Recently, I was told by an acquaintance that a really neat part of life is the opportunity to have multiple best friends during all of our different stages. That way, we end up accumulating a decent amount of friends, each one able to know one side of us. At first, I didn’t agree. I felt like I couldn’t relate to her blanket statement because my family moved around so often that most of my long-lasting friendships developed over Skype, or the phone. Even though the friendships were “maintained” so to speak, it wasn’t the same as being in the same place, making memories together. Besides, isn’t that what we’re taught to know as true? That true friends aren’t the ones hearing about your stories, but making the memories with you? If that’s the case, I really wouldn’t have many friends at all, and probably zero “best friends.” As I kept thinking about my life though, I realized that just because my life wasn’t as stable as it could have been doesn’t mean that the connections I made over time were inferior to those who had the same friend group for a decade.
In fact, I feel lucky to be able to admit that I have a handful of people that I can turn to to discuss absolutely anything. Moving around so many times as a kid actually taught me to follow my instincts about a person. Automatically assuming that we were moving as soon as it reached a year and a half or two years in one place taught me to seek out one or two people who were similar to me, but also different, and who I knew, with 100% certainty would be able to connect with me on a deep level. All of these individuals though, came into my life at different points, for a short amount of time, and are not in any of the same cities, let alone “friend groups.”
Even though following my instincts helped me tremendously throughout elementary, middle, and high school, college was a completely different experience. I transferred colleges five different times in four years, and never went in with the desire to make friends. Instead, I was originally laser-focused on my academics, and planning for my future. Eventually, though, that got exhausting and I decided that I wanted to try and experience the “typical college life.” So, at my last, degree-granting institution, I joined a sorority, choir, a plethora of clubs, etc to expand my horizons, and meet the type of people I wouldn’t usually encounter, or befriend.
In the process, I found a girl who quickly became one of my really good friends. The second day we hung out, our families met and became fast friends as well. Similar to a whirlwind romance, it was a friendship that formed instantaneously. I quickly fell into a pattern of familiarity, having one close friend, instead of following what I set out to do: make a diverse group of friends who I would usually not gravitate towards. That ended up happening though, almost a year later, when Ash and I stopped being friends. Now, when I say we weren’t friends, I’m not saying that it ended poorly. We didn’t go around spreading nasty rumors about one another, or wishing either harm. We just stopped talking. Whether it was a miscommunication problem or not, it was meant to be because post-friendship “break” we picked up where we left off, and got even closer. This article though, isn’t about the break we took, or how we became friends again, but about the lessons about life, and myself that I learned from her that helped me grow. It’s so that everyone reading this will reflect about the people in their lives, and the impact that they made on them.
My friend, Ash, has gone through hell and back. As a child, she was hurt by people who were supposed to protect her, and she was far away from her parents during all of that, for fourteen years. The incredible thing about her though, is that she has truly forgiven everyone who has hurt her, whether physically or emotionally, or both. She holds no grudges, and instead prays for those same people. She understands that if someone is mean, it’s probably because they are going through a hard time. She not only understands that, but bends over backwards to help every, single person she can. She offers her time, her shoulder, and her love, but at the same time, she forgives in order to take that heavy emotional burden off herself. Ash has found the perfect balance of selflessness, and helping herself, and it’s amazing to witness.
2. Being emotional and open isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather of immense strength.
The first time I met Ash, she told me her life story. She didn’t know me at all at that point, but opened up to me. I was in awe of her openness, because I grew up guarding myself, and my heart from nearly every person. Growing up, I witnessed people my age sabotaging others for their own gain, and adults lying and cheating in order to hide their true emotions, so I couldn’t fathom why she would trust me with such intimate details of her life. All I thought that day at Starbucks was “is she not scared about the fact that a total stranger knows her deepest, darkest secrets?” As I got to know her though, I realized that it’s because she’s been through so much in life, and has worked through it all and is able to not care what anyone else does with the information she puts out. Why? It’s because whatever they do with that is on them.
