about intelligence being like something that people are attracted to, or like, I dunno, I guess I have this thing about like, yeah, we all struggle. We all go through tough times. Like I've been there. I want to figure out a way to help you. And that makes me feel closer to that. Not everybody. I mean, there's definitely people who want like their life story and you just met them. And you're like, dude, why are you telling me this right now? I don't even know you. And the red flags go up pretty quickly on that. But I'm talking about people who, you know, you feel a vibe and you kind of, you sense that there is some comradery and you sense that this person could be a friend. And then they kind of maybe it's over drinks, or maybe it's just hanging out they start to bring those walls down a bit and they're able to be vulnerable with you about something. And for me, that's a pretty telltale sign that that person trusts you. And I latch onto that pretty quickly. And I, I I'd like to think I reciprocate that. And I think that just my perspective on what you're sharing. I think that that helps to build friendships and honestly, to build pretty strong friendships and relationships that can carry forward.

John Gray: [00:25:41] You know, I have had like so many thoughts popping into my head since. Good, good job. What you're describing to me sounds like a big part of emotional intelligence. And I actually meant to mention that earlier. I even wrote it down in my notes to mention. Emotional intelligence is critical to friendships and managing relationships. It's also personally very important to me as someone who feels like I have a pretty good handle on my emotions. Like I experienced emotions, but I'm a very like relatively level headed person. Like I don't fly off the handles. I don't get super rageful. 

Bagel: [00:26:24] The nickname. 

John Gray: [00:26:25] I don't get super weepy in front of other people, sometimes when I'm by myself. But like, I am very comfortable with, I guess yeah deep, emotional connections to people. And the other thing that it makes you think about is to bring gender into it. When, I mean, obviously you and I are, I feel like we're outliers to some extent of the general male population of the world. When you think about those stereotypical male friendships and relationships and what you've seen, and we probably both have friends that fit closer into that category than we do. I mean, they've done a lot of studies, right? That show as men age. Now we're getting into the real meat of this. As men age, they lose friendships that certain friendships may not be maintained or they don't evolve and grow. And women. I mean, I know it's kind of like a stereotype. I mean, I'm gay. So my whole worldview and life experience, it's going to be, won't fit into this generic thing I'm describing. But think about how many middle-aged, late middle aged, older men don't have friends. All their friends are their wives. Friends, husbands, plenty of people don't fit the mold, but a lot of people do. And so women as they go through age, and this is not a, I'm not I'm talking about gender, gender identity, gender norms. When I say women, I don't necessarily mean females. Like it's not biological or chromosomal it's like social conditioning, right? 

Bagel: [00:28:13] Good clarification.

John Gray: [00:28:14] Yeah. that way, because women are allowed to have these deep, sentimental, emotional sappy conversations and friendships that deepen with time and they can confide in each other in things in each other. And they're okay to be emotional in front of each other, et cetera, et cetera, these friendships maintain and deepen over time. And because stereotypical men don't form the same kinds of friendships and relationships. That's why a lot of times you see older men having a lot less friends. and I'm glad that I don't think I fit into that category. 

Bagel: [00:28:53] Yeah, I think you break the stereotype just a little bit.

John Gray: [00:28:57] You break the stereotype as well and I'm grateful for it.

Bagel: [00:29:02] Yeah, I think there are sort of self fulfilling prophecy sometimes. I don't know if that describes everything you're describing within the stereotype of kind of guys losing their friends over the over time with age because they have families and they've got a partner and they're like subscribing to that life. And I don't know if it's intentional or not, but I think sometimes. Here's what I'll say, my perspective, not based on any scientific research. Is it seems to be that family life sometimes just like takes priority. And I think a lot of guys bond over shared experiences more than actually having deeper connections with people like you and I tend to have, and because those shared experiences are no longer continuing there's no more friendship. Like everything that anyone has to talk about. If you're two dudes is just reminiscing on that time you did that crazy thing in college and got really shit faced.

