Curating Friendships: Creating your Support System

Your friends are either a reflection of who you are or who you want to be. Ideal friends help carry you when you’re down and hold you accountable to being the best version of yourself. However, what if your friends doubt your abilities to obtain a nursing degree or succeed at something you desperately desire? I’ve had friends who have been either naysayers or cheerleaders in my life. Over time, I have learned to curate my friendships. After having a family and working full-time or going to school, my time is limited. How and with whom I invest my free time matters to me.

When I started taking my nursing pre-requisites, I had a friend share how her partner questioned my pursuit and wondered if I would go into Nursing. She said she defended me to her partner and responded that he doesn’t know me well enough to know how determined I am. While I appreciated her supporting me, I wondered why she even shared the story with me at all. You may have family or friends in your life who are not supportive or do not understand why you are pursuing a career change or nursing. You may need to limit the time you spend with them to focus on your goals. Limiting time with my friend with the doubting partner was not super intentional for me – I had little free time while I was doing pre-requisites and completing nursing school. I ended up not spending much time with many of my friends outside of school anyway.

Now that I’ve graduated from nursing school, I still don’t get to spend as much time as I wish with friends. Aside from the pandemic, circumstances such as friends becoming parents, moving, or job changes have made it challenging to coordinate schedules. However, I’ve learned I’d rather have a handful of close friends on whom I can rely rather than a ton of acquaintances or shallow friends. My relationships with close friends remain strong despite lapses in connecting with another or physical distance separating us. It doesn’t make sense for me to go out of my way to maintain relationships with people who don’t value me or my friendship or whose motives I question. I already have great friends with whom I do not spend enough time!

I was in a toxic relationship years ago, and a friend exclaimed, “There are so many people in this world! Why are you with someone nice to you only some of the time?” It’s been over 20 years, and that remark has stuck with me and helps guide me. Seriously, why invest time and energy in someone who doesn’t treat you well or support your growth and success? When I was younger, and my self-esteem was lower, I allowed people I thought were my friends to treat me terribly. I accepted friends who would insult and lie to me or were not interested in my wellbeing. They served as obstacles instead of contributors to my success. I am grateful to have grown and matured enough to recognize true friendship and to set better boundaries for myself.

Decades ago, when pursuing my engineering degree, I had a planner with various inspirational quotes listed each week. A quote that stood out for me is from Alice Walker about friends: “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.” Is someone who is not supportive of your career pursuits denying your right to grow? Have they shared any valid concerns? Or are they just tearing you down? Maybe it’s time to set boundaries and rethink your friendships.

I also like Alice Walker’s quote because it challenges me to evaluate my actions as a friend. In this time of passionate opposing views regarding the pandemic or politics, I’ve questioned if I need to remain friends with a person when I find myself wanting to block a friend or hide their posts from my feed. There should be mutual respect in friendships, and sometimes, I do not respect views expressed by some friends. I’ve wondered about some of my friends on social media, particularly when they don’t seem to be a reflection of who I am or aspire to be. If we were real friends, I would consider having a meaningful dialogue with them instead of silencing them. In the end, given my limited time and energy, I need to decide if the effort to maintain a friendship is worth it.

I remind myself of why we became friends. I consider how surrounding myself with only like-minded individuals furthers the divide I see in this country. So I continue to have friends or family in my social media feed whose political views I disagree with but who wholeheartedly supported me during my life’s milestones and career change. I’d rather be a person who builds bridges than walls. However, there are times when unhealthy, abusive, or toxic friendships must end. I think part of being more mature is developing the wisdom to know how and when to set boundaries.

Surrounding yourself with supportive people and good friends is vital, particularly during challenging or tumultuous times in one’s life. Friends do not always agree with everything you do or say, but they ultimately share your values or interests and respect you or care for your wellbeing. If friends disagree with what you are doing or oppose your pursuits – are their concerns valid? Are they voicing concerns because they care about you? Are they opening up your realm of possibilities, giving you a new perspective, or are they trying to keep you in your place?

One of the big reasons I pursued nursing is because a good friend challenged me. When I got laid off as an engineer and expressed interest in staying in engineering, he told me he’d help me but asked if it’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. He asked if I could see myself doing anything else. I took to heart what he asked, and I reflected, prayed, and did a lot of inner searching. His challenge and my resulting self-reflection are what prompted me to finally take action on my career change and go into nursing. I had thought about changing careers nearly a decade before but decided not to pursue it for various reasons. With my friend’s reminder and the new-found freedom I had from getting laid off and getting severance pay, I resurrected my dream to change careers. Good friends don’t always go along with what you say, but they help you be your best by providing a different perspective.

Good friends are there for you, not just in happy or triumphant moments but also in difficult moments. Nursing school brought me to tears more than once, and it helped to have good friends and family around me. When I doubted myself or my abilities, these good friends and family members listened to me and lifted me when I was down. Hopefully, you have good friends in your life. If not, seek out good friends. There is an abundance of people in this world – there is no need to choose friends who do not respect or appreciate you. I wish you good friendships and good luck for this new year!