Here is something we all share in common; something we sometimes struggle to maintain yet can’t live without… friendship. Friendship may seem like such a trivial thing to write about, we all know what it is. But to be very honest, despite knowing what friendship is, it has taken me years to understand it. I’ve always thought that friendship is a multifaceted phenomenon that takes various forms, but with time, I’ve realized it is only as complicated as we make it, in fact, it is pretty simple.
Growing up as a third culture kid was never the ideal situation for an extroverted introvert like myself. By the time I was 17, I had already attended six different schools, with a major move to a city which was 11,000 kilometers away from home (for University), just around the corner.
Along the way, I met so many people (or groups of people, because that’s how high school seemingly worked…) who were all so…different (different-good, different-bad, different-I-didn’t-know-what-to-make-of-it). I didn’t know which part of the spectrum I fell on (I still don’t) but there was something to learn from every friend I made (though it didn’t feel like it back then), be it the quiet kid who never had much to say or the obnoxious one who was his/her polar opposite.
Through some grand trials and dreadful errors, I eventually found a handful of dear friends, whom I could be my genuine, imperfect self with. With time, I learnt to embrace and eventually love this TCK way of life but it was hard to maintain the handful of prized friendships I made along the way.
I found that though distance makes the heart grow fonder, time makes people grow apart. Especially as you transition from teenager to young adult; you’re at the peak of self-discovery, your interests are changing and you slowly find that though you love your friends dearly, you don’t have as much in common anymore, consequently, you branch out and meet new people whilst of course keeping the old ones close.
Theoretically, friendship is like a virtuous cycle. However, in practice, it doesn’t quite work like that. Not everyone is accepting of having their friends branch out or having different opinions to them/disagreeing with them on certain matters. The past four years in particular has taught me so much about friendship and what it truly means. So what have I learnt about friendship over the years?
The perfect friend is an illusion
Forget a perfect friend, there is no such thing as a perfect human being. We’re all imperfect and the beauty of this lies in accepting this reality. Sometimes we need space, we want to be grouchy and we want to be lazy (among many other things, like wanting that tub of Nutella to be closer to your bed).
Sometimes, we expect far too much from our friends and forget that we all have things going on in our lives (something’s we may discuss and some we may choose not too, rightfully so).
Understanding and compassion BETWEEN people is what makes friendships perfect, not the people themselves. Several psychology research studies have proven that expectations and the pressure to meet them is increasingly becoming a cause of severe distress for teenage girls around the world and I think it is high time we address this.
Don’t try to forcefully make your friendship fit into a particular stereotype.
Media, popular culture and the Internet have taken over our lives, acting as a benchmark for us to compare all that is familiar/unfamiliar to us, acting as our main point of contact and source of information. There are so many stereotypes out there of “best friends”.
Best friends are constantly seen as being a group of friends who are attached to the hip, who think the same thing, who don’t let their best friends make mistakes alone, who laugh if their best friend falls instead of helping them up, who are brutally honest, who are the first to write on their best friend’s Facebook Wall as the clock strikes twelve, who drive down to their best friend’s place with Starbucks at 4 am. The list is endless.
There is no doubt that these stereotypes are true but the important thing to note is that it is not true for everyone and that doesn’t make your friendship any less valuable. We’re all different people with different lives and personalities so it is normal for us to have different reactions to scenarios/different ways of showing our affection & love. Define your own #squadgoals.
There is no right or wrong definition of friendship.
Everyone has and is entitled to their own definition of it. For some people, friendship is about being inseparable, to others it is about giving each other space. It is what works for you that others can understand and accept and vice versa.
“To be able to understand/appreciate valuable friendships, you need to know who you are and love yourself” (As cliche as that may sound).
As with all relationships in our lives, not everyone we meet in our lives are worthy of staying in our lives and we will all undoubtedly encounter some bad apples. At times like this, it is so important to make sure that happiness in our lives is not fully derived externally from our relationships but also from within us. We cannot constantly seek external validation from those around us. Unless you are satisfied, content and honest with yourself, you will never really enjoy the true beauty of any relationship.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
It is close to impossible to know if you’ve trusted the right person or if the person you just poured your heart out to will keep that with them but as Stephen Russell said in his book, A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior, “vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.”.
So here is a shout out to our best friends who are similar to us and simultaneously so different to us, who provide us with a safe environment for growth, who are all over the world but are still always there for you, who understand us, support us and love us not WITH all our imperfections but FOR all our imperfections! Don’t forget, in Emerson’s wise words, “the only way to have a friend is to be one”.
Born in Bahrain and raised in several different countries across the globe, Trishala is an undergraduate student in her final year at the University of Waterloo in Canada, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, specializing in Public Policy and Minoring in Management & Communications. This definitely reflects one aspect of her personality: her burning desires to go beyond the study of just one discipline, to learn a little about a lot and to integrate her knowledge of the various disciplines to offer work of value and make an impact in the world. It is this very passion of hers to strive for purpose and meaning with all that she does (along with her strong interest in gender equality and independence) that makes her a fierce woman, who is truly proud to use this platform to empower women around the world.
Currently, she is the Co-President of TEDxUW and is in the process of curating a world-class TEDx conference for the University of Waterloo and the local community. In the past, she has worked for multinational companies (e.g. J.Walter Thompson), start-ups in North America’s Silicon Valley of Waterloo, not-for-profit organizations (e.g. Women in Leadership) and social businesses. Looking forward, she is not only planning to pursue her Masters but she is also aspiring to be an entrepreneur of an organization driven by shared-value creation.