“Back in Greece, your circle of friends grows larger and larger as you go through life. In America, the circle mostly shrinks or stays the same size.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Time. Nobody has time here. It seems that every time you make a new friend, another friend has grown too busy or moved away.”
This quote from the “Humans of New York” Facebook page struck me when I first read it a few years ago. Humans of New York (HONY for short) catalogues New Yorkers in candid photos and quotes, and has since branched out to capture the stories of humans across the globe. Theirs is a view of the world captured by different eyes.
While I read HONY posts almost daily, this particular thought caught at my heart. And here I am years later telling you why. Friendships should not dwindle as we go through life. This is backwards, America. We need our friends. We need our parea.
I think of parea as a posse of friends that enriches my quality of life. Put in today’s millennial terms, a Greek parea is the equivalent of a “squad.” They observe our sometimes-questionable decisions, making sure that we never live them down. They’re the ones who quickly say yes to the next crazy adventure. They dare to fight, from competitive games of tavli (backgammon) to bust ups over who’s paying for the group’s frappes. I share principles with my parea, and many, many laughs—they’re the ones who pick me up when I am knocked down. In time, our parea becomes our source of joy, lifelong companionship, and our support outside of family ties.
Greeks stay healthy not only by eating right and living an active lifestyle but by constantly immersing themselves in parea. Many cultures offer parea in spades. In Japan, where centenarians thrive, the “moai” serves this same function. It’s an extended family that doesn’t stop growing and never stops caring for each other.
Our own social groups shouldn’t stop growing either. Of course, in modern society, we’re pulled in so many directions and offered so many choices which tend to isolate rather than unite us. If your parea has scattered, why not take a page from the Greeks whose social circles seem to never dim? All over the world, Greek functions occur regularly in hundreds of cities, hosted by different organizations. Greeks find any excuse to reunite with their fellow posse/parea members and expand their group by making new friends under any pretext. Engage with your parea outside of where you live, during your travels or even on business trips, and the size of your squad will expand. Why not have a parea that stretches to all the corners of the world? HONY says it’s possible.
Take the time to connect, only connect, says the author E. M. Forster.
And he did not have a smartphone. Get a bit Old World. Get together in person with your parea, with spoons and spatulas and coffees and cocktails whenever possible. Unite your group. Engage your squad. Be the parea.