This is a very important subject to me. In life nowadays I have few real close friends around me. Well those that are on the end of a phone and will go for a drink at a moment’s notice. No, I don’t have too many friends like that anymore. I have in the past; I have had various social groups as I have made my chaotic way through life, some of them very strong and I am still in contact one way or another, others were more opaque. I use that word purposefully, as I mean friends who look solid on the outside at the time, but when you look just a little more closely, you can see right through them and all they serve to do is blur your vision of the world. A lot of ‘friendships’ are like that unfortunately.
Life and family responsibilities make a big difference as well. The days of nipping to the pub for a pint on a summers day are now long gone. There are people at home who need me, and spare time is a premium. Friends who would have been seen on a regular basis are now subject to infrequent visits, and more likely on-line chats more than anything. But that is just a phase that most of us must go through at some stage. Friendship transcends these times.
True friendship is something that stretches a lifetime. It is where people know you, and accept your shortcomings as they like you, the whole of you, regardless of the many blemishes and imperfections. True friendship forgives and accepts. Because of that true friendship is love and cannot be broken.
I have friends now, people I feel very comfortable talking to who I haven’t seen in twenty years, or thereabouts. These friends know me better than most of the people I associate with today. The reality is they saw me make all my early mistakes and this didn’t change the way the felt about me. These people will probably be with me to the end of my days.
That’s not to say there are not new friends who will last the test of time, I am sure there are. There are people I feel I will know forever, but true friendship must be tested over a long period and because of that it’s hard to know for sure. Friends are not statistics that you grow on Facebook. There are so many people that you meet and associate with in your path through life. Only a few of these will ever become real friends, for the items you have in common, fall away as life moves on.
It is quite interesting to think of who among those you know now, will one day be drinking a pint of Guinness with you, in what constitutes a pub in thirty years’ time. Who will be sat across from you sharing your displeasure about the current England football team, and how things were different in your day, moaning at the TV screen and making critical comments about how the young people dress these days? We are all going to have those conversations; they are inevitable it’s just who you have them with that’s important.
The best friend I have in life is of course my wife. It is only she who has put up with my foibles for a sustained period of time. Only my wife has had to share her daily life with my idiosyncrasies, be they good, bad or just downright annoying. For that immense effort and achievement it is my wife who retains the title of best friend. But that’s my point, true friendship in love, and marriage is the ultimate proclamation of love and therefore friendship.
I feel an urge at the moment to catch up with many people from the past. Perhaps it is my age, as I see a lot of photos from the eighties going up on people’s facebook pages. It seems a lot of people reach out in their forties. Catching up with their friends from the past, and sharing conversations about events long gone that whilst minor and trivial in the mass of life that moves around us, can form strong emotions in the memories of those that lived them. Shared experiences that remain alive for as long as the participants survive and these are the stories that will be recounted over those pints of Guinness, the true moments of happiness in your life, those rebellious acts as a teenager, your first experiences as an adult, the people you shared these with are your friends that will be there forever.
However, there are people I have considered to be good friends along the way who I have lost contact with completely, people I shared time with when I was travelling, people I shared some pretty intense experiences with. Perhaps my cycle of life has not progressed far enough yet for those relationships to be rekindled. But I hope they will someday. It’s like the Neil Young song, ‘One of these days I’m gonna sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends I‘ve known….’
‘Friendship’ is more than a word. It is a status earned through the test of time. It is a form of unconditional love that forgives if not forgets. It is shared experiences and common ground. It is the bond that holds the human race together. Friendship keeps people close and brings people back together after lifetimes lived apart.