Saturday, 23 June 2018

Lessons Learnt: Friendship

There are certain things in life we learn from doing and certain things we learn from other people's experience. Unlike school subjects or college classes, the topics of these lessons aren't specifically disclosed. You have to know which lesson to learn and which wisdom to take out of it all. One of the things you can do to become a successful person in life is to acknowledge the lessons you've learnt and, if possible, share them with other people. Sharing knowledge, as opposed to popular belief, can actually make you smarter, wiser and a better person. Plus, it can be so much fun! Here's to lessons learnt and me sharing them with you.

Friendship has always been one of the things which confuses me. Growing up many things were a puzzle to me, but as I got older I start to learn the rope and they become clearer—romance, education, career—you name it! But, as the years go by, friendship seems to be more and more complicated, hazy and mysterious. Between trying not to hurt each other's feelings, figuring out if someone wants to be friends with you and making time to actually hang out, I am caught in a whirlpool of friendship codes and social conduct secrets. Before I know it, I was faced with friendship breakups, drifting apart and alienations. Nobody has ever told me that friendship could be a great chore when you're in your 20s. Maybe it's just me, but if you feel the same about this subject, I hope these few lessons could help you figure things out—or at least could be something you can relate to. Disclaimer: these aren't guidelines, Lord knows I'm not perfect.

Pick Your Team

I know this may sound harsh—and all of you growing up in the U.S. may suddenly have flashbacks of Gym classes back in school—but, let's be real, it is highly impossible for us to be friends with everyone. You can be friendly with everyone. But people you can have deep, meaningful friendships with? There may only be a handful. This doesn't have to happen deliberately. Knowing who your true friends are lie in finding those who you wish to scout as teammates and those who truly want to be part of your team—trust me, not everyone does. It's a fine line between knowing people you can trust and people who will only be toxic for you. You will probably meet tons of people who sidle up to you, pretending they want to be part of your team—when, in fact, they don't care which team they belong to, so long as they have a team. You will probably also meet others who you wish could be your long-term teammates, but refuse to join. But it's okay, because there will definitely be those who can be a win-win solution for you. Now, those are a keeper.

Translate Your Feelings

I've said this once before and I'll say it again: feelings are individual languages often lost in translation. Unfortunately, not many people realise that the only dictionary to your feelings are in your hands. Therefore, the only way other people can truly understand your feelings is for you to communicate them—translate them into verbal languages that everyone understands. I've seen too many friendships hitting roadblocks—and even ending—due to so many feelings gone unsaid. Misunderstandings tend to happen, because people refuse to put their thoughts into words. Heck, the same thing happens to me one too many times. Everyone has different mindsets. Things that may seem natural or casual to you could leave others with deep cuts. Things that you believe to be serious could come off as a joke to others. Assuming that other people know how you think and/or feel, that you know how they think/feel or—worse—that everything will work out on its own, can be the fine line between friends and strangers.

Judging Will Get You Nowhere

A little confession: I am a highly judgmental person. My sister called it early on, but it still didn't stop me from doing it. Anything you do can be subject to my judgment. It really doesn't help too, that I speak my mind 90% of the time. This has often led me to trying to control other people's lives, giving them unsolicited advice and being way too nosy in other people's business. When I was in middle school and high school, it wasn't that bad—or at least no one has stood up to me about it. However, afterwards in my early 20s, it started to become much worse. So much so, that I even experienced a bit of a friendship breakup. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to realise something: judging will get in the way of knowing a person. I cannot tell you how many people I have silently judged over the years who turn out to be not as bad as I had made them out to be—in fact, they may be better people than me. Sure, there are also those who turns out to fit the image I had in mind, but it still doesn't serve anyone anything to give out unreasonable judgment.

All in Good (and Bad) Time

Let's talk about the hard part: breakups. When I was younger, I didn't know that breakups can apply to friends too—and that it could hurt more than romantic ones. In my 20s, somehow, I've experienced several breakups; some I was aware of, some I didn't even realise. It doesn't matter how close I am to the friend, it always hurt to know someone out there would rather not have anything to do with me. Sometimes it is due to my own fault, but most of the time it is severe misunderstandings. When that goes un-communicated, the best thing you can do is move on. On a brighter note, however, one of those friendships ended up being rekindled again after a few years of radio silence. Sometimes it really does take time to heal a wound and, when it has, we can exchange hellos again. Friendship is not a linear thing; it doesn't just go from start to finish. You can drop it for a while and pick it up again, because sometimes who you are now is not the best for certain kinds of friendship. But maybe in the future.

Not a Badge of Honour

One of the things that I think most people—including me—worry about is the fact that they seem not to have many friends. This used to bug me a lot, especially when I just got back home from Germany. I tried to re-connect with old friends like crazy, to get to know new people and to join whatever events that could get me both these things. For years I just decided to fit into various categories that other people seem to enjoy, just so I can connect with more people. Even when we're not at the same wavelength, I pretend that we are, which just ends up exhausting me—and them too, most likely. However, what I've started to realise recently is that, there is no point being friends with people, if we have to force it. Don't get me wrong, when I try to re-connect and hang out with these people, I do tend to like them. However, I should acknowledge that friendship can come in moderation. There is nothing wrong with not hanging out all the time or taking a step back from conversations. Let's acknowledge that friendship is not about the quantity, but the quality!

This is probably the hardest 'Lessons Learnt' post I've ever had to write. Friendship is such a delicate thing—well, for girls anyway, I think guys are more casual about it—and I've never really known how to approach it. In the first half of my 20s, though, I feel like like it's one topic that I've been learning about time and time again. There have been too many breakups, too many rekindling, too many drifting apart and mixed feelings. How come friendship isn't something that people talk about among adults? How are there so many books and advice on how to navigate through social life in adolescence and childhood, but almost none in adulthood? I feel like I've been dropped at the deep end with no life jackets. Well, if you feel the same, please leave any comments down below of what you've learnt on it so far and what obstacles and conflicts you are still struggling with. Let's have more open discussions on friendship!

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