Sometimes, I compare my life to a treasure hunt, where I’m searching for the rich bounty of intimate friendship.

Throughout my travels, I’ve come across plenty of acquaintances. We engage in cheery banter. And this repartee is fine, and often pleasant, but it does not achieve the emotional and intellectual stimulation I have with close friends. In times of loneliness, fear and monotony, I quest for dialogue that moves past everyday social situations, and into moments where I feel a deep attachment to someone special. These noteworthy times challenge the way I look at things, and encourage me to explore my journey both spiritually and emotionally.

(Darn it. I just read what I wrote above, and it sounds too abstract, or too corny, or like I’m trying too hard. I apologize, but don’t give up on me. I’ll get better.)

These true-friendship “treasure hunts” are most successful when I’m willing to be vulnerable and open to a small number of people, who then reciprocate by sharing pieces of their inner selves.

I’m fortunate. My closest friend—by any measure—is my spouse. We are both independent and, because of our divergent lives, we often see the same event from different perspectives. We also don’t need to shield one another from our unfiltered feelings or beliefs. We can get fierce and feisty with each other, and afterwards, we gift each other periods of regenerative silence to regroup and reengage with love and mutual respect for the other’s feelings and views.

My treasure chest also includes a dozen other close friends who provide me with rich stimulation and freedom to explore. Several I went to high school or college with, and we share unique experiences, embarrassments and victories. In past circumstances, when the time called for toughness, each one of these friends stepped up, challenging me to do the right thing when I had gotten off track. I try to return their kindnesses and their courageous acts of honesty whenever possible.

Some of my “treasure chest friends” I see only infrequently. A few came into my life for a period of time and then, often for understandable reasons, went on their way without returning. Still others are relative newcomers, arriving at times when we were both ready for a new, meaningful relationship.

If I had a chance to advise the younger me, I’d tell myself to take more risks in seeking out true friends, and to always be available to go on shared treasure hunts of the heart.