Exploring where friendships stand in my life
Friendship has always been important to me. But as I age, my perspective on friendship keeps changing.
During Childhood & Early Education Years
In my childhood years, friendship was easy and simple. Someone just had to be in the same class or CCA as me for me to consider them a friend. We would meet every week in person because of school. Maintaining friendship was a breeze, almost too easy that I might have taken it for granted. We would play after school in the playground just outside of school, decide which snacks to buy from the convenience shop (mama-shop), or eat at MacDonald’s after a long day at school.
Being friends meant: “Yay, we have fun together all the time!”
School gave my friends and me a constant context to see each other and talk to one another. However, this was only until Junior College. From the beginning of my A’ levels break, I stopped seeing my friends as usual, in fact we could possibly not meet at all. It was a true test of which friendships would last. From then on, it was a matter of choice and action. I had to change. I got better at texting to ask people to hang out. I was so afraid of losing my friends that I suggested an arrangement of meeting once every month with one of my best friends. The idea of “low-maintenance friendship” was not very convincing to me.
Being friends meant: “Let’s arrange to hang out as often as we can so we don’t fade in each other’s lives.”
Then came university, a brand new environment. This was a tricky one for me. People from all walks of life coming to one place for pursuit of academic progress and excellence. So many people you can and will meet. It was a fresh start for friendships because people had less pre-conceived notions of one another. As a freshman back then, I looked forward to meeting a really cool group of friends and calling them my clique. And then we would hang out every week after classes and have loads of fun together. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
I interacted with everyone I met with equal curiosity of who they were and what they did. I was very friendly and wished to bond with people. Be it a tutorial mate, a lecture mate, a project mate, or a CCA mate, I bore hopes of making really tight knit friendships with people. But, I failed to realise a simple fact: “I can’t possibly connect with everyone in the world.” Sometimes I am just on a different frequency with someone else, and I can’t do much about it. Also, how I perceive my relationship with someone may not always be the same for the other party. They could keep their distance and merely see me as a school mate. When the next semester came and the both of us were not taking any common modules, we simply stopped talking to each other. And from my first 4 semesters of “trying too hard”, I learnt that not everyone I meet is meant to stay in my life for the long run, and everyone views friendship differently.
On the brighter side, space away from all these “temporary connections” during the semester breaks gave me the freedom of time to focus on catching up with my close group of friends after a hectic semester.
Being friends meant: “To maintain a friendship takes work and to make a new one takes wise choices.”
Looking Back …
Sense of insecurity
Regardless of age, I had always desired deep connections and close friendships. I hated superficial relationships, as I felt like those were a waste of time. However, this was a double edged sword.
My strong desire for deep relationships had made me emotionally vulnerable to the loss of friends. Having people drifting apart from me, texting them less, and hanging out with some people less, were indeed part and parcel of life. Yet, I couldn’t accept it for a long time, it was insanely saddening for me. I was so desperate to keep friendships going, that I actually tolerated toxic behaviour. Repeatedly telling me that they have no time to meet up with me, or cancelling on meals one too many times, the list goes on. I was easily upset when I saw my so-called friends hanging out with others on Instagram, feeling hurt that I was “not chosen” by them to spend time with, and perhaps a little element of FOMO (fear of missing out) too. My self-worth was tied so tightly to the statuses of my friendships. Indeed, my unhealthy obsession with top-notch friendships made me fragile.
I wanted so badly to fit in with the people around me, what I had naively called my social circle during my adolescence years. Their opinions became my truth for way too long. I’m too short, I’m not skinny enough, I’m not fast enough. I’m too rough for a girl. I should be getting better grades given the class I was in. I shouldn’t be wearing the same few clothes every time we went out. My socks are too high. If I was told the sky is green, I would believe that and torment myself for ever thinking that the sky is blue. I had no sense of self-identity because my identity was simply pieced together by those around me.
Space to give myself grace
As life went by, I met some people much less often than I would back in school.
Space away from these people (and people in general during the pandemic) gave me space to reflect. Who am I? What do I like and dislike? What are my values? What is important to me? What am I interested in?
The absence of constant reminders of how I should act allowed me to heal and regain confidence in being my true authentic self. The gaining of self-awareness enabled me to stay rooted to my values and stay focused on what I want. Great friendships should make me a better person without compromising on my own welfare. The best friendships I have now are those where we enjoy spending quality time together and go through the ups and downs with each other. We share our happy moments, dreams, thoughts, and frustrations, and occasionally give or ask for advice too.
Being friends now meant: “Being each other’s support system, and uplifting, not bringing down, one another.”
Most Important Takeaway
Being my own true self will attract the right people into my life. As social beings, we would always be making new connections with fellow humans. While it is not possible to have only close relationships for my whole life, I’d say the same for shallow relationships. I will have a multitude of relationships that falls within the spectrum of closeness and that makes life interesting! I believe that I meet every person for a reason. Be it for a short or long time, I can learn something from every unique person that I meet. It can be lesson to be better, or a lesson to avoid being a worst person.
And for now, the mantra I go by is: Make friends with people I like, and keep the friends who I enjoy being with.
Thank you for reading!