Bagel: [00:29:27] We’ve done no reminiscing on our younger days.

John Gray: [00:30:06] Oh, it's not like we've done any of that.

Bagel: [00:30:09] Reminiscing to our younger days and drinking, college and grad school. But, again, it's a stereotype, but, my experience, I think a lot of guys bond over those experiences as opposed to actual heart to heart moments and times where they're able to be vulnerable with each other. And I do think, I mean, you might be able to speak to this too, because you're kind of, you just expressed how you kind of challenge norms a lot and that's kind of how you operate. And you know, I think times are changing a bit and I wouldn't be surprised if that changes. If that stereotype changes a bit and maybe guys feel a little bit more comfortable being a little bit more vulnerable, and maybe that does shift and we won't go too, we don't have to go too far into that, but that's just my take on, on this whole thing.


 How do you bond with your friends? Do you follow this gender stereotype we talk about? Can you point to one to two friendships you have that are deeper and stronger than others? What made them that way? 

John Gray: [00:31:14] No, I appreciate you found words that I couldn't find and with regards to the way you described it. As a lot of times, men bond over shared experiences, as opposed to sort of, sort of like deep intimacy conversation, meaningful conversations. It's more about these shared experiences. And those are a lot far and few between the older you get. 

Bagel: [00:31:42] Yeah. Especially if you've got a family. I mean, I think there's, there's a different story for the, you know, the single bachelor in his forties or whatever that still livin' life and yeah. Doing what he wants and maybe collecting friends that are in similar situations stages and like, sure. Maybe they're still making experiences and memories together and that's fine. But you look at your typical dad may be in a family, who's got two kids and like their life revolves around the family. Like that's a lot different than the thing of a bachelor.

John Gray: [00:32:14] You know what, this conversation is all about. I'm having an epiphany. I'm like looking at it. This, I just wrote names down when I was preparing like my friends and it's like, Oh my God. Yeah. The list is like a long, like people that I like genuinely, like those kinds of friends where I couldn't talk to them for years and pick back up right where we left off and it's a long list. And I'm like, how do I manage to have that many meaningful relationships with people? It's not to like pat my own, toot my own horn, but I'm like, I'm kind of impressed. Yeah. But, when I look at this list, it's almost all single people or people who are in like nonconventional relationships. Like,  and   you know, like there have been in a multiyear committed relationship, but you know, they've said they don't ever want to get married. They buck a lot of social trends and norms. They don't have kids. I don't know if they ever will. And so it makes it really easy to like do stuff with them. Oh my God. Children are the downfall of friendships. 

Bagel: [00:33:25] I hope that's not the message that we're going to spread from this podcast. But, no, I think, I think that speaks to, it's an interesting thing. Until someone decides, chooses, hopefully intentionally to have a family. You've grown up your whole life, associating with people who've been independent. Like you get to do what you want in your life and you're independent and you surround yourself likely with other people who, you know, just to kind of put in blunt terms. Like we, like when you, when you're in your twenties, if you're not like in a, if you don't haven't started a family that early or like in a really serious relationship. Like yeah, like you get to have fun, do what you want and societal norms some people start to quickly decide to go into that route of having a family and life does change. Circumstances do change. And I know you and I have had this conversation before. And I think there's certainly a choice that you can make at some point, even if you do decide to have a family, about, am I going to put any effort into maintaining those friendships or not? And I'm not saying that that's an easy thing to fix follow through on, that's a whole different story, but I do think and. And this may be my own bias, but I am relating this back to the story I shared before. When you asked me, like, how do I still maintain the friendships from high school and before my college years. And to be really honest, I mentioned this already, but it's this pride in the stubbornness that persisted through still to today. That I was like, no, screw it. Like, I'm not just going to abandon those friends because that's what most people do. Like I still care about them. So I'm choosing to still have presence with them. Aside from how batshit crazy some of them are. And I love them when they listen to this, they'll know that I love them, but they're nuts. And I think, and I think this goes perfectly with our whole conversation. There are, there are friendships that fizzle over time. I mean, I'm literally thinking of some right now that friends that I had in college that I cared about then. And I still care about now, but our friendship has fizzled. We don't keep in touch. Neither one of us makes the effort and it's just kinda how it is. And I'm learning to accept that that's how it is. And I'm choosing not to put much more effort into those relationships if that other person isn't. But the people that I do care about I'm committed to still maintaining those friendships for as long as I feel like that friendship deserves my attention and my energy and my effort. And I think that because of the person that I am, I'm going to be stubborn and prideful and make sure that I maintain those relationships no matter what phase of life I go into. Again, practically speaking how that happens and how often it happens of course, is I'm sure going to change over the course of my life. But I think that there has to be this core desire to want to maintain those friendships.

