As someone who has always been extremely social since basically forever, I’ve always had friends.
My oldest friendship has lasted me about a good 16 years now.
Talking to people, striking up conversations with strangers; their stories always fascinate me a lot. I’ve always had great friends, with the exception of a few.
When I moved schools after spending years in my previous school, I was afraid of people for the first time. I was worried about how all these new people would perceive me. Luckily for me, an old friend had already made things easier for me. She told her friends at school about me, so once I moved there, these people already knew about me.
I didn’t expect the kind of welcome I got, but it was just so heartwarming to see people being so friendly. Those friends are the ones that I’ve still maintained my friendship with. These friends became like family to me, and I just assumed they were always going to be around me. I was wrong.
The concept of these friends moving away was something I never thought of. It was something I only read in books, and even then, they remained pen pals. So, you can imagine my surprise when all my closest friends moved away for university.
When they moved away, for the longest time I felt utterly depressed. I thought I no longer had anybody to talk to, and I thought because they weren’t with me physically, our friendship wouldn’t be the same.
For the first few months, we did our best to stay in touch, talk as much as we could. And to be fair, it was easy at that point, because they were just settling in.
I desperately clung on to this little bit of communication, convinced that without these friends, I wouldn’t be able to go on.
I had some difficulties making new friends at university, as I was the only expat. I didn’t speak a word of Arabic, and they preferred to speak only in their mother tongue. So, you can imagine why this long-distance communication was so important to me.
The time difference between my friends and I also made it really tough for us to communicate. When I was feeling lonely or having a panic attack between classes, they were either tucked up in bed, asleep, or they would be rushing through their own classes.
It became more difficult to talk much as time went on. They had their lives to live, and I had mine. I couldn’t really blame them; I couldn’t expect them to stop living their lives for me. Soon enough we all became too busy, and eventually, the contact was slashed down to a WhatsApp text once every month.
These things weren’t what stung me.
It was when I would see their social media accounts, filled with pictures of them hanging out with their new friends; that’s when I felt the loneliest. I didn’t envy them, I just felt lonely and pity for myself.
These were the people I saw every day for years, but now I was watching their lives unfold from the other side of the glass. I just didn’t feel like I belonged with them, like I was a part of their lives.
That’s not to say that I cut off completely from them. I just no longer believed that I couldn’t function without them. Gradually, I understood that friendships aren’t always based on how much two people communicate. My best friend and I are still best friends; it’s just that now our interaction isn’t always that frequent.
Over time, of course, I made friends of my own within my class. I found the most wonderful friend, and we are still friends till this day. With her, I didn’t feel like an outsider. I felt like I belonged, simply because we had an understanding of each other.
In the end, it’s all a part of growing up. I am still friends with my old friends, even if we’re not as close as we used to be. That’s okay with me. I do still cherish them, but over time I’ve learned to know when to stop pushing a friendship that’s changed.
I love these friends, but I stopped being dependent on them. I understood that even if they’re not there, I can still go on with my life as normal.
And I think that’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.