A Walk In The Park

I spent a Sunday morning having brunch with my husband and some friends.  And some of their friends.  Then we all went looking for clapper rails – whatever that is.

During the brunch, my friend – who is my best friend in the USA for over 20 years – talked about how the non-profit she is engaged with does educational stuff in the environmental sciences.  This morning she was in her official capacity host for the little group having a splendid fundraising brunch on the organization’s premises.  She has been part of this organization’s volunteer corps for ages, been on the board for years, and at times she tried to draw me in as well.

Do you recognize this pattern?

We have found something that puts us in flow.  Something that fills our life with intellectual curiosity, a feeling of belonging, meaning… and we want to share it with our best friends.  We wish for them to feel this intellectual curiosity, feeling of belonging, meaning… as well.

I have often supported my friend in her endeavors.  As the pandemic closed the organization’s field trips with the local schools, we went on many a trip to local green areas to find interesting places where a “walk on a field trip” could be done locally with family pods.  And yes, there are biological and ecological interesting things to find – even if you just go for “a walk in the park”.

But over the years, I often felt bad that I couldn’t engage with my friend’s organization with the enthusiasm she mustered.  Did it make me a bad friend?  Did it make me a bad person that I didn’t throw all my energy behind the important work of teaching children about saving our planet?  Could I honestly lament that I feel estranged from the local nature, because I used to know my wildflowers and trees but after moving to another country I don’t.  Does it make me a hypocrite that I don’t engage more with her organization where I would learn for sure?

At times, these thoughts and feelings didn’t make it easier to enjoy going for a walk in the park – as much as our weekly walks are part of what keeps me sane and in shape.

Writing this, I wonder if part of our desire to share our passion with friends is also an ask for validation?

If I think something is really important and you don’t care much about it, does that mean you think I am wasting my time on something not worthwhile?  Or does any need for validation fall away when we are passionate enough about something?

As we were walking back from our after-brunch morning trip into the local marshlands, I felt a sense of relief and release.  What makes her engaged and alive needs not be what makes me engaged and alive.  My friend is a biology major with teaching credentials.  I am not.  It doesn’t stop us from being friends.  On the contrary, she brings things into our relationship that I don’t (like names of local wildflowers and trees – and the occasional bird) and I bring in something else.  That is one way we help each other grow.

And her worth, or my worth, or our friendship, or the value of my passion, don’t hinge on her participating in what interests me, either.

We didn’t find any clapper rails.  The birds are there because we saw their footprints – but it’s a big marsh.

This Sunday the air was most refreshing – it even blew out some sticky cobwebs from my attic.


Charlotte Wittenkamp
Charlotte Wittenkamp
Charlotte Wittenkamp is an organizational psychologist who counsels international transfers, immigrants, and foreign students in overcoming culture shock. Originating from Denmark, where she worked in organizational development primarily in the finance industry, Charlotte has lived in California since 1998. Her own experiences relocating lead down a path of research into value systems and communication patterns. She shares this knowledge and experience through speaking and writing and on her website Many of these “learning experiences” along with a context to put them in can be found in her book Building Bridges Across Cultural Differences, Why Don’t I Follow Your Norms?. On the side, she leads a multinational and multigenerational communication training group.

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  1. Charlotte, great piece and I see a lot of the need to validate as I place myself in this read in certain places. Over the years I have come to understand my worth and that I do matter. Part of this feeling was due to my childhood, like so many and part because I had to prove myself over and over again when entering Law Enforcement. Now, at the age of 71, I don’t feel I need to prove myself to anyone, but rather to be there for whom ever I can with the knowledge given to me through trial and error, and life’s experiences.

    • Thank you for reading and your comment, Lynn.

      Interesting, I see in your “to be there for whom ever I can” a realization I had – after I bravely asked my friend directly following the publication of this piece: would I ever expect them to be as enthusiastic about my passion as I thought they desired from me? And the answer was a resounding no. As long as they didn’t directly belittled my passion; whether they were interested or not was on them.

      So my concern was whether I was supportive enough – not about whether I was supported enough. And now I wonder where that need to please comes from.

      Does that resonate?

  2. Charlotte,
    This is such a deep and rich inquiry into relationships and human behavior (or default).
    The nugget of truth lives inside this observation:
    “Writing this, I wonder if part of our desire to share our passion with friends is also an ask for validation?”
    I would never mean to imply this is a conscious way of being, but under the radar, there is something that drives the energy. Friendships don’t usually last if nurtured by validation on either part.
    Love that the sticky cobwebs have cleared room for more space in your attic.

    • Thanks for leaving your comment here, Carolyn.
      There are so many layers in our subconscious motivations and unpacking them with readers’ comments is such a gift. I wish it for everyone – knowing full well that writing and unpacking only appeals to some, and I don’t think less of those who process differently. 🙂 Just apropos, I guess.
      Now I am curious why this must have weighted so on me that I felt the release.

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