(Also known as, “Qualities You Should Remember to be an Awesome Friend (Person) Yourself”)
I do have some awesome friends. And yes, every person who has ever been through shit will tell you about their awesome friends so this isn’t anything new. But what is it really that makes them so awesome? Fundamentally, it’s down to just a few things and it’s important to remember these qualities as you’re fumbling about in that weird limbo-ic space, trying to find your feet and the support to take new steps.
1. They respect your space
One of my closest friends told me that she had known I was unhappy for a very long time, but that she’d respected me enough to let me make my own decisions and back off from being too interfering.
I had asked her one day (before I left) if she’d had any idea that I was unhappy. She replied that she did and that she was there if I ever needed to talk. When I didn’t reply for ages, she started plotting with her husband how she would find a way to somehow stalk me down and kidnap me to a safe place if I didn’t reply her by a certain time / day.
These are friends who give you your space when you need and respect you in a way that they wouldn’t impose their opinions on you without you asking; but who will also pull out all the stops to get to you when you’re most alone.
2. They respect your decisions
…. no matter how much they might disagree with what you’re