This month’s speaker talks about friendship and all that the word entails. It’s a brutally pragmatic perspective and you may find it difficult to digest. But that doesn’t mean you should close your mind to what this speaker believes. I suggest that you don’t try to guess who this speaker is, don’t give into judgement, just read.
What is a good friend? I think different people have different views or criteria for what they look for in a friend and what they define as a friend. A friend could be a classmate, someone you see on a regular basis. Then you have a best friend (which may sound a bit cliche) where you, perhaps, give each other makeovers and hang out together. Then there’s a stage after “best friend” where it’s more of a sisterhood or brotherhood. Where the friend becomes family.
For me, a good friend is someone you can rely on, who you can depend on. When you reach a certain level of friendship or bond, there’s this point where you no longer have to request or expect them to give back because you know that they will give back through means of support.
However, I do also have a slightly different take on friendship. Now that I’ve grown up a bit, I’ve realised that I don’t need to have one select group of friends. I need different friends for different things. There are friends I go to when I want to have a laugh or when I’m feeling low. Instead of just having one friend or a select group of friends, it’s better to be on good terms with everyone.
When I was younger, I had a more specific aim or direction of what my friends needed to be. And at that time, I felt that I moulded myself to be more like them so I could fit in. But I’ve also found out that while I did change, it became who I am. And not always in a bad way. My friends influenced me but I influenced them as well. I think it’s natural for people to change and adapt. Changing to fit a social group is seen negatively but for me, it’s natural for people to change. If you don’t change and grow, there’s something wrong with you.
But it’s only now that I can take such a pragmatic view on this influence. I used to care a lot about what my friends said and thought. I’ve been privileged enough to never be bullied, to never be attacked for anything like my physical features and my nationality. Of course, there have been times where I’ve been called out for being too short or for coming from a certain country but I’ve accepted it and I’ve moved on.
When I was younger I was more naive to what friendship was. My friendships were more shallow. I had a more naive perception of friendship. I joined people who could make me laugh or who were more popular.
Now that I’m older, my friendships have shifted to people I can rely on. The idea of I’ll be there for you and I know you’ll be there for me as well without being together every second of the day. And that has contrasted with people around me. I know this because I feel, sometimes, that I’m not living up to their demands of friendship. I’m not constantly there to laugh with them or I’m not constantly down for plans to go out because I have my own things to do.
When I reject them, it’s not that I didn’t want to go with them; it’s because I prioritised something else. But they might see that as my not being a true friend. Their perspective might also be that you only have one set of friends and you stick with them and that differs from what I think. Yes, you might have one friend and on a daily basis I will prioritise a group of friends but I will still talk to a lot of other people.
When I let a friend down, I do feel bad. One of my close friends had some boy trouble (which I won’t go into for the sake of anonymity). She was stressed about it. Not to sound insensitive, but I thought the issue was stupid. There was a clear solution to solve the problem. But I declined to help because I knew she wasn’t going to take my advice. I know that as her friend, I should say that her issues are my issues. But sometimes, that’s really not the case. It’s your friends’ issue.
I’m not saying you should live a life without friends because that’s not healthy either. I feel that as kids, a lot of our lives are based around friendship and so there’s this expectation that we need to have best friends whom we should stay with forever and ever. I’ve become painfully aware that everything has an end. The friendships you have, the people you think are your friends might not actually last because there are so many things that are changing especially at our time and age. I’m not saying don’t enjoy what you have right now but remember that what you have might not last and probably won’t last. That’s what I’ve experienced throughout my life and it’s something I truly believe.
I had a very close friend at my old school and when I left, we expected each other to continue being best friends, to continue being as close as we had been. But that wasn’t the case. I moved on, she moved on, and it’s not that we’re on bad terms now, but it’s not the old friendship we had either. It’s not that I felt abandoned or that she felt abandoned. It was a deeper realisation that things don’t last.
I think we shouldn’t go into a friendship with the expectation that we’ll stay friends forever. It’s not that you should go into a friendship without effort. Put as much effort as you want and enjoy it, but don’t go into a friendship with the expectation that it will last forever. As humans, we are social animals and we rely on other people to survive. But I think it’s that extra jump in mentality that friendships aren’t everything and aren’t everlasting which makes you more independent and more at ease.
There was a time when I felt I wasn’t popular enough. I would be jealous when I saw my friends going to parties and I wouldn’t be invited. Or they would post something on Instagram and they would get more likes. I felt jealous, envy. I felt bad. I’m a pragmatic person so I reflected on this horrible feeling and how I could make it go away.
What I came up with was this: there are no true intrinsic outcomes on focusing on popularity through friends and social life to make you happy. If you are unhappy with your social life, you will always be negative and pessimistic, and will always be jealous, envious and crave for something that will never end. On the other hand, if you think you have a great social life with “popular” friends, you delude yourself about something that makes you prideful and vulnerable to something that doesn’t last. What I learnt is that if you detach yourself from those beliefs, you live a life that is balanced and more stable, allowing you to focus on other, perhaps more important, things.
This idea might be unsatisfying for some people because for them, friendships are their source of happiness. Their social status is hugely important. But those people know that this social status is artificial. If they lose it then their source of happiness is gone. But if you don’t depend your source of happiness on that, then you’ll be happy no matter what.
I know that what I’ve said sounds very negative but I want to add that if you like your friends right now, enjoy what you have because you never know when that happiness will end. On the other hand, don’t let that happiness fool you, because you never know when it’s going to end. The best thing to do is be true to yourself and not be swayed easily.