Her pure heart leads her to open up to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen, and from observing her in her element, I recognized something: people love and hate those who have something great to offer the world. If we let those who hurt us, and hate us to define us, we’re doing a disservice to the world, and to ourselves. So, look around. Ask your loved ones if you’re doing this. I’m not saying be vulnerable all the time, but open up to people. Share your stories because you have no idea who will relate to you, or how you can change someone’s life, or even your own.
3. Doing whatever you need isn’t being selfish.
Ash and I both immediately connected because of this one thing: our culture. We’re both of Indian ethnicity, and were raised with many of the same qualities and values, one of them being: having an immense amount of respect for anyone who is older than us. Throughout the years, we both talked about how most people just don’t understand why we always ask our parents for permission to do things, or why we’ve never talked back even when we were being hurt.
Once we came back into each other’s lives, I saw something change in her. She still had the same spark, passion, and kindness that once defined her, but she thought about herself first and foremost. It took her a while to stop feeling guilty for saying no when someone asked her to do something, but she fought her instincts and thought about herself.
This isn’t to say that she doesn’t help others. She still bends over backwards for people, and is one of the most selfless individuals that I have the privilege of knowing. It just means that she’s found her self-worth, and through that, she’s not only inspiring those around her to find their own, but she’s attracting so much more positive energy with this mindset.
4. Apologizing for who you are is something we are used to doing but should stop.
In this day and age, a lot of us say “I’m sorry” very quickly, even when we’re not sorry. Even when we have nothing to apologize for. Over time, the more someone says sorry, the more the meaning gets lost. Are you sorry for someone’s loss, for forgetting to hold the door open, or for telling your friend the truth about the fact that he/she is wearing mis-matched socks?
I’m guilty of doing this, too, but Ash told me. She sat me down, and told me that my worst characteristic is that I want to please everyone, and that in order to do so, I apologize. I back track, even when logically, I know I’m right. I don’t go to certain events or places because I’m afraid that people who don’t like me will be there, and that I don’t deserve to be there. It was harsh when she told me that, but it’s appreciated.
For the longest time, I’ve been apologizing for who I am. Yes, I am a blunt person. I will tell you if you’re mean. I will let you know if you spelled a word incorrectly. I will absolutely tell you if your question is stupid. It doesn’t mean that I’m not emotional, or a cruel human being. It means that I value competence, and bettering oneself. If you’re wrong, don’t you want to know?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, that I feel terrible about, but I have sincerely apologized. After that, there isn’t much you can do, except learn from the mistakes you’ve made. So, if you’re like me, and because you feel badly, you’re constantly apologizing for other things (that aren’t wrong), stop it. You don’t have to crawl into a hole because of a mistake you made. Own it. Learn. Be better. Keep going.
Most importantly, find those friends who’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong. Take it from me, it’s much better to work through your good and bad qualities with a friend who loves you unconditionally and cares about your well-being, than from someone who is just trying to hurt you.
5. Don’t focus on falling in love, but instead, rise in self-love.
I have never heard a phrase like this until Ash told me about it. The main point is, instead of actively focusing on finding the love of your life, or for a romantic soulmate, focus on yourself. The rest will fall into place.
A lot of us in our twenties are worrying about running out of time. I do too from time to time. I wonder if I’ll ever find someone, and start a family, and how old I’ll be when that happens. But, I’ve stopped doing that as much, and focused on rising in self-love. That doesn’t just mean do a face mask, and watch a movie. It’s a way of life. Creating a routine. Being present when with friends. Picking a career based on passion, not earning potential.
I have never been a person who depends on other people, but Ash taught me that it’s okay to lean on someone. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to be vulnerable, and to be true to yourself.
So, to a girl who has turned my perspective on life around, thank you.
I hope everyone finds a true friend like you.
Stay golden, and Happy 22nd Birthday.