How Can We Learn From Our Best Friends?

Between the age of 6 to 12, I had two best friends. Ironic, I know. But I’m sure we wouldn’t be able to pick who is our best friend either. They were the most close and constant friends I had, till one day we went our separate ways. There wasn’t a fight or an argument. As with most friendships, it simply dwindled away. As cliche as it is, we went to different schools and didn’t kept in contact. We could have. We should have. It took me much longer to understand that I was never going to truly know what had happened. I lost them to faults of my own, and sometimes I selfishly blame them for it too. It may not hurt as intensely as a romantic breakup, but losing a friend hurts in a way that is deeper and far longer than ever imagined. It haunts you hard. When you think about a close friend you haven’t seen or spoken to in years, it quiets you down with puzzlement and melancholy.

What happened?

When you want to end a romantic relationship, it either ends in a rare amicable “Let’s continue to be friends, but hopefully we don’t bump into each other” way or it ends in a quarrel. There will be a conversation followed up with a rational explanation or a blatant lie. Seldom pleasant conversation, but once it is over, we at least know our status and where we stand in the relationship. However, there is no formal etiquette for ending a friendship. There is no real or commonly accepted protocol for ending one. Most of us simply pull away from the friendship and we let the other party figure it out for themselves. After a long time, I figured it out myself.

It is a unique kind of pain, one where I sound silly telling my new best friends that “my primary school best friends and I just.. kinda broke up.”

It seems that it isn’t dignified to demand for an explanation as it would violate the whole tacit contract on which friendship is founded. The reason why friendship is so precious points at the verifiable truth that it is purely voluntary. We step into a friendship with a decision that we want to befriend someone. There is no other agenda of desire. Technically, both parties don’t owe each other anything. In a romantic relationship, you’re much more accountable for your presence in your partner’s life as compared to your bestie. I’ve had numerous instances where friends in my life simply moved across the country. Maybe as we grow older, we’ll come to realize that most friendships are always only a matter of convenience, a fallback till we don’t need each other anymore. Maybe friendships have natural life spans where we try our best to outlive the incidentals of being classmates or colleagues.

I can’t possibly hate them, can I?

As we grow older, we also come to discover that friends share most things, but we often don’t share everything. Some parts of our lives will never get any further than idle speculation over drinks. If there is some conspicuous gap or contradiction at the center of our friend’s existence, we’ll probably ask once, maybe twice. Once they start to pull back, it is almost the case that there is a rather specific, obvious reason for it. We trust our friends enough to know that they’re not saying certain things as these things are sacred for them, at least for now. Sometimes it is a shrug. Other times, it ends up in an objective screaming session of how important we are to them. Maybe we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfactions of judgment and celebration in our righteous outrage is due to the fact that it spares us from being empathetic and the messier work of understanding. But they are our friends, and friends matter.

I believe this is one of the moments we need to give them space. I believe this is when we should back off gracefully and let the touchy subject rest.

Isn’t that what good friends should do? Our good friends generally think better of us than we think of ourselves. Think back to the time when our friends introduce us to brand new faces. Chances are it starts off with our name, something derogatory and a jaw-dropping shocking conclusion of “but he is the best, trust me.” It makes us feel better, but more importantly, it also makes us be better. Maybe our friends are the reason for the saying that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. We try to match up to their ideals of us, and that is our best selves. Lily in How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) developed the front porch test where before we make a big decision in our life, we imagine that we’re 80-years-old and sitting on our front porch (hopefully in front of a sea/lake view for me) being nostalgic about our life that has gone by. Close your eyes. Think about it. Who is sitting on your front porch with you?

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Terence C.

There is a fine line between fishing and doing nothing. We would like to think that we’re fishing, but the truth is we don’t have the line.