John Gray: [00:36:19] Well, so now let me ask you a question. Student and asks the teacher. What criteria do you use to evaluate if it's worth continuing? Cause you mentioned your stubbornness, but at some point, yeah. I mean, what is the breaking point? Cause you mentioned these friendships that have sort of fallen by the wayside that may not have been upper echelon friendships to begin with. I sound fancy using that word. Okay. The upper echelon friendships that you're saying you're stubborn about and refusing to let go of it. Is there anything that would bring you to a point where you would let go of them? 

Bagel: [00:36:59] Yeah. So I, unlike you, I didn't prepare the answer to the questions, but I love the on the spot turning of the table. So I would say very similar to you. I think there's a foundation of does this person care about me? Do I care about them? I mean, that still has to be there, at the base level for any friendship, I think, to continue. And as an empathetic person by nature I think that I care about a lot of people, so that's usually a given for me. Beyond that, I think there has to be effort. There has to be a concerted effort and I would say most people that I've put effort in for have returned that effort, but there are some that haven't, and I've struggled with that. And I've had conversations with my girlfriend about this with certain friends about do I still try if they're not trying? And,  I have a problem sometimes with letting go of friendships because I'm not sure exactly why I feel I do live in the past a little bit. And so I do feel like because something deserved my, my attention and because I cared about this person in the past, I almost feel like I need to continue to honor that.

And I feel like I need to maintain that friendship forever, but the reality that I'm now more accepting of is that like, that person may not see me that same way. Just because I might still want to be their friend and I still care about them. They may not show that same respect back to me in terms of, of maintaining that friendship. And if that's the case, what am I really looking for? Do I really want a friendship from that person? Or am I just holding onto the memory of what that friendship wants, felt like that is clearly no longer realistic. I don't know if that answers the question, but those are some of the thoughts I had.

John Gray: [00:39:05] It actually generated a new thought in me that I don't think both parties have to always be putting in equal effort. Cause I can see you just like me to some extent, but definitely you being the more effort put-er in-er. And so it's not like you gotta meet me halfway, meet me 50/50. I think if you're willing to put in like, 80% of the work, they just got it. Like you plan this big event, they just got to show up or you're going to be in their area. You've given them your schedule and your availability. You want to get lunch with them. All they gotta do is look at the schedule and be like, sweet. I can't do Wednesday, but I can do Thursday. And they meet you for lunch. Like, you know, I don't think it has to be 50/50. It can be imbalanced as long as there's something coming. Like if there, even if the relationship turns into just them responding to your efforts, at least they're responding. Which gets back to those folks who are like never available, you know, like, you know, okay. I get that the last time I was there, you weren't available, but you weren't the time before that. At the time before that, like now we're seeing a pattern, like you're never available. So. 

