Life is meant to continually challenge and awaken us, and as it does for us so it does for our close friends and family too.
During my holidays this Summer one thing I have been pondering is my friendship landscape (so-to-speak), who the people currently featuring in my life are and where they fit in the tapestry, and it has occurred to me that we have never really considered new friendships in this space.
We have talked a lot about how important it is to spend quality time with your favourite people, and to spend a bit of time identifying for yourself who they are, but now I would like to clarify that these do not need to be limited to your old friends.
Old friends are like rare gems, but for some people they are not always the best friends.
Just because someone has grown up with you does not qualify them as a personal advisor, or necessarily elevate their status above those for which a friendship may still be in the early ‘seedling’ stage.
As we grow older we encounter many varying and changing environments through which we meet and cross paths with other people. New places of education, workplaces, hobbies and such-like – alongside our changing geographical locations, expose us to the opportunity to create and cultivate new friendships which can sometimes surpass the more mature ones.
I am not particularly writing this from personal experience per se, but more the notion that just as we shouldn’t judge our own friendships in this way, it is equally important that we do not judge those of our friends either.
One close friend I studied with – who I maybe see once a year if I am lucky – for a very precious time worked just along the road from me. For several months in-between each other’s last and first pregnancies we would have lunch together in St James’ Park at least once a week. Catching up and just being back to where we were when we were studying at Deloitte. It was lovely, and the happy circumstances were over almost too soon. Her mum said that this is how life is – that it pulls us together and pushes us apart from our friends in cycles over a period of time, and we spent some time reflecting on this. Now we are busy parenting small children and working on opposite sides of London (which for those of you unfamiliar with London may as well be at opposite ends of a large country!), but I have little doubt that eventually we will see more of each other again when our circumstances change.
Another reason I find myself writing this is because we tend to be so quick to label our own and each other’s friends. Like an episode of The Inbetweeners we coo “oooh… your NCT fwends”!!! Although this is said in jest, it also indicates an inner fear of being displaced – no matter how much my husband says he is simply teasing!
Or there is the example of a close friend who has been calling her good pal her ‘mummy friend’ for about 6 years… which surely surpasses the need for this qualification?
From my personal experience, a close friend has moved to Singapore recently, and I would like nothing more than for her to find a local wonderful set of friends that will nourish her own soul and effectively ‘replace’ the ones she has left behind in the UK (including myself!). Not because I see our friendship as diluted in any way – I just recognise the importance of physical contact with your cheerleading tribe.
I am not in any way suggesting we ditch our old friends in favour of sparkly new ones. The two friends who absolutely know my core, my narrative, the very foundation bricks that started this person I am trying so hard to build simply because they were formed at a time when there wasn’t a single nuance of our being that was not shared with each other on an hourly basis at school and in the early evenings before we were forced off of the `phone (and this was before smartphones – so help the current youthful generation who must simply exhaust each other with their realtime engagement) I can see and be with without speaking. Just breathe and be. I know we frustrate each other by not recognising our own selves as much as we think the other one should – which at times makes for equally difficult relationships not disparate from those we can have with family members (love you two!). We have been quietly respectful as we have watched each other grow new and independent friendships simply because of our natural traits but I think this is a very good example of how pure and healthy friendships should be.
I think one thing we all have to take a step back to recognise is that we are all on our own independent spiritual journey. In essence: we are continually evolving and changing. We have to be able to accept this happily and without fear. How many of us can honestly hold our hands up and say we are the same person we were five, ten, twenty years ago, for example? Life is meant to continually challenge and awaken us, and as it does for us so it does for our close friends and family too.
If friends are the family that you choose, choose them wisely and remain true to your core beliefs. Be kind to those who have helped you become who you are today, but do not close the doors on new ones who are challenging you on your way. By the same token, allow your friends and family the grace to expand their own friendships without judgement and without fear.