Who needs enemies when you have friends?
Friends will tell you what they think.
Friends will bring you down.
Friends will avoid you, friends will talk about you behind your back, friends will hurt you.
Friends. They have been both the bane and the joy of my life.
My parents used to give me a lot of grief for listening to my friends. As a teenager, I always wanted to go out with my friends. Having a social life was most important to me then, and I liked being out of the house. The way I saw it, my friends were more interesting and I had more to learn from them than from my parents or siblings. My siblings didn’t want to play or hang out with me when we were younger, and my parents just wanted me to stay home.
My friends have been a great source of knowledge for me as they have provided me with some of life’s greatest lessons. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have met all sorts of people from different backgrounds. In my 20s, I had a nomadic lifestyle — never staying in one place for a long time and so I changed my circle of friends quite often. I was so used to people coming in and out of my life that staying in touch never crossed my mind. It was before the advent of the internet. And I was always engrossed in a personal relationship which took up my energy and time anyway. I was very partner-focused. Still, there is no doubt though that the friendships I made over the years were so valuable to my being at that moment.
Over the years, my idea of friendship has definitely changed.
From never thinking about it to obsessing and then now, finding the middle ground. I used to be a very shy and private person. I never did well in groups that meant I never had a regular group of friends. Being the wall flower was my favourite pastime as I preferred to listen rather than talk. I trusted only one friend for the longest time. She would be the only one I would tell my stories to. This meant that other people didn’t get to know me very well and I preferred it that way. I was happy with one friend and thought that one was all I needed.
In 2003, my perspective changed. I changed. My partner then had been caught for trafficking ecstasy. I was very fortunate not to have been involved in the case but I assisted him as much as I could from the time of his arrest to the day he was sentenced. That situation forced me to look to the people around me for support. I always liked to think myself as strong and independent but there was no getting through that phase of my life on my own.
I realised that there is no shame in asking for help.
It was the first time I had come to realise the importance of a support group – friends. Sure, there were friends who dropped off the radar, but then there were the heroes who emerged, encouraged me and took care of me. I realised the importance of making an effort to maintain a friendship, or any other relationship. When I moved to the UK, I continued to maintain relationships by writing random emails about my adventures. I became friend-focused.
In 2008, I lost a close childhood friend to suicide. The effects were unprecedented. I went from friend-focused to friend-obsessed. I projected my issues onto everyone close to me, without even knowing it. I would go to great lengths to organise get togethers, I wanted to help people all the time, I wanted people to know how I felt, I wanted to take some friendships further… I became overbearing… I became someone who feared.
For the first time in my life, I was afraid.
You see, up till then, I could never think of something that I was afraid of, not even death, sickness or cockroaches. Everyone I have met seemed to have some fear of sorts and I used to wonder what mine was. I always felt that in order to truly know, one would have to be faced with it. I guess I now have that answer.
Thereafter, two more friends also took their own lives. This chain of events reshaped how I think and feel about friendships, and all relationships for that matter. I learnt a great deal about myself and the kind of friend I would like to be. I also discovered for myself the true value and meaning of friendship. And it has nothing to do with the other person or how the other person treats me. The kind of relationships we have is dependent on our ability to foster these relationships which in turn reflects our own character. As we transform, so do our friendships.
If life is a garden, wouldn’t it just be plain and boring without the different colours of flowers? I am forever grateful to those who have sprouted and added colour to my life.
No matter how much we all like to think we are independent, the truth is that we are only as great as the sum of our support.
Want to know more about my experiences and how you can learn from them? Let’s talk… Drop me a line.