Title: Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close
Authors: Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Thoughts: I’m so glad I read this book. I’ll be the first to admit that I usually prefer listening to, rather than reading, non-fiction , but after the first few chapters this one did a good enough job of keeping me hooked. While reading this book, learning the story of Aminatou and Ann’s friendship really made me spend time reflecting on my own friendships—friendships both past and present.
I really related to the sections where the authors discussed the difficulty of making friends in young adulthood, which is very much the phase of life that I’m in now. At any time in my life before college graduation, my friendships were almost exclusively confined to the schools I attended and the extracurricular activities in which I was involved. I had this conversation with multiple college friends as we navigated our first few months of post-grad life in new cities and away from our comfort zones and comfortable people—how, exactly, do you make friends? My best friend from college became my best friend because she lived on my freshman hall. There is no freshman hall in adulthood. This is both good and bad. Mostly, I am not sad about the absence of communal showers.
I’m lucky that I joined a workplace environment with many around my same age—and I’ll be honest, working in sports is just plain fun, and generally the people who work in it are, too. After a few months (and a few batches of cookies), coworkers have become, and remained, friends. But outside of work, outside of defined institutions—making friends is hard.
Sow and Friedman also spend a lot of time discussing how friendships “stretch” as they grow and mature. It’s something I experienced firsthand with camp friends from childhood, with high school friends as I transitioned to college, and with college friends as I transitioned into the working world. It’s something I know I’ll experience when I transition away from this job, too. And the sad reality is this: not every friendship can stretch. Sometimes they just end.
The authors noted the lack of academic literature surrounding platonic friendship—a lack I noticed as a communication major in college as well. In my relational communication courses, we spent a significant amount of time discussions parent-child relationships and romantic relationships (two of the most identity-defining relationships available) but significantly less time discussing platonic relationships, though these are incredibly important ties as well. I appreciated the research that Sow and Friedman used in this book!
I’ll echo another review of this book I read that I think I probably would have taken more away from this had I been a listener of their podcast, Call Your Girlfriend. The reason this book took me so long to get into was that the introduction is mostly an introduction to the two of them and how their friendship came to be—which is insight I don’t think I fully appreciated given that I didn’t have the background that I’m sure their podcast provides.
Overall, reading this book made me endlessly appreciative of the friends in my life—both past and present—who have shaped me into the person I am today. Friends, I love you, I appreciate you, I am grateful for you, and I don’t shine if you don’t shine.
“‘We met at a friend’s house’ is the superficial narrative we tell to strangers. But our real origin story is that we met at a time in our lives when we were both a little bit lost. We were both figuring out how to set a course for where we were hoping to go. And in each other, we found someone who already understood who we wanted to be.” (p. 5)
“I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” (p. 70)
“Seeing something in your friend that you want to achieve yourself can help you get closer to who you want to be.” (p. 75)
“It’s only through deciding to stretch that we become stronger and grow. There is really no way around that. When we have stretched ourselves, it’s not always fun in real time. But when we look back, we can see that it was our challenges, not our comforts, that have made us stronger, wiser, and more resilient.” (p. 98)
“There is something very freeing about looking at other people in our lives as models of accountability, happiness, and success rather than people we should be tracking in a competitive way.” (p. 104)
“The choices that each of us makes every day about who we include in our lives end up shaping the larger world we live in.” (p. 134)
“Acknowledging friendship’s potential to be one of the deepest and most powerful relationships of our lives also means acknowledging something far more difficult: that its end can cut so deep that the scars might never fully heal.” (p. 177)
“There is no autopilot mode for a Big Friendship. You just have to keep showing up. Active friendships require active maintenance.” (p. 192)
“Make a decision to create a world in which Big Friendships are valued as the identity-shaping, life-altering relationships they truly are.” (p. 205)