The Friendship Article
The first of many, actually.
We all need them, whether we are conscious of this need or not. We don’t choose the family we’re born into, which means that we’re stuck with whatever madness comes with them, but we can choose our friends, a privilege I don’t take for granted.
Friends are chosen family. They influence our decisions, our paths, and our choices. Many quotes and idioms today like "show me your friend, and I’ll show you who you are” or “birds of the same feather flock together” infer their important role in our lives. For as long as I can remember, friendship choices have been a source of stress for parents and guardians, irrespective of who they are. I think this is because parents just know that their work ends where those of friends begin. It’s like taking your 9-year-old son to a train station and watching them embark on a trip you won’t follow them on. That feeling of having your stomach in your chest, wrought with anxiety. I bet this is how many parents feel when their children start making friends, especially as teenagers.
I also think the idea of friendship changes as we navigate major stages of life. As a child, friendship was mostly about companionship for me - who could play with me, walk with me after class, and help me fetch water for the hand bowl. In my teenage years, friendship focused a lot on identity. I chose friends I felt were cool, hoping that some of their coolness would rub off on me. Friendship then was more about being a blank slate and needing people to fill me up with whatever made them unique. I was still learning and unable to stand on my own. This was where I was introduced to most of the movies I like and the music I listen to. This was also the stage I was introduced to writing, a talent nurtured by online friendships I made. Friendship at this stage formed my identity.
Now, as a 20-something-year-old, friendship has become value-based. I know who I am, and I can stand on my own, so everybody I consider a friend brings something unique to the table, something I can do without but which deeply enriches my life. I have friends I connect with based on their outlook on life, ambition, ability to enjoy experiences with me, similar paths, and our mutual love and respect for each other. I think this stage of life has given me some of the healthiest symbiotic relationships I have, but I also don’t feel any ways about who my past self was and all the different roads that led to this stage. It’s normal. We grow out of things we used to hold onto, and find new anchors that ground us.
I think friendship in your 20s comes with its unique challenges and needs. For one, everyone is scrambling to figure things out. Sometimes, it feels like that moment while writing an exam when you’ve been taking things slow and doodling around the edges of the script. All of a sudden, the lecturer says 15 minutes more! And the scrambling begins. It’s not abnormal to not be the prime focus in your friends’ lives at this stage. They are learning many important lessons. They are learning that you should focus on what people do, not what they say, that you should not allow people to walk all over you because you’re nice. That you should have savings, and get health insurance, and that a gym subscription is essential because you will develop back problems once you hit 24.
It’s easy to hold onto teenage notions of friendship at this stage. After all, many of us have more experience being teenagers than adults. But I think it pays to shed these notions. This way, you don’t take things too personally. Of course, this does not mean you should let people walk all over you, but you should be able to understand that your friends would not always be in the best position to be there for you. They will forget things. Important things. Like your birthday, important phone conversations, and how you look before you cry. Learning not to hold onto minor grievances and accommodating your friends and their busy lives will do your relationships a lot of good.
But even then, as often as possible, you should communicate your wants and needs with your friends. In this, I believe friendships are a lot like romantic relationships. If you can tell your boyfriend that you want more time and attention or that you don’t like when he calls you an “ode,” even if he means it jokingly, you should be able to tell your friends how you feel about the things that concern you. Of course, it is one thing to communicate and another to be listened to, but this is how you know the type of friendships you should hold onto. From time to time, I have had these awkward conversations with friends, where one party says something, and the eyes of the other party widen in a way that says, “wow, really? that bothered you?” It’s always so interesting whenever we realise that our friends don’t live in our heads and don’t see things the way we do, even though it feels like a no-brainer.
Know your people, it pays.
Finally, prioritize making memories with your friends. This has helped my sanity. I try to go out with my friends as often as possible because these little brunch dates, cinema trips, and park conversations help me connect better with them and build a healthier outlook on life. A few nights ago, I met up with a friend, and we walked to the mall as it rained. I had recently started a new job, and without knowing it, I really needed someone who could relate to my experiences to speak to me and assure me that it was just a learning curve and I was going to be alright. It did wonders for my anxiety. On our way back, we bought fresh bread out of the oven and munched it while discussing relationships.
I think that’s one of the best memories I made this year.
On Media I consumed this week:
I’m watching Fleabag again. It’s about a woman who navigates life in London. It’s hilarious, and I love it.
I’m reading Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a marketing book, and I think it’s amazing. I haven’t done much leisure reading this week. Balancing work with life has been quite stressful, but I’m developing systems to ensure that I can live a balanced life and give you more things to read and enjoy.
I listened to a lot of Asake this week for moral support. I listen to Zinoleesky for the same reason, but Asake has been doing it for me lately. Plus, nobody is doing it the way he does. Have you listened to Terminator???
That’s all from me. Message a friend today and tell them: “my life is better because you’re in it.” If possible, say it to them in person or on a video call and watch as their eyes light up, or as they try to stifle their appreciation with jokes about how cheesy you are.
I’m rooting for you.
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