When I was younger, having “friends” meant being invited to birthday parties, receiving lots of Valentine’s Day cards and having others to play and be young with, apart from my family. To me, it felt like friendship was more of a social tool and there wasn’t a deep, significant meaning behind it. Don’t get me wrong; I certainly cared about the people I spent the most time with. I think it’s just that friendship played a more superficial role in my life back then. I don’t think it’s possible when you are a kid to truly comprehend the inherent value of a good friend. And that’s not a bad thing, per se; it’s just a part of growing up. Unfortunately, when you’re younger, part of that growing process can include moving away, changing schools, different interests and activities as well as other obstacles that often limit how far a friendship can progress. At those stages in life, there is still a lot of immaturity so the ability (and perhaps motivation) to maintain the relationship tends to falter. If you’re lucky enough, you will have at least one friend whom you remain close with into adulthood, but those relationships are usually few and far between.
I don’t think I truly began to appreciate what it really means to be a friend until just recently. I don’t believe this has anything to do with knowing what friendship means. I think you can know what the definition of friendship is, but the ability to comprehend something and the ability to actually follow through differs quite sharply. There have been many things in life that I have mentally grasped the concept of, but when it comes to actually living out those concepts I don’t do as well. I think this is true of most early friendships and the meaning changes throughout the friendships one acquires in their lifetime. Does this mean that I believe that friendships formed early in life are meaningless or can never survive? Absolutely not; in fact, I believe quite the contrary. I think that friendships formed early in life are extremely beneficial to the well-being and maturity of a person. Your friends (during early life) offer views into different family dynamics, ideologies and opinions that you might otherwise not be exposed to. Friends are one of the first steps towards autonomy and they are an important experience for a person to have. What it boils down to is that while all friendships have worth, we tend not to truly understand that worth until later on in life (which might also help explain why most early friendships fade).
I believe that as you grow and learn more about trust, betrayal, empathy, loyalty and the like, the concept of friendship expands further. For example, where you were previously fighting over dolls and daydreaming about teen heartthrobs, now you are consoling a friend who is divorcing or rejoicing with a friend who is expecting. What’s funny is that with friends who I’ve managed to maintain a relationship with over time, things that seemed so significant back then are often a source of comical relief now. I am enjoying my friendships on a much different level these days and I absolutely love it! Throughout our highs and lows, we have laughed, cried, hugged and shared intimate moments that have made us more like family. I certainly do not regret my earlier friendships. Without those, I don’t think I would be the person I am today nor would I have learned the things I needed to know to have the friendships I do now. What’s even more wonderful is that I learn how to be a better friend everyday. I consider myself fortunate to have the friends I do and I hope they know that without them, I would only be a fragment of who I am now. They are and will continue to be the notes in the music of my soul.
Dedicated to the greatest friends a gal could ever have: Tina, Rosa, Gladis, Susan, Jeanette, Maria, Zufan & Reina
I also simultaneously dedicate this to my dear childhood friends: Sylvia, Jessica Z, Shaki, Zufan (I also include Rosa in this category as she has been not only my childhood friend, but also one of my greatest adult friends too).