“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey
I was unhappy in my 20s.
At the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I had a lovely house, a fulfilling job that I really enjoyed and a big group of friends. What could possibly be wrong? What I now realize was that I actually had a big group of acquaintances with very few real friends.
Now that I have experienced true friendship, this is clear to me. True friendship was missing from my life, I just didn’t know it back then.
I was first introduced to the meaning of real friendship during the year I lived in India.
I found the Indian culture vastly different from my own British culture. The people I met there are my true friends for life. They looked out for me and included me, they spent time with me, we laughed, we joked, we found out about each other’s culture, they taught me things, they shared their experiences with me, I met their families, I was included as part of their lives.
I knew that they would instantly do anything for me if I needed anything. I began to realize that, especially when we’re living abroad, family doesn’t have to be made up of only blood relations. Family are the people we love and care about—the people we surround ourselves with.
Since then, I have been lucky enough to make a number of friends of many different nationalities and backgrounds across the globe. It’s hard to keep in touch with everyone, but real, deep friendships will last through lack of contact.
My time as an expat has taught me many things, but the value of true friendship has been the best lesson. I’ve realized how important my friends are to me and how much they impact my happiness.
For me true friendship is:
Prioritizing seeing each other even when we are busy and have other things going on.
Going out of our way to catch up with each other even when it is not easy.
Being in each other’s thoughts.
Remembering the small things that are important to each other and asking about them.
Sharing experiences together.
Helping each other out in our times of need.
Lending each other a sympathetic ear or a much needed hug.
Accepting each other for who we are and cherishing our differences.
Understanding our weirdness and not judging each other for it.
True friendship is not:
Letting each other down at the last minute when we are tired or something better comes along.
Fitting each other into our schedules only when our partners have other plans and we happen to be free.
Avoiding each other when there are difficult conversations to have.
Excluding each other from our lives.
Telling each other half-truths.
Making each other feel bad about ourselves.
Of course, friendship is a two-way street. We can’t benefit from friendship if we put no effort in ourselves. I try to ensure at all times that I am being the best friend I can be, even if it is hard at times. I set high standards. I try to follow my own principles. At times I’m sure I fall short, but my intentions are good.
I used to struggle with letting go of friendships. I felt like it was a personal failure if I lost a friend. Now I realize moving on can be in everyone’s best interest. There is no point spending time with people who make us feel worse after we’ve seen them or spoken to them. There is barely enough time to keep in contact with our close friends, we shouldn’t be afraid to let go of people who no longer fit into our lives.
There is always room for acquaintances in our lives, people we spend time with, but now that I have experienced the importance of true friendship, I know there is nothing better.
Author: Mel Johnson
Image: courtesy of the author
Editors: Ashleigh Hitchcock; Emily Bartran