“Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend”
So go the lyrics of the super famous Carole King song that I’m teaching my students at school this week. Teach them English AND the importance of being and having a good friend all at once. Not bad, eh.
If only it was all that simple. There is a certain art to making and keeping a friend. The older I get, the more I realise that a lot of people don’t have ‘real’ friends.
Friendships don’t have anniversaries or breakups like relationships. But like relationships, friendships can end. You grow apart for no real reason. Perhaps you move to another country and don’t bother to keep in touch. Or maybe someone makes a decision in their life that you find it so repugnant that you just can’t bear to have that person in your life anymore.
Sometimes losing a friend is more painful than losing a relationship.
But still – for those of us who have those long friendships – the ones that endure those difficult tests of the distance and time – we know that there are few things more precious than the joy of spending time with an old friend.
We just never know who our old friends are going to be. There’s a lot of fluff in this world.
“What’s a long friendship?” I ask.
“It’s not just length, but how close you are to that person,” Charmaine says. “They’re the kind of person you may know as a child but not see that often. Or it could be someone you see quite often. It really comes down to how much you’re a part of their life.”
“What are some blessings that come with having these long friendships?” I ask.
“I believe that you can find soulmates in friends,” Charmaine says. “It’s hard to know whether a person is a soulmate because circumstances or priorities may change. Ultimately, old friends are dependable, around and you can navigate life with them.”
Her answer makes me smile. I hadn’t expected her to say that.
“You can get stuff from your friends that you can’t get from your family or partner,” Charmaine says. “In Sex and the City, the friendship of the four girls – they really seem like soulmates. That’s something I would really like. There are certain things you can’t get from your partner that you can only get from a female friend. If you have relationship problems or work problems – partners and family members may not be the best person to talk to.”
“And how do you feel when one these friendships end?” I ask.
“I feel very sad, of course,” Charmaine says. “Very rarely is it initiated by me. And to be honest, it’s out of your control. I would try very hard to keep a good friendship. But if the other person is not interested anymore – there’s nothing I can do.
“Unless someone has done something really bad to me, I would not let it go without a good fight. If they’re already a close person in your life, you would try hard. I wouldn’t flippantly cut off a friendship without good reason. I’d only do it if they’ve betrayed you, are not acting in your best interests, or if the relationship has gotten toxic because of jealousy. I’m a bit reserved and am not the type of person who makes friends that easily. When I do, I take friendships quite seriously.”
I smile even more. Charmaine and I are more alike than I realised. Perhaps that’s what makes a friendship last to begin with. A mutual commitment that two people want things to last and are willing to put in the effort to do just that.
It isn’t enough to be soulmates. We have to be willing to do the work to build relationships that last.
“Why do you think other people don’t take friendships seriously?” I ask.
“I think some people use friends for different purposes,” Charmaine says. “Like to boost their ego, look good in photos, or to have contacts and go to parties. But then again some people don’t think friendships are that important cause they put more of an emphasis on their partner or family and they don’t need friends.
“Or there might be some people who just view friendships as something superficial to hangout and have coffee and take Instagram photos with. Those people might view friendships as disposable and not be upset when they lose those friends. It depends if you want quantity or quality really.”
Over the years, I’ve found myself thinking about breadth vs depth when it comes to friendship over and over again. The truth of the matter is – there just isn’t enough time or energy to give everyone depth. Mutual commitment is key in differentiating the short-term friendships from the long-term ones.
For those of us amongst us who have old friends – take the time to cherish and appreciate them. And for those of us who don’t – life is never too short to make an old friend. Open your heart. Make the commitment. You won’t regret it.