Bagel: [00:40:29] Yeah. Yeah, totally. I agree. It doesn't have to be a 50/50 split. I agree with that, but I do think there needs to be an awareness that if some, if one person is trying and maybe is overextending to some extent that there's an at least an acknowledgement from that other person that that's happening. And maybe that's just my own value, but there are friends where I overreached for, for sure. And there are, there are also friends who overreach for me. And quite frankly, sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not the one, maybe initiating things a little bit more, but I'd like to think that if it's someone I care about and consider a friend that I do reciprocate as much as possible. And so even if they're the ones that are tending to initiate conversations more with me, whether it's texting, calling, or whatever it may be. Again, not trying to toot my own horn. I know we've both said that a couple of times today, but I do have a lot of friends. Sometimes it's hard to find the time to keep in touch with everybody. So when someone does reach out to me, I want to make sure that they feel heard and that they feel like they matter. And so it I'll find a way to make sure that that that happens and it might look different for different friends. So I agree with what you're saying that it's, that reciprocity needs to be there in some way.

John Gray: [00:41:49] Do you ever find that certain friends who you get frustrated with. I'm thinking of someone in particular and I talked to you about this person before, I know I have. Where they're kind of terrible at reciprocating and responding, learning to text messages and things of that nature, can be very challenging to plan things with. But then when you're actually there other in person, it's like, Oh, you're like reminded why you love that person so much. And you're reminded why that friendship is worth it.

Bagel: [00:42:22] Yeah, absolutely.

John Gray: [00:42:25] Because I got a few of them. 

Bagel: [00:42:27] I know I'm like, I'm like, first of all, I hope no one listening to this is like trying to, you know like figure it out.

Yeah. I hope that people who are listening, who don't know us that well are at like, man, all these guys are talking about all these things they know. Cause I hope that the message comes across, and it's not going to resonate with everybody, but I hope people listening that this resonates with them in their own way and their own friendships. And they can sense what we're talking about and relate it to the way that they approach the people that they care about in their lives. To answer your question. Yeah. Like definitely there are people who are just terrible at communicating and it's feel, because we've moved to a, a text, mobile phone culture, smartphone, culture, like. Some people aren't good at that and don't value it much. And so they, like, don't, it's not about you, it's just about the mode of communication that they just don't care to participate in. But when you actually hang out with that person, it's like, yeah, this is my friend. Like how could I ever not like, how could I ever consider this person, not a friend. Like I, this matters to me. And like, I'm having a great time and I wish I could see them more often. And so. Then that's why I feel like it just needs to be a case by case basis. You need to evaluate all of your friendships, not equally and not in the same way, but you have to like really, truly think about what makes that friendship unique. And does it still matter to you and do you want to maintain it? I mean, I think those questions are, it's not like, you know, you need to be thinking about this every day, journaling about it. But if you get to a point where you start to question their friendship, I do think it's important to understand that those things look different. And maybe look inside yourself and think about how do you approach friendships with different people and realizing that they may look different than the way that you put that up for a minute as well. 

John Gray: [00:44:20]  Yes.

Bagel: [00:44:25]  Are you sick of hearing about our friends yet? Hopefully at this point you've been taking what we're preaching and applying it to your social life. Can you think of someone you care about in your life who matters, but that you don't communicate with because of this obstacle of technology? Bagel: [00:44:44] How much does this person matter to you? What could you do today to reconnect with that person?So I feel like we're about wrapping it up and this is the time where. My Janus is coming back into play. I gotta go makes it …

John Gray: [00:45:12] Are you saying your Janus? Doesn't like my penis. 

Bagel: [00:45:14] That's right. That's exactly what I was saying. That's another MBTI joke for all of you who feel like we've made several sexual innuendos throughout this podcast.

To kind of wrap things up. I think we've offered lots of great perspective and I appreciate everything you are authentically willing to share and all that. So what might be some tips and advice that you might have for others who are trying to navigate both making new friends at different stages of life? And maintaining those friendships that they've worked hard to make it in the first place?

John Gray: [00:45:47] Well, you know, we've touched on it multiple times, but I think authenticity. And like vulnerability finding people that you have, that you can connect with on a deeper level. And if that can't happen, it gets back to emotional intelligence. So you said if someone opens up their heart to you the day you meet them like they're telling you their life  story. Like in the first beer at the bar, it's like red flag, red flag. But if you can find again, I don't like small talk. If you can find something meaningful, that's not like the core of the core of all your pain to like connect with the person on and build that conversation. And that friendship maybe find some mutual interests that you can do things together. Like, you know, go on a road trip, smoke hookah, stare at a coffee table book full of maps.

