…they’re very, very smart. And they’ve learned at an early age to leverage that characteristic. I think that they are highly competitive. I think they’re impatient with other people and themselves. I think that in most everything they’ve done, they’ve been very successful. I think that they’re hungry for feedback, and mainly positive feedback. And they traditionally have overloaded agendas.
…And one of the dilemmas and the characteristics of these individuals is that when everything’s going fine, everything’s going fine. But when they hit a blip or they feel overloaded or they can’t do things in terms of the quality that they want to do them, rather than saying well, I just can’t deal with these, what happens is they overreact and start to say very, very negative things to themselves about why did I choose this job, I’m failing at this, my home life isn’t what I wanted it to be, I’m not living in the city. So they really create a kind of a catastrophic picture. And clearly, this 43-year-old headmaster had done that. So the dilemma is once they get stuck and feel that way about themselves, clearly what they do is they manipulate their environment to get some positive feedback. And then they jump right back to where they were before.
…early on, they figured out that they had this drive. And I think they began to leverage it. And they also began to compete. And it’s not just to be number one once or twice, but it’s to be number one all the time. And so what happens gradually is that the external criteria for success becomes the norm. So we’re not looking at our own talents and saying, how have I grown and developed these talents that I’ve realized over the years? What I do is I say, well, when I go to this five-year reunion, how am I going to compare with all those people that I competed with? And so it’s that success is only defined in terms of how I do based on other people. And that, in itself, becomes addictive and becomes its own pattern.
As Brian and his wife wandered off toward the No. 2 train afterward, it crossed my mind that he was the kind of guy who might have ended up a groomsman at my wedding if we had met in college.
That was four years ago. We’ve seen each other four times since. We are “friends,” but not quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.
Our story is not unusual. In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.
As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now…
As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.