As you grow older you realise that your expectations from your friends undergo a gradual change. The equation you had with them when you were a kid was simpler. The only objective of friendship back then was enjoying each other’s company. You loved teasing each other, sharing your toys with them, and playing pranks on each other. Somewhere along the way as you enter adolescence this friendship goes beyond enjoyment. This is when competition, peer pressure and insecurities start showing early signs in a friendship. No matter how much you want to ignore these deterrents they will raise their head sometime or the other.
While in school this was still manageable but once you become an adult you cannot escape but to face these issues with your friends. But well, these are the things that actually help you grow. They teach you how to remain grounded despite the competition, to not be illogical while bowing down to peer pressure and to face your insecurities heads on. When you’ve tackled all this together your friends understand you much better and love you for what you really are. Such is the bond between childhood friends who have seen you grow and have grown with you.
From hereon the friends that you make will be different. The people you attract as friends will be the ones who find this ‘evolved you’ matching their own wavelengths. If you observe the kind of friends you’ve made from kindergarten to high school, there will be a subtle difference in the kind of people you’ve slowly drifted towards. The friends you make in college will again be quite different. This is a healthy sign coz it signifies that you are growing and evolving. This difference in the kind of friends we graduate to from time to time subconsciously helps us grow as a person, since we learn from each person we meet along the journey. Some good and some bad. That’s exactly the reason why you should now choose your friends wisely. You will be known for the company you keep. The quality of your friends will determine how your personality shapes up while in their company.
Let me elaborate what I mean by good company and bad company. No person is good or bad. It is their habits or qualities that are good or bad. While I would not encourage you to be in the company of people with unhealthy habits, sometimes you either end up together due to circumstances or because you appreciate the good qualities in them. In such cases you need to be very clear on how much you would let that person influence you. There could be a lot of good things to know about them other than their habits. Steer clear of peer pressure or any kind of emotional blackmail that forces you to try or adapt their bad habits. You’ve seen the kind of friends I’ve had all these years. They are as different as chalk and cheese. Some of them are simple and straight, some are intellectual and some are downright wild and eccentric. They belong to various age groups and cultures. However, I remain clear on how I make the most out of their company while keeping my boundaries firmly in place.
If you remember, back in your childhood days I would warn you about a certain kid that I felt was not the right company for you and you would insist on knowing what was wrong with the kid. Well, I can now tell you without any hesitation as to why I felt he was not right for you. As you mature certain things come instinctively to you. These instincts guide you when they sense something wrong in the vibe of a person, even if it is a kid. While I used my instincts to protect you from wrong company, it is about time you start listening to your own instincts. Sometimes when we meet a new person we either like them or we don’t. This like and dislike is a play of your instincts. Pay close attention to it. We tend to ignore our instincts sometimes only to regret later and be reminded of how the person made us feel the very first time we met them.
I see youngsters hanging out with a wide variety of friends these days. There’s no harm in it till you start to slot them in various compartments, such as clubbing friends just coz you hang out with them only to be seen at the right places that are happening, business friends coz you help each other’s businesses flourish through recommendations, online friends who only exist in your virtual world so that they add on to the number of likes on your updates (yes, this happens!) and so on and so forth. Once you start putting them into slots as per your need that they fulfil there’s only so much to that friendship – that need. Of course, there is a fair chance that these superficial ties could prosper into deeper friendships in the long run but if the foundation of a friendship still remains a selfish need, the whole relationship is a farce. One needs to look beyond selfish gains in a genuine friendship.
You’ve been lucky to be blessed with some really close childhood friends who have been with you throughout your rollercoaster ride of childhood and adolescence. Cherish them. However let me remind you as I always do, people change along with their set of priorities and circumstances. Let them go without trying to get possessive or upset about the situation. You yourself are susceptible to such changes in future. At such times, the nature of friendship changes and if you’re lucky you’ll remain in touch but things probably won’t be the same. However, there are some friends you lose touch with for years but whenever they reconnect with you nothing would have changed between you. That’s the beauty of some friendships!
Now is the time to be choosy about who you want to be around. One golden rule in choosing and maintaining friends should be that your friend should make you feel good about yourself. In times of self-doubt he should boost your morale and on occasions where you slip up he should be honest enough to correct you. Friendship needs to be selfless and for no reason. It should be comfortable like a pair of old socks that hug you cosy when you’re cold, protect your feet from the ravages that the road could cause to your feet and make you feel good in them even if they have a hole or two in them. That kind of comfort will envelopes you gently in your first few meetings itself. Build on it and take it forward from there. And yes, don’t forget that you also need to be your friend’s old pair of socks coz friendship is a two-way street. It will only go far if you walk in tandem with each other. Such walks end up making the journey of life sweetly enriched with warm memories and bonds to keep for life.
I’ll end this letter with this poem by Henry Van Dyke that I thought to be apt for you at this juncture.
Let me but live my life from year to year,
With forward face and unreluctant soul;
Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal;
Not mourning for the things that disappear
In the dim past, nor holding back in fear
From what the future veils; but with a whole
And happy heart, that pays its toll
To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer.
So let the way wind up the hill or down,
O’er rough or smooth, the journey will be joy:
Still seeking what I sought when but a boy,
New friendship, high adventure, and a crown,
My heart will keep the courage of the quest,
And hope the road’s last turn will be the best.