11 January 2009

A Friend?

I decided long ago to measure my life in friends not years.

And after much of life has gone by and so much more of life is to come, my mind turned in the direction of what my "age-in-friends" is.

Along the way I've questioned and even proven wrong some standard myths about friends... "A man and a woman can't be friends", "Never get into business with a friend", "You can't be friends with an ex".... Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!

What is a friend? In today's over-communicated world, the lines between acquaintances, friends, close-friends, best-friends, and in some cases family is blurred. I'm closer to and trust some of my friends more than family and there are members of my family who are more friends than family to me. So clearly the traditional definitions of a friend don't really hold for me and I suspect they don't hold for most people I know.

Facebook tells me I have more than 500 friends, I hope that's not true because THAT sounds like a huge responsibility. Friends (as defined by me, not facebook!) to me are as much an 'asset' as they are a 'responsibility'...

Is a friend someone who makes you smile, laugh, have a good time? Not to me.. That's only part of what a friend is... A friend to me is someone you can depend on, does not (should not) matter how far apart you may be physically... Someone I need not meet for days, weeks, months, years and then in an instant and a hug pick up where you left off. And pick up such that there was never a gap!

They say that "friends are the new family" and I couldn't agree more. Its probably also true because families are a lot smaller and geographically spread today. Some of my closest friends, some of my oldest friends are to me what family must have been to generations gone by. These are people I love and trust with my deepest (darkest!) secrets. People whom I KNOW to know me well, know what makes me tick, what ticks me off and most importantly accept me with (maybe even, because of) all my flaws. These are friends I can count off on the fingers of my hands.... Literally.

And then there are friends, there are friends who mean something to me but don't necessarily mean "something" to me. I could have fun with them, I could be there for them, I could even depend on them sometimes... But would I close my eyes and jump, knowing that they have me covered - I don't think so. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy such friends' company, think they're very good human beings who mean well, know me well too and are probably really good and dependable friends to other people... Just not for me. So much of being friends is about time and making choices. Its true that there is no substitute for time, if for no other reason then because of the sheer myriad of experiences you end up sharing with someone whom you've known forever (or so it seems, anyway).

Relationships are all about making choices, friendships are certainly much the same. In the life of a friendship, you are inevitably faced with situations which test your bond with a friend, your loyalty even. And if you're really unlucky, this could be a choice of loyalties between 2 friends, almost an impossible choice, you can't win that one. You make a choice and then watch the consequences unfold right in front of your eyes... it is NOT pretty but c'est la vie. Is the reverse true? If a friend stands by you in an hour of need, at a time you need to have shoulders next to yours, would that friend automatically be a 'true' friend... You know something - I've seen this in 1 or 2 people and found that, damn right - its true! An old friend comes to mind, she inevitably surprises me with her intense loyalty when things come down to the crunch and its left me speechless - more than once.

An old and very close friend once asked me, "atul, what's more important, a friend or the truth?". I'd like to say I instinctively knew the answer to that, but I must admit - I was foxed. And after much deliberation, convinced myself that the truth was more important to me than a friend (idealistic idiot!). Life has taught me otherwise.......

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