Friends Forever, Besties and Baes
I sat watching my daughter playing with a girlfriend the other day. The two of them engrossed in discovery of an ant hill, with muddy finger nails, and hair untamed in a way that looks so wild and beautiful on little girls. Taken by them I said a little wish for her to always be blessed with friendship. At that moment my mind jumped to my youngest friendship sealed by a pinkie promise made high up in a tree; we’ll be friends forever I remembered us squeaking. Then I wondered where is she now?
Growing up can sometimes leave us with less hair, less patience and less time. Fewer friends though are one loss we don’t always see happening until its right there in a photograph staring back at us. We try so hard to hold on tightly to friends, much like we would our most precious possessions, but we all lose things don’t we? Have you ever lost a top you swear you’d hung up but can’t find anywhere? When you finally find it and put it on, it fits differently to how you remembered, given that you’ve inevitably changed in ways perhaps you didn’t notice. The same happens with friends, some fit back into your life perfectly when you reunite, while others you have to squeeze yourself into uncomfortably, and some, and well you never find them again.
“Friends” is a loosely used term isn’t it. Who are our “friends”? When you really probe the question, it actually seems so natural that the number of people you can call true friends, without quotation marks, drops. It’s a necessary and healthy phenomenon. An indicator of an evolution of our understanding of what friendship actually is, and more so, who we actually are. An innocent pinkie promise is a beautiful beginning and perhaps testament to our innocence when we lock those little fingers, but we have so much to learn, see and experience, which in turn alters our thoughts, feelings and perspectives. And so our lock loosens, and when we meet again, our minds have to meet as well as our pinkies.
How do we meet people who we become friends with? Geography? Education? Interests? Family? Career? How do we choose our friends? We gravitate towards those who show us kindness and respect, or towards those who inspire and challenge us.
Life though is by no means stationary. Life is a current, and we ride it with our energy. Ultimately we make a series of choices which have consequences, affecting people around us. “Friends” may or may not ride the waves with us. The way someone reacts to our choices can sometimes surprise us in a way we can’t forget even if we tried to forgive. Perhaps our choices simply can’t co-exist with that of our friends’. Perhaps a friend was there when you needed a good time, but disappeared when you needed them so vulnerably through a bad time. Either way, we keep moving forward, leaving these “friends” behind.
Necessary though is to accept that true friends are the only ones who hold up mirrors when we least want to admit our own mistakes. Navigating and understanding who has been a friend and who has failed to be one can at times in itself be a blurred distinction that only a clear mind can make. True friends are the ones who sometimes hit you hard, and it hurts, but it is the very thing that brings you back to life again. While removing toxicity is healthy, removing a person who was brave enough to show you the truth is a mistake. Be slow in your decisions. Real friends are as rare as diamonds, moral compasses, that can make life’s’ decisions that bit clearer.
Something wonderful happens as you get older and emerge from any teenage or youthful awkwardness. You learn to be exactly who you are. It is also becomes so obvious who it is that makes you put back on a mask. It could be a mask trying to be a version of ourselves which relates to the time in our lives that our friendship was formed, or it could be a mask just to hide a version of ourselves we feel would now be judged. Whenever we meet, we put on that same mask, and a friendship is stuck right there, in some sort of theatrical façade. Perhaps we doom the friendship unable to find a connection beyond a moment in time or an illusion. Growing up can mean the burden of realities somewhat anchor our spontaneity and fun factor, and we hide this from some friends with whom we have only known carefree times. We escape in their company, until escape becomes a luxury too far and in between, that the friendship becomes a memory. Let such friendships go and choose to be who you are, with no hesitation or apology.
Ultimately, friendships cannot be real if we aren’t being real. We shouldn’t have to suck in who we are like a corset would our waistline, and try to fit into outfits we have outgrown. It doesn’t feel good. We will be our healthiest version of ourselves if we allow our personalities to be, and to let friendships which don’t fit our energy, go. To be entirely honest it’s the people who your life can dance with, near or far, up and down, back and forth, through all your phases of development, those are the ones that are real. Come to think about it, I don’t think true friends will be as hard to keep as I have found myself recently worrying about. No, not true friends.
While some people may maintain an image of mass popularity through likes and followers, the assumption can be that popularity is friendships, which is as far from reality as the interface this popularity is displayed upon. We can have many admirers, many people we enjoy the company of, but only ever a handful of true friends. This is normal, natural and a healthy realization. We need to remember this in a world so desperate for popularity. We are already popular within our real worlds, of real friendships. True friendship has so many layers, and takes a huge part of our own selves. It seems so natural that once we realize this, once we invest in this, and respect it, no wonder we can count only a handful of people we call our true friends. I for one don’t think it possible to have hundreds of people know me like my closest friend does. The thought actually makes me feel quite naked. Even though we express part of ourselves on these digital platforms, really knowing someone is an intimate affair.
I turned to my daughter again. It’s beautifully clear that she could make friends with anyone. Who she will stay friends with will depend on who she and that friend blossom into. They are buds, playing, but will they become flowers who share the light of the sun. It’s natural that some friendships will bloom and some will falter, and it can have a sad connotation, but what I hope to make her realise earlier than I managed myself is, it’s absolutely ok. With a little bit of water and care, anything can keep growing, and not necessarily in the same direction, and those will be her true