As an individual with anxiety and difficulty with sensory challenges, coming out of COVID isolations have been super hard for me. I have truly come to realize how much I find myself masking (Masking is a process by which an individual changes or “masks” their natural personality to conform to social pressures, abuse or harassment – this is common for many autistic individuals), and how exhausting that can be.
Although this realization through COVID has been challenging, as I notice I am less able to mask in situations I really don’t want to be in, it also has been quite freeing. I have been able to realize what my needs are, what I can push myself to do and where my limits can’t be pushed any further. I’ve become a stronger advocate for myself, and I have been overall more happy as I do things I really like to do, and force myself to do uncomfortable activities less despite social pressure. Through this self discovery, I have also discovered the power of what I will call “soft” friendships.
It’s possible you’ll read this and think, “isn’t this what friendships are?” but if we really take time to analyze all of our friendships over the years, not all fit into this category I am defining. We all have friends for different times and moods whether we realize it or not. There’s the friends you party with and the friends you call when you’re sad. There’s the friends you watch shows with and eat way too much junk food, and those you workout with. There are friends you’ve known forever and ones that are new, and ones that you know will only be temporary. Sometimes certain friends fall into many of these different categories (of course these are not all encompassing), but the point of this is realizing the different roles and needs of different friends. And this is where soft friendships became a definition in my world.
For me “Soft friends” are the people that I can call or hang out with regardless of my mood or energy. I can make plans and then day of, even if I feel exhausted and have no social battery, I look forward to seeing them. They’re my friends who recognize that hanging out doesn’t mean we need crazy plans, but we just spend time with each other. Since COVID, this has been a huge realization for me as I’m trying to be less socially isolated coming out of the pandemic. It was even more clear to me how important the differentiation of these friends were when I spent time with my core group from my Occupational Therapy degree. We all got together from all over Canada for a few days, and even though we were all going through our own challenges, we had the best weekend!
Maybe this was an OT characteristic that played a role, but we all met each other at the energy we were at, spent time quietly reading, loudly laughing, dancing, snuggling, sharing stories and exploring! We were able to pick up where we left off in person years ago, and continue to create cute memories together regardless of the physical, mental and emotional energy we each may have had that weekend. One of my favourite memories was all sitting in the sun room in blankets with coffee and catching up, and some of us fell asleep while others chatted. The safety of knowing we could all show up exactly as we were and do what we needed to do to take care of ourselves allowed us all to enjoy our time together all weekend.
Why did I feel like I needed to share this? I’m not sure. Part of me feels like this doesn’t help anyone for me to share, but part of me wishes I knew I could ask my friends for this kind of energy in the past. Existing exactly as we are so we CAN spend time together even when we don’t have energy to socialize.
I’ll leave this post ending here, with a question to you: what kind of friendship qualities as you get older do you value ? What kind of friends do you want as your life becomes more complex/busy/emotional etc? Let’s start a conversation ❤️