Friends. Amis. If, like me, you are moving around a lot, and your friends are scattered all over the world, you’ll know there are two things that will try and get in your way. Time and space: the longer they stretch, the greater the test on a friendship. I certainly know lots of people; I have several hundred “friends” on facebook, but real friends? Friendship is a strong word for me; it is something earned, not circumstantial. A true friend is not just someone with whom you went to school, or with whom you get drunk, or even with whom you hang around all the time. A friend is someone you can go to for help without stipulation, who makes you feel like you can be a better person, who pours cold water on your delusions, acts as cheerleader for your successes, defends your honour and is proud to know you.
When you find a really special friend, it’s like falling in love. A strong alchimie, or chemistry, draws you together. You are fascinated by one another, want to learn each others’ life stories and opinions on a whole spectrum of subjects. You want to be alone together so you can talk into the early hours of the morning. Sometimes surrounding people seem to disappear because you are too busy sharing in-jokes and observations. A little sickening for everyone else perhaps(!)
But friendships, like all relationships, need work. That’s why it is absolutely essential to make an effort to stay in contact. Nothing worth having comprises zero work, and even the best friendships are not always easy; but if someone meets all that I described above, surely they’re worth the effort? You’ll know who your real friends are once you’ve moved away from them. There are those who fall by the wayside, or keep moving, but in a line perpendicular to your own, until you find you no longer have anything in common. But then there are those who move along with you, not necessarily nearby, but parallel in life, and remain close despite being far.
On exchange you meet hoards of interesting people from all over the world, and what never fails to astound me is how it is possible to meet people who have grown up and been cultured in environments completely different to myself, but still share the same core values and aspirations. These are the indispensable foundations upon which a friendship is built, regardless of background or culture. There are essentials to keeping a friendship alive, no matter how great the distance or time apart. It all depends on the person, not the circumstances. A friend has to be someone for whom you have respect and regard; someone you can admire, whose future you believe in, and who feels the same for you. Jealousy is poison to a friendship, and generosity, ambrosia.
Though it may seem like a handicap to be leading far-apart lives, in fact it can be a blessing. When both of you have vastly different things to bring to the table, yet are perpetually connected and able to relate on that basic level, it is incredibly enriching. Friends learn from one another, and that is how they help one another to be the best that they can be. Not to mention providing a floor to sleep on in some far-flung foreign locale!
Friendship is a hefty investment; if someone is making you feel a little off, or draining your energy, even at a distance, it’s a bad sign. Good friends (and you know who they really are) lift you up. The world is a better place for them. They aren’t afraid to tell you when you’ve (often inadvertently) pissed them off. They keep you in check when you’re veering off on a ridiculous fancy. You can relax and be every version of yourself with them. They have more faith in you than you do in yourself, and they don’t judge you. They make you feel worthy. They jump to your defence if anyone is unwise enough to badmouth you in front of them. But it goes both ways; to have a good friend, you need to be a good friend.
My good friends are not all close at hand, nor are they numerous, but that’s what makes them special. Even à distance, the warmth remains. It is with pride that I can say they count me as a friend. A part of me wants to be more like each of them in some way or other, and that is why I admire them. They have my ears, my heart and my hands, to aid them in whatever way I can. Distance is nothing for friends like these. Never underestimate the importance of showing kindness to those you call your friends; they are all you have.