I hated primary school. I was a very lonely child who found it difficult to make friends. I’m not exactly sure why, I just remember being very unhappy. Despite this, I got through those formative years relatively unscathed. In fact, it taught me how to enjoy my own company, which is something many people struggle to do. There’s always a positive, y’know?
At secondary school I found my niche thanks to a love of drama and music, and found it easier to make friends. Were it not for some of the friends I made whilst singing along to cheesy musicals at 12 years old, I’m not certain I’d have made it through some of life’s more trying times to the ripe old age of 44 – an age at which I’m still singing along to the same cheesy musicals and often take great comfort in the memories of yesteryear.
I’ve gone on to make friends over the years, throughout the different stages of life. Since those primary school years, I’ve never been without friends but there have been times when friendships have not been because of “me”. Sometimes friends are friends because you work together, or perhaps because you all have babies and need to spend time with other people who can sympathise with everything you’re going through: you might appreciate one another’s company and share some pleasant experiences, but for me those friendships never felt securely anchored. I think there was always an awareness that once that particular phase of life was over, so too would be that friendship.
My friends make me feel more protected, loved and fulfilled than I can imagine any romantic relationship ever will.
Of course, Facebook can put a different spin on the situation. These days we all have “friends” we’ve only ever met once, or people we haven’t seen since working with them in the early nineties (I said I’m 44, OK?). I’m never quite sure it’s OK to be viewing their wedding pics>baby scans>drunken meltdowns>divorce party photos. Conversely, some of my closest friends don’t have a Facebook account. We have to rely on – shock, horror – texting and calling one another to ask “You OK, hun?” (We never ask that.)
I didn’t do the wild partying you’re supposed to do in your late teens and early twenties, and I don’t remember too much about being married as I look back at it through the frosted glass of PND. What I do remember is that – around ten years ago – I got divorced, moved into my own tiny, dilapidated, old terraced house with my three wonderful kids, and started to live. As well as holding on to friends from school and making fabulous and formidable new friends along the way, I know that the friends who saw me through that terrifying and wonderful period of awakening will be with me always.
These past ten years have opened my eyes to friendships that fulfil me in ways that no other relationship ever has. I have spent so much time desperately searching for a soul-mate in the form of a man who will love me in spite of my flaws, that it never occurred to me that actually, these friends who I take so much for granted are fulfilling the role of doting husband more than any doting husband ever could. They have seen me through divorce, bouts of depression, numerous relationship fails and countless single parent nightmares. They have been with me on raucous nights out, stood back and watched me do some completely ridiculous things, been ready to catch me when I inevitably make a total fool of myself, and argued, cried and laughed with me.
We overshare in the extreme, don’t pass judgement, and provide support through hell and high water. Goodness knows there have been times when I’ve pushed their patience to the limit, but they’ve stuck with me through the moods, the moaning and the mayhem. Essentially, they’ve never given up.
There’s no denying that some of the friendships have been down bumpy roads. The thing is, as you get older, you know what matters. You prioritise. Sure there might be things that niggle now and again, but dealing with those niggles becomes more like dealing with family members that you might take issue with from time to time – you need to take a breather from one another for a while, but given time, you simply pick up where you left off. Plus, if at any point during the hiatus either of you needed one another, you both know that the other one would be there. No question. If I’m honest, I don’t know that I had the experience and maturity to understand that in my twenties or even into my early thirties.
My friends make me feel more protected, loved and fulfilled than I can imagine any romantic relationship ever will. To quote Helen Keller, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” My friends are more important to me now than they have ever been. These are the friends who are going to be with me forever.
An online magazine that cares about stuff, laughs about stuff, and wants you to feel good about stuff. Life's too short.