Personally, I believe the people we surround ourselves with are more important than the stuff that actually takes up our time. How many times have you heard people complain about their jobs, but express a love for the people they work with? It's those people who make coming into the office manageable, the sense of togetherness that they feel with the people who are trying to survive the same boring meeting worth the doodles on their notepad and bad coffee in a styrofoam cup. Take note of the times you've done this in your life, finding strength in something unpleasant because you enjoy the company of the people around you. Those areyour people, the ones who make your day better and provide the raspberry filling to your life's cupcake. It's just as important to realize when you're in a group that drains, irritates, or exhausts you – those aren't your people – and I've learned the hard way that it's best to jump ship and swim to shore when you're surrounded by them.
I've had my share of experiences, both professionally and personally, that involve being in the wrong group and it can suck the years right out of your life. Attorneys aren't known for being the most warm and fuzzy people (insert lawyer joke here). Although there are many co-workers who became true friends when I worked at a large law firm, for the most part, I walked the hallways feeling as drained as the colorless walls (I still can't believe a group of people actually sat around a table and decided, “Yes, let's paint the office walls the color of flesh.”). I was surrounded by power trips, status symbols, and splintered ladders from the poor souls clawing their way to the top. I was unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied. These weren't my people.
I've had friendships that were toxic and insincere, a proverbial dagger jutting out sharply from my back when I left the room. I've been surrounded by women who, after claiming to be non-judgmental, could have given Judge Judy a run for her money by judging others in the most judgy and judgmental way. I've had things told in confidence be indiscriminately shared, had my life sized-up by people who weren't content with their own, and witnessed passive aggressiveness from people claiming to be enlightened and above such behavior. I've been around surface-level people who put way too much thought into where their couch came from and the labels on clothes that nobody will ever see. These weren't my people.
It's taken me most of my adult life, but I've found my people. I work around creative souls who see the world in color, those who encourage me to reach my potential and dare to take flying leaps. I surround myself with friends who don't care that their house is dirty because they know that mine is, too; friends who invite me to come over for a glass of wine in my pajamas while our kids entertain themselves because we're the kind of people who think they should have to figure that stuff out on their own. My people have seen my ugly cry and don't pretend that they don't see the monster zit on my chin. We don't pretend that our lives are perfect; we acknowledge when we got a little too competitive at our kids' soccer game and openly admit that we put in a frozen pizza for the kids and ate Girl Scout cookies for dinner because we don't have the energy to do anything else.
And, my truest of true people are the ones who greet me with strawberry jam kisses, cover me up when I fall asleep on the couch, and let me vent about my day even though they have no idea who or what I'm talking about. The friends who check in when they know that I had a big meeting or text me about a book that they think I might like to read. My family and a tight knit circle of true friends – they love me for who I am, but don't let me settle for less than I can be. These are my people.
Keeping it Real: You can't force friendships, but there are ways to make sure that you're spending time around your type of people. If you've always wanted to take an art class, chances are you'll meet like-minded people in that fun wine and art class that you finally signed up for. If you have kiddos, your people will probably be the parents of kids who are interested in the same stuff as yours. Stay true to yourself and your interests, and your peoplewill be there waiting for you.