I can think of 3 people I was close enough to that had I put the effort in to connect more deeply, to understand who they were, not just like them, I could have been their phone call.
I reflect back in hindsight not knowing their struggles, not seeing the signs, until I did… the day they died.
If there’s one thing anybody takes away from my book, it had better be that there are so many options out there. If your only foreseeable future is a hell on Earth for the next 5 minutes, and you’ve made up your mind, call somebody. Call that person who has been making it hard and tell them about themselves. Call one person in your life that has made you laugh and thank them. Prolong yourself just long enough to have another voice on the other end of the phone. I’d be willing to bet that at the end of the conversation, you’re sidetracked just enough to make one more phone call. I have spent the last year advocating for the national suicide prevention hotline, and it was a long number. Today, it’s 9-8-8. Make the call and stick around.
Better yet why don’t we call people anymore? When I was in 8th grade watching wrestling on TV, I spent 2 hours on the phone with my buddy who was at his house watching the same thing. We laughed, we made fun of the wrestlers. We watched the toy commercials between matches and declared loudly how bad we wanted the cool new Nerf gun. Then by 10th grade, he faded away. There were no more long phone conversations. There were no more weekends glued to the Playstation with chips, ramen noodles, and Mountain Dew. Why? What changed? I still don’t know.
In the 90s you weren’t cool unless you had your own corded phone in your bedroom. AND if you were super cool, you had your own phone number. Maybe it was AOL that took away our ability to speak? The last words spoken before a conversation were whatever expletives we uttered as we listened to the phone line connect to the internet. Then when you were connected and discovered you had mail, you pulled up the chat box to see who else was online. The art of multitasking was developed as you had 16 different chat windows open talking to so many different people at once. If somebody walked away, you knew it because the conversation froze; that or your parents picked up the phone to make a call (’90s problems).
Nothing has changed today. We stretch ourselves across multiple text messaging conversations. When somebody doesn’t answer we don’t care because we have 30 other apps to get to looking for likes, shopping, shares, food, God forbid porn. But in that text message, aside from emojis, do you really know what that person is feeling? They just texted “LOL” so they’re definitely not crying over their wedding album right now, right?
I see posts all the time about how we’re such great friends that we can go long periods without talking and just pick up where we left off. What’s a long period? Since the last time you worked together? Since the last time you ran into them at the store? I don’t know about you, but I work a lot and go home tired a lot. I overbook my days off so it feels like I no sooner wake up and it’s bedtime already. What are my friends up to? I don’t know.
I think that we live in a time when we have no idea what influences are getting into our friends. We are attacked daily by everything–finances, politics, hot new gadgets, credit cards, cars, solar power, fossil fuels, everything. The only way to listen and maintain a well-connected friendship is to call and check in, even if just to ask if they’re still alive. Then like the video below, you can be the jokester or the screaming infant. Be who you are. Your true friends know you.
Life is hurtful sometimes. Make a phone call. Don’t be like an AOL chat box left wide open because of a poor connection. When your friend answers in tears, you may have just saved their life. I’m going to start calling more often. In your darkest hour, call me. Don’t suck it up.