Saturday, 10 January 2015

The True Value of Friendship

We've all had friends at some stage of our life, some of us make them more easily than others, some of us make the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to deciding who's worth keeping and what it is we want and/or deserve from a friendship.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have and have had some amazing friends throughout my life thus far. Some people who I called 'friends' for lack of a better term, who turned out to be passing acquaintances, some I actually considered good friends for however short a time they were in my life for, and other I called friends until I realized they weren't the best people to have around.

I still keep in touch with one of my longest term friends who I call my Guardian Angel for how she supported and genuinely cared for me when I needed it most, and still does. She was always the older sister type of friend who I looked up to and helped me through some of my biggest problems even when she had her own battles to face, she never stopped helping or encouraging me.

Around the time of my 21st birthday I had a close group of friends which included my cousin, a friend I'd met several years beforehand at TAFE and my best friend and 'twin' with whom I was inseparable. I tried to match up each of us to a Sex and the City character although our personalities were too different. One of the gifts I received for my 21st was a photo frame which I intended to put a group photo into with the idea that we'd all be together for longer than we were. This is never the case.

I learnt with my best friend from high school that forever is only as long as you make it. She and I had a strange kind of love/hate companionship relationship given that the school was incredibly small and if you didn't find at least one friend, you'd go through school by yourself unless you transferred to another one. For 9 years she and I were close, half of that was in the genuine friendship kind of way, the other half was more of an emotional blackmail kind of way. If she tried to use anything I'd told her in secrecy as leverage to hang with the 'cool kids' I had just as much on her to make her think twice, and the threatening worked, once.

It definitely wasn't the healthiest friendship or relationship by a very long shot. My Guardian Angel friend told me time and time again to stop being friends with her because she clearly didn't have my best interests at heart. I knew this, as did my Dad who I had slightly offensive in-jokes with about her, but I told them both, despite her treatment and more accurately, her bullying of me, she was the only halfway decent friend I had at school.

The year after we graduated things started to go downhill. A few years before I'd met people who made me realize my true worth and I learnt how to appreciate the person that I was, albeit in small doses, but it was enough to cause conflict with my best friend when I got sick of how she treated me and pulled away from her. She and I had established an outcast status from when she first started at the school and so when tensions built between us towards the end of our educational career together, it was more than a little noticeable. Some time later I sent her a letter taking my final stand and telling her that if we were to continue being friends, she needed to sort herself out and start treating me better, hell an apology for her past treatment wasn't out of the question either!

We didn't talk for a few years after that and the rare times we were in the same room together at a religious gathering, it was at opposite ends and never the twain shall meet.

At a school fair a couple of years later she plucked up the courage to come up to mum and I and engaged in incredibly awkward conversation. Mum had always told me to forgive and forget as if that made everything okay, at the time I was dealing with so much other stuff that the rift or whatever you want to call it between the two of us wasn't even a blip on the radar.

While she and I have a fair bit of history together, she's grown and matured to the point where I was during the earlier days of our friendship and as people we've gone down different roads. The past is in the past even though the effects of it still remind us of who we were and how far we've come.

My present group of friends only formed in the past year and already it feels like an amazing bond. We all have things in common and get along well together, we genuinely appreciate each other's existence and the places we have in our lives.

Looking at the empty 21st frame which I still haven't gotten around to filling, it made me think how crazy/funny it was that things do change. The only person from my 21st friend group I still talk to is my cousin who is one of the members of my current friend group. Being immensely grateful to find people that just get you and you can truly be who you are and they love you for it, I think that's the true value of friendship.

In between, I've had friends that helped me become who I am now. Although they didn't work out in the forever sense doesn't diminish the value they held for what they were, nor does it lessen the pain of each ending even though it was always for the better.

On return from holidays just recently, I was reminiscing on the good times we'd had with the friend I'd gone with. One of the things, in fact the main reason we'd gone to the particular location we had was to see the Great Barrier Reef and I was beyond glad that we'd gotten the opportunity to snorkel on the reef although I couldn't help feeling bad when she'd gotten seasick too badly to continue. Part of me wanted to stay behind and keep her company since it wasn't fair for her to hang back but she told me I'd spent a fair bit of money on the trip and I should enjoy it. She told me at the end that she was glad that I'd gotten to see the reef since it's what I really wanted to do and she was happy that I was so excited about it. I couldn't remember ever having a friend that was happier for me even if it was partially at her own expense.

To the people who say 'I wish I had friends like that' or even just 'I wish I had friends', you will find them, or more accurately, you'll meet them when you least expect it. Each friend I've had I met when I wasn't looking or expecting it and they've been the best finds of all.

It's always annoyed me when people take on the attitude of 'trust no one and you won't get hurt', aren't you hurting yourself by saying that?! Whether you want to admit it or not, you need people to get through life, to help you, to pick you up when you've fallen down, to be there when you need it or even just to know that there's someone out there that cares about you. If other people have hurt you regardless of how badly, that's THEIR problem, not yours. Don't cut yourself off from meeting some of the most amazing people you could ever meet because of something someone else did. If you keep meeting the same types of people who do wrong by you, stop for a moment and think about what it is that you're putting out there. What we put out is what we attract back in. I love meeting people with similar interests and personality to me and that's what I've attracted into my life. It sounds simple and in a way, it kinda is.

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