“Who are your closest friends now?” my mother asked me, when I was almost 18. “X, Y, Z,” I rattle a few
She smiles, “And why are they your friends?”
“Because I’ve known them all my life,” I retort.
Yes, I genuinely believed this. I remember celebrating my 20th birthday with a group of friends I thought were my ‘ride and die’, only because I’d known them in my formative teen years. Needless to say I was wrong.
Is it just me, or have we always been taught that losing a relationship — a friend, a cousin, a husband/boyfriend means at some level, you’ve failed? Every time I lost someone, I took it as a personal failure — maybe I don’t know how to keep my relationships, maybe I’m a bad friend, maybe I deserve to be alone. But as time passes by, and as we grow older, back pain et al, we realize that maybe it’s no one’s fault. Maybe some friends are only meant to teach us a few things, and then move on.
Maybe we’re doing the same for them. From idolizing the Blair-Serena friendship to understanding why Carrie Bradshaw is the worst friend to have, I’ve come a long way. My 20s were all about putting people on a pedestal. I learned the word toxic when I realized that my supposed ‘best’ friend from above mentioned 20th birthday is a pathological liar who has been manipulating me to get her way. I understood, in my late 20s after therapy, that I let her do that to me because my attachment style is anxious, and I wanted to do anything to be liked and accepted by her. I learned what secure female friendships are when in my mid-20s, I met three wonderful women who showed me that I didn’t have to give them anything but my love for them to be on my side. One of them isn’t in my life anymore — she outgrew the friendship with no prior notice right before the pandemic — and I let go of her, wishing her the best, but knowing I’d not want her back in my life again. This brought me to a new factor that I’d never thought of before: if you don’t treat our ancillary connections with respect no matter what page we’re on, well, then, there’s the door. She didn’t, and I was okay with the friendship running its course.
2021 was a trying year for all of us, but when I lost both my grandparents within 12 hours of each other in the peak of the second wave and not due to Covid, it was an eye-opener of all kinds. It was hard to be there for each other when we were all so helpless and couldn’t physically be present, but my closest friends were there in their own ways.
Someone would video call once a week, someone dropped an 11.30 am ‘check in’ message, someone sent food — they did what they had the bandwidth for. And then there were friends who thought it was enough to send a sad face reaction to an Instagram story or like my eulogy post, and never check in again. Hell, some didn’t even bother to react. Yes, these were friends, people I’d been a 3am friend to — I also don’t use the term ‘friend’ loosely. True to my older beliefs, I’d have made up excuses for them if this was a decade ago but when you turn as old as the big Three O, you know one thing for sure: half of the job of any relationship is just showing up.
“So who are your closest friends now?” someone else asks me, during a conversation.
“The ones that are there for me beyond my Instagram stories,” is my response.