Bagel: [00:45:59] Are you just describing our friendship?

John Gray: [00:46:10]  Finding common ground with people and then being willing to explore that on a deeper level. I also think you should know your worth. And only surround yourself with people who fulfill you. You know, and you can't always figure that out on day one, or even after a year, sometimes it takes a lot longer. But if you are finding that friendship is draining to you, it's not fulfilling to you. And again, people stumble, you should be there to help him get back up. I don't know what the threshold is for when it's just a stumble. And when someone is just like fallen and refuses to ever get back up. But the point is, is friendships should require effort, but they shouldn't be like a chore. I think that's a good distinction. Cause I don't want to say that they friendships should be easy all the time. Cause I do think that take effort, but you've got to get something out of it. You've got to get something back. Right.  And I think another thing is to being a curious person will help you get more friends because it will make you interested in more things that they may be interested in.

It will make you curious and to learn more, it'll give you more options and opportunities to do things together. More things to talk about. I mean, Man I'm such a nerd. mean, I feel like, honestly, I feel like some of my friendships have been forged with documentary nights. Like when  and I lived together . Oh my God.  Like hours and hours and hours of documentaries together.   too.

  Bagel: [00:48:21] And that's legit. I mean, that's like a shared interest that you have with someone, and it's not just about like, and I don't think you meant it this way, but maybe there's like a negative connotation of just like watching something on the TV together. But the fact is like you're watching something that's educational. And so there's probably like conversation that gets sparked by watching this thing together. And it hits a chord. It strikes a chord with you and that friend of being, you know, something that you can talk about that matters to you in some way. 

John Gray: [00:48:53] Yeah. And like road trips, there are certain friends that are going to be awesome on road trips and certain ones that aren't. So, you know, you don't do road trips with all your friends. You can try, you know, certain friends that like are the fun ones to go to the bar with. Right. There's some friends where I'm like, I did not want to go to the bar with you. And there's some friends where it's like, Oh my God, I don't want to not go to the bar with you. There's friends that I want to sit around and smoke hookah and talk about philosophy with, and then there's other friends where I'm like, you know, we gotta be doing something, you know, we can't just like sit and talk. Like I'm thinking about, remember when we met up in New York city last summer, you came all the way into the city. And we just went to a hookah bar for three hours and sat on a balcony and smoked hookah. And I don't even know what the  we talked about. How am I allowed to curse on this podcast? Yeah, 

Bagel: [00:49:39] You’ve already done it. 

John Gray: [00:49:39] That was like our thing. That was one of the things we did, you know, and kind of close on this note, the social justice stuff. I have friends who are like my social justice warrior friends, who I can talk about systemic inequalities and problems and issues and how we're working to address those. But not all my friends want to talk about that stuff or are, or want to get involved in that kind of activism. And that's okay. I don't hold it against them. It's like, okay, that's actually kind of a weird thing. Maybe a topic for another day is like getting joy and fulfillment from working on issues that are like horrific and problematic. It's kind of a weird space to be in where it's like I feel fulfilled by working on social justice issues, even though it's also draining in some ways. But, anyway, you just got to, like I said, I'm a chameleon, not all my friends are gonna like all the same things. So I've got like, they're not strict categories, but like . Okay.  Okay.  is a perfect example. He's a map nerd like us, history. He loves traveling. He loves exploring cities and going to places and shit just like us. But  is also like. I hope he listens to this. He's like my like gay adventerous, horndog friend who like, I talk about sex stuff with, and we go to gay clubs together. And like, we flirt with guys and like, you know, we have like this whole like gay side to us that like, I probably wouldn't be friends with   if we didn't have the map nerd and the history nerd and the passion for travel and all that stuff and our mutual senses of humor. But like on top of that, we have this other thing that like, I don't have with you. We have all the nerd, we have all the history and all the exploring of the adventures and stuff, but we don't have the gay thing. But you and I have other things I will say without a doubt, I have deeper more emotional conversations with you than I probably do with him.

Bagel: [00:51:45] Yeah. What it makes me think of is these layers, right? Like you've got, the surface level thing that connects you to somebody and for you, that may be you're nerd nerding out about maps or it may be the documentaries or there's like a couple of things that for you are easy for you to show on the surface of your personality that others can connect to. But then there are these deeper layers that you get into once you get to know the person that deepen the friendship. Because you realize that you have more in common that you've got similar philosophies or similar values, a lot of times is how you are able to mend friendships and build them and stuff like that. I think that's absolutely true about you and I. It sounds like it's true of you and Miguel and lots of other people you've mentioned as well. But yeah, there's I think it just speaks to the layers.

John Gray: [00:52:39] Yeah. So my, I guess that encapsulates my final advice is find people who fulfill you in some way, we have lots of buckets and find people who fill as many of those buckets as you can, even if it's only one or maybe it's four. But like, no, one's going to fill all your buckets, but make sure they're not taking out of your bucket.

Bagel: [00:53:05] Yeah, I love it. Sage advice from Mr. John Gray Williams.

John Gray: [00:53:10] It's rage, sage rage. 

Bagel: [00:53:11] Sage Rage Williams, where we're going only by nicknames on this show. Are there, are there any ways that people can connect with you? Whether it's social media or other ways that people can follow up with John Gray, this very enlightening conversation that we've had.

John Gray: [00:53:28] Yeah, you can find me on Facebook. My profile is not hidden, but you won't see anything, but my name and face, my full name john Gray Williams. If you Google me, you're going to get a lot of articles about Virginia Tech recruitment. So in terms of services I can provide besides like helping you plan your next road trip, which by the way, I'm very good at. God, I sound like Donald Trump just said, can you please edit that? Very good at.

Bagel: [00:53:55] Definitely. We're gonna have a blooper reel from this episode for first.

John Gray: [00:54:00] So besides helping you plan your next road trip, if you have anyone who is at the age that they are applying to college, I can provide a lot of insight and advice for a child friend or family member who may be exploring colleges. And if you're specifically, I'd really love to talk to you if they're interested in Virginia tech. 

Bagel: [00:54:21] Yeah, I like it. John Gray is a great person with a lot of passion to talk about college campuses and travel and road tripping and, lots of, lots of things. And I always considered you to be a passionate friend. I think a lot of people really see you that way as someone who really cares and has integrity about the things that they like, and they like to share with other people. So if that hasn't come through, which I'm sure it has, I just wanted to make, make sure I mentioned that as well.

John Gray: [00:54:54] Oh, thank you. 

Bagel: [00:54:55] I just want to say thank you so much, John Gray. Wow. Almost called you, John. That was really weird. John Gray rage. So much fun to have this conversation. I have a feeling by the time people are getting to this point, this will have been episode two, or part two of these, of this episode. But. No doubt in my mind that we were going to have lots to explore with this topic. And thank you for being authentic yourself and being vulnerable and sharing about friendships and things that matter to you and your values, and really hope that you'll come back and join us for a future podcast and, or a live video to continue the conversation.

John Gray: [00:55:34] I look forward to it. Thank you for having me. Great idea. And I'm not surprised at it, we talked for almost two hours either. Yeah. Alrighty, sir.   

Bagel: [00:55:53] I hope you enjoyed this two part episode on making and maintaining friendships with age with our guests, John Gray Williams. 

If you like what you heard, please hit subscribe in your podcast app so you get notified about all new episodes of the Live Your Values podcast with me, Bagel. Special, thanks to Emma Peck for logo design, Danielle Gelber for marketing strategy,  and Rebecca Kittel and my team at Free Your Time Virtual Assistants for operations support.

Until next time, get out there and LYV.

 John Gray: [00:56:33] well, good luck with the editing. I'm sure I've made your life more difficult. I'm reminded of, even though I know we're supposed to be ending, how, like our love of visiting college campuses, like, like when, on that Michigan trip, you know, like visiting Michigan tech, Michigan state, university of Michigan and all this, and then it made me think of my birthday twin, Mr. Bananzi. And you, and you also love of visiting. Baseball stadiums and trying to hit up all those stadiums on that road trip. So that's like buckets aligning, right? Like passion for road trips and visiting places, but like the things that are most attracting you, you know, different for different friend groups.

Bagel: [00:57:16] Yeah, for sure. And I mean, the fact that I still, I mean, we have a couple really memorable experiences together and pictures. To capture those experiences together. And the one that just came up on our Facebook feed this week, it was one of them. Going to the Kentucky Derby in 2015. And that picture of us and, you know, bright pastel button up shirts with bow ties.

John Gray: [00:57:43] Our Southern Sunday best.

Bagel: [00:57:44] Yeah, and what an experience that was for the ages. Something I'll never do again, but was so glad to have done once.

John Gray: [00:57:53] It's so hard to do that level of day drinking in your thirties. You weren't in your thirties yet.

Bagel: [00:58:00] No, I wasn't.

John Gray: [00:58:01] I think because I was 31, but Oh my God, like I'm all for some day drinking, but damn we started at like 9:00 AM and I was just like, I couldn't, it was hard.

Bagel: [00:58:15] Yeah, we, I mean, we came home. I remember we, we were like, we jetted out of there as soon as the race ended. We were the first ones out of that tunnel from the infield.

John Gray: [00:58:24] So we could get into the line for the cab.

Bagel: [00:58:26] Cab line, I just remember being like, we got to the Capitol. We were like, I don't like the third person on the cab line or something like that.

And I just remember looking around and thinking to myself, like in five minutes, this place is going to be a mad house. Like, thank God we got here when we did. And we got right out of there. It was like so easy. 

John Gray: [00:58:48] Do you remember the rest of the crew? They didn't get home for almost an hour. 

Bagel: [00:58:53] Yeah. It was a long time we went and got some grilled cheese and tomato soup and some, some fun, delicious foods. But anyway, so that, that was a memory for me that definitely stood out. And like, in terms of talking about overlapping interests and stuff. And I know you're not a huge sports guy. But I think what I appreciate about our friendship too, is that while we were up on that. Well, on my big road trip, doing the upper peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin, all that, we ended up going to Lambeau field. Yeah. And we did a tour and we took that picture on the field. And, even though, and I'll say, I've said this to you before, I think, but even though I have any friends who are much bigger sports enthusiasts than you are. I think the fact that I went to a piece of American history with you still felt really special to me, even though you might not care about anything that the Packers do during football season, like to go to this, like monument of a stadium in the US and Green Bay, Wisconsin was an awesome experience. And I don't think I would have asked for anyone else to be there. So that was a lot of fun.

John Gray: [01:00:06] I agree a hundred percent because the, the appeal to me was the history and the geography, right? Like, it's like, what the hell is Green Bay doing with an NFL team? Like, it's, it's this like geographic oddity. It's this historical oddity. It's very famous. Yeah. Even though I couldn't tell you who the hell the quarterback is right now. I know bro. I know Brett Farve used to be the quarterback.

Bagel: [01:00:30] He was, yeah. Aaron Rogers for right now, but there's, there's talk about  he may not be there a lot, but anyway, I think that's probably as good of a time to wrap up the conversation.

John Gray: [01:00:41] Once we start talking about sports, I'm going to check out real fast. 

Bagel: [01:00:45] That's all right. That's all right. I was doing it for you for your benefit. 



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Bagel on When to Let Go
Tips & Advice for Making and Maintaining Friendships
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