SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT FRIENDSHIP

Last week my best friend told me that she was moving to the other side of London and I’d be lying if I said I took it well.

(T-SHIRT)

Sure, Kennington is hardly Australia, but for the last six years she has been no more than a stone’s throw away from my front door; we have done everything together, we know each other’s houses like the back of our hands, we might as well live together and now she just wants to pack up and move an hour away?

(For my non-London pals, an hour in this city might as well be four days to the rest of the world).

She told me she was moving and I wondered who was going to look after my spare key when she left. Then I kicked myself for thinking something so stupid.

What a random concern to pop into my head, what a selfish thought, what sort of a person thinks only of their spare key when their best friend in the world tells them they are about to make a totally life altering decision???

Since her announcement I have had lots of thoughts like that. Who will I share cabs with after a night out now? Will I have to spend two hours on the overground every Tuesday night to maintain our tradition of burgers and booze to celebrate the first two days of the week being over? Who will I sit in the park with when I need a walk and some company after a long and lonely day as a freelancer? Who will help me walk Bua when I’m feeling anxious? Will we have to finish every night together by 10pm to ensure we’ve both got time to get back to our relative homes safely? How will she be my best friend from KENNINGTON???

Me me me. It’s all about ME. Me and MY problems.

I didn’t spare a thought for her and her reasoning. I didn’t think about the fact that this move will half her commute, or about how much more she was going to get for her money out there, I’m ashamed of the fact that I hardly considered how badly she needed to spread her wings and be on her own somewhere new.

Despite the fact I would do ANYTHING for her, that I love her so much, when push came to shove, all I could think about was me.

And that got me thinking about friendship and the things that I’ve learnt about it so far.

(No, I haven’t put ‘stop being so bloody melodramatic‘ on there but think of it as a little bonus…)

No matter how good the friendship is, you are inherently selfish.

If my reaction to my best friend’s announcement taught me anything, it is that you will always be selfish at the core. That’s not the insult you think it is, that’s just human nature, don’t sweat it too much. It is worth remembering though that when it comes to YOU and your feelings, you will be hyper-sensitive.

Most friendships work on your terms and that’s okay, you need to look out for numero uno but self awareness is key. Ask yourself if the problem in front of you is on you or on them before you shoot off into a rage, projecting your issues onto them.

You are selfish. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. But you’ve GOT to know it.

You have to go out of your way NOT to be.

Even though, as we have just established, that it is okay to be selfish, you need to be careful with how that selfishness manifests itself.

Although you’ve gotta look out for number one, you must not make your friends feel like they are number two. I cannot help that the first thing I thought of was my spare key, that’s the way that I am wired, but it’s hella important not to tell the friend in question that (unless of course you write about your life for a living and that particular friend reads everything you write – bless her).

No one will make the effort for you.

I learnt this the hard way, but my short comings over the years have taught me a lesson I am so pleased to have learnt. You cannot ignore three texts in a row, cancel on plans and miss parties with no explanations and just expect the world to have waited for you. You have selfish tendencies, but so too do your friends, and they are within their rights not to be okay with you being shitty.

As with everything if you want something, you have to earn it. If you didn’t show up to work every day for a month, would you expect to keep your job? I don’t like to compare friendship to a job, friendship isn’t a job, but it is a commitment and I have forgotten that enough times to know the importance of committing.

You will grow and change and not every friendship will stand the test of time (soz).

Sometimes you know when to let things go and sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world. I wrote at the beginning of this year about toxic friendships and why I try never to cut people out of my life and I stand by that, I don’t like the act of removing people. But I do know that people grow and change and that sometimes it is kinder to let a friendship go.

I made great friends when I was a child and it was the saddest realisation to me when I realised that the people I was clinging onto had grown up to be very different people to the ones I met twenty years ago in the playground of our primary school. It is horribly sad but history isn’t enough to hold two very different adults together.

Expectations need to be managed.

I’ve talked about this before. My mum has always said to me that when it comes to friends, you need to manage your expectations, she says that wen you know where you stand then you will never be disappointed. I always hated it, h-a-t-e-d it. It disappointed me, I thought it was a depressing way to live, I thought my friends were better than that.

But then I grew up and now I think I finally get it. I have been let down by so many people over the years and I have finally realised that if I were to cut every single one of those people out of my life, I’d be very alone by now. It’s not just a case of forgiveness, it’s a case of learning to understand each other.

When you know what you get from each friend, you will start to know what to expect, and when you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed. You can make your peace with exactly where you stand.

Carving out time is your responsibility.

Contrary to what Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies would have you believe, there is more to friendship than ‘liking’ a picture and sharing your ten year anniversary video (curated by them) on your timeline. There is more to friendship than Instagram, even more even than WhatsApp.

It wasn’t until I left London for a few weeks in February that I realised what life without proper IRL human interaction felt like. I realised that there is no WhatsApp group big enough to stop you feeling alone. A relationship maintained simply over messenger just won’t cut the mustard.

Even when I’m tired and exhausted and I feel like i’ve left it too long and I get awkward about making plans after a long time apart, I never regret seeing my friends.

You are nothing without it.

Without my friends, I am nothing, Female friendship is everything, it’s hardly a coincidence that every book flying off the shelves right now is focussing on it (I refer you to Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love and Lily Pebbles’ The F Word, both of which I loved). Friends are everything. If you’ve read my book you’ll have read the love letter I wrote to my own friends (am I plugging my book so shamelessly? Why yes, yes I am).

My boyfriend, my family, my dog, they are perfect, but my friends are my life and the day I take them for granted is the day that I stop deserving them.,

And I never want to stop deserving my friends.

So I’ve made peace with my best mate moving to Kennington. I’ll miss her, I can’t pretend I won’t, but we’ll be okay. Because what is good for her is good for me, that’s how true friendship works.

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2 Comments

  1. martynstanley
    April 26, 2018 / 11:39 am

    I don’t think I have any real friends. I used to years ago, but a busy life can quickly become a solitary life. I say solitary instead of lonely, because I don’t crave friendship. Time with my family is about as much social contact as I tend to take. Some very perceptive thoughts there. We are selfish by instinct. Being altruistic takes effort. But it’s worth doing – it makes you feel good. Still selfishness I suppose. We tend to expect a reward for things… Regarding your friend who’s moved across the city. You know, it sounds like a perfect excuse to each get a spare bed setup and take it in turns to do a Friday night out with a sleep-over and breakfast to follow. If you can’t see her as much, make the occasions when you do last longer and make more out of them. The move has obviously affected you, but look for a silver lining. Try to make something good out of it.

  2. Natasza
    June 12, 2018 / 9:48 am

    Oh, so this is what a real friendship is like… I have a best friend but after seeing each other every day at school, then partying, going to gigs and holidays together during college, now we see each other twice a year tops (we live in the same city and indeed, an hour from each other). I’ve had other friendships throughout the years, too and I feel that currently my only friends are my boyfriend, my mum and my sister. Not bad, but there certainly is a void. I guess my problem is that as soon as I started dating (and I did pretty late), my boyfriends were becoming my only true friends. Even though I’m older and smarter now, it’s really difficult to “start” a friendship when you’re 30 and you only mingle with people at work.
    (and if that comment wasn’t a proof of your words on selfishness then I don’t know what would be).

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