1"Our friends are the family we choose," goes the adage, solace for those whose friends compensate for less stellar blood relations. The key word is "choose." Since we do have a choice in the matter, today and every day, choose wisely. As you sit down with your coffee and open Facebook or check your email, consider what it would be like to surround yourself only with people who inspire you to be your best, people who are kind, honest and can make you laugh at yourself and the world around you.
2. Not sure? Before you send that Facebook message, before you open Gchat, before you text, before you call, ask yourself, "Does this person add value to my life?" Value added can include showing up at your door pre-dawn to join you for a beach run, being understanding when you break down watching Girls because you've had too much wine, offering solace when your family has wound you so tight you can scarcely breathe, providing inspiration when your creative energy has flatlined, giving comfort when bad news has you shaking, serving up humor when you've made another one of your dumb mistakes, gifting you with unconditional love when exhaustion and frustration sends you into a bitchy mood. The overall theme is support. Pay attention to that. Friends don't bullshit you when you're making a boneheaded decision, but neither do they tear you down as a matter of habit. Friends have your back.
3. If you find yourself in a toxic friendship, get out. Humboldt's a small town. Create as much distance as possible via social media for starters. Block this person on Facebook. Change the contact name in your phone to "Don't Answer." Unfollow this person on Instagram, Twitter and Vine. Make many dates with better friends. When you run into him at Wildberries or the Co-op or a Crabs game, a polite nod is enough — keep moving. Stay strong.
4. Examine your own worth as a friend. Do you take people's struggles seriously? Do you realize everyone has his or her own burden? Or are you in the habit of judging how theirs relates to yours on a scale of who's worse off? When someone comes to you in sadness, do you offer an ear, a sympathetic email, a well-made mocha, a cocktail? Do you refrain from giving advice unless asked? If asked, are you gentle? If you're not gentle, is it because you know someone well enough to be sure tough love is in order?
5. How to recognize when a so-called friend is being an asshole. Does she embarrass you in front of other people? Is he always starting fights in bars? Is mocking her primary form of communication? Does he fail to ask you one single question about your life during the hour he spends complaining about his? If you want an immature someone to sap your energy, consider adopting a teenager. At least they actually need you. Don't waste your time on a friend who doesn't deserve you — and if you leave every interaction with said friend regretting your time together, then that's not friendship, that's what they called codependency in the '90s. As in, you are both dependent on these sad, sad roles out of bad habit or in hopes of something good finally emerging. If the person you're spending time with feels compelled to tell you all the things you don't do well, complains you have no sense of humor, wishes you would be a better listener, rolls her eyes when you suggest a different Mexican restaurant, ridicules your taste in music, says things like, "Not that you would understand," well, that's not friendship. That's suffering. Stop it.
Bonus: The best example I have of friendship is when, during a particularly challenging time, a girlfriend cut through all the layers of hurt to reassure me, "As long as I am alive, you will never be cold, hungry or alone." Her tone was so matter-of-fact, as if she was telling me the color of the sky or what time we'd be having dinner. This love she had for me existed as routinely as gravity as far as she was concerned. We should all be so fortunate. So I ask you, would your friends say the same? If not, reassign them to a more distant list on Facebook and give your time accordingly.