The job title of one of my peers is “reputation manager.” Her responsibilities include a host of duties but her big picture task is to keep an eye (ear, nose, computer) out for potential problems that our clients might encounter with regard to their brand image. She’s their first line of defense
against online insult. She offers them sound counsel and guides them toward good decisions. But she’s in their corner regardless of the choices they make.
I don’t know her well, but I think her career focus probably says something about the kind of friend she might be: a good one.
She probably watches out for her friends the way she watches out for our clients.
I understand the premise. My own friends get to make fun of my idiosyncrasies, call me out when I make mistakes, laugh at me, as well as with me.
Because they’ve also got my back.
Over the years, my friends have literally stepped in-between me and perceived threats. Even when I don’t need protecting, their instinct is to protect.
It goes both ways. I’ve got their backs, too. And they know it.
I wish the kids I know had such assured relationships. They don’t. This isn’t my perception; it’s what they tell me all the time.
One of my students turned to me in a medical emergency. She had lots of roommates she called friends, but none of them stepped up when she needed them. She defended their inaction; I couldn’t.
There’s a give and take, of course. I don’t know that the kiddos with whom I become so very close necessarily have what it takes to be really good friends themselves. With blinders on, I want to believe they do, but I’ve seen evidence to the contrary.
The milennials have universally been pegged as lacking the work ethic of the generation before them. This may go hand-in-hand with their dearth of binding friendships. Relationships take work –lots of it. And if their instinct when the going gets tough is to get going in another direction, they’re missing out.
On the other hand, I sometimes side in their corner with regard to self-preservation. Friendships—particularly those among women—can present a rocky, messy mass. My instincts on their behalf often err on the side of caution, my own sort of protectionism kicking in. While part of me is urging them to put themselves out there, take a chance, make a friend, I’m secretly hoping that they don’t get hurt. Even those with inner resilience can only take so much being knocked down before they no longer have the strength to get up. And once rejected (or twice, or more), it’s super hard to be super forgiving.
The road to lifelong friendships is littered with landmines and I don’t know if these young travelers have the agility to make safe passage. I’d suggest some protective armor, then, but still a forward progression. Because the risk of a bit of flying shrapnel is more than worth the territorial reward.