I’m perched at the cherry wood desk in the top floor office when you walk in, your hands clammy with sweat and your heart pounding. At my request, you sit down with your resume, your pile of references and a letter of recommendation on your lap. The expression on my face doesn’t help the anxiety pooling in your stomach but you hand the papers to me anyway.
Please don’t notice the sweaty fingerprints. Oh gosh, I wonder if she can see my pit stains! Please, no! I can almost hear the voice in your head. I want to reassure you, tell you that you have no reason to be nervous, that it will all be over in a few minutes. But I would be lying.
I skim the resume. It looks pretty good and I can see no red flags yet. Moving on, my eyes flit down your letter of recommendation. It’s a long moment before I gather my thoughts and start to piece together my impression of you. Hmmm…you got her to write it for you? That’s generally a good sign. If the references line up, you probably have a pretty strong chance of acceptance — but I will say nothing to get your hopes up and I keep my mask in place.
As my fingers reach for the references, I notice that you swallow audibly. That’s awkward. Hopefully, that won’t continue. But I say nothing. The list of names exceeds my expectations but disappointment soon drips into my happiness like an IV in a vein. I purse my lips when I reach a name in the middle. Nope. This won’t do.
I open my mouth to speak the verdict: “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we can’t be friends.”
So, I may be exaggerating. But only a little bit. The point remains the same. It’s very involved process for me to consider someone a friend. I’m not the sort of person who opens up that easily. In my bible study, we often pray for each other and we give a glimpse into our struggles, but we don’t hang out that much outside of the study. Even the people in my carpool who I see every week are scarcely considered friends — there are one or two and you know who you are, so don’t freak out on me just yet. I even went to a Lord of the Rings marathon this past weekend (extended versions…that’s right, we’re cool) but I would consider very few of those people my friends. I have several acquaintances, probably up in the 100s but I have a small circle of friends.
If you’re wondering if we are friends or not, I’ll clear your mind. We probably aren’t. I consider you an acquaintance. Before you write me off as a obstinate, snot-nosed snob, please know that I’m very interested in cultivating your friendship. Just because I don’t have many friends, doesn’t mean that I don’t like making them.
Let’s go get coffee so I can see if you actually drink coffee, some sugar-infested version of it, or if you prefer tea. Let’s have a movie marathon at my house so you can tell me which ones I have to watch before I die and list all the reasons that that guy is your favorite actor. Let’s text a few times and schedule a hang out where we can sit around a fire and you tell me what your favorite season is and why. If I start to laugh more, if there’s a smile on my face more often than not, if I start to volunteer information, you’re on the right path. If there’s one thing you have perceived from reading these posts, it’s that I like people who put in effort.
I’m a very loyal person and I love to make friends. If you’re my friend once, than you will probably be my friend for a lifetime. It may be hard for some people to understand why it’s so hard for me to open up — those are the people that I probably don’t want to be friends with anyway. I want to open up to people. It’s just scary. Call me a coward, but I’m not going to tell you what my worst fear is unless you are close to me — because what if you find a way to use it against me?
We always hurt the ones we love the most. Why? Because we have become so close to them that we know exactly what will sting the worst. What feels like lemon juice in a hangnail for one person may feel like acetic acid poured on a deep gash for another. That’s why I’m scared of opening up to people. Authenticity is so hard to find these days because we can be so scared of rejection and pain at the hands of other people. This mask I wear? It’s actually my armor and I’ve become very comfortable in it’s painless existence. It’s a lonely one, to be true, but it’s safe.
So for all of you who know my name and little else, I do want to be friends with you. My gilded prison of a mask is safe but lonely and I want to give you the key to let me out. For all my confidence and the aura that I give off that I can handle anything, I’m a very scared person.
I want to be your friend. You’ll just have to pass the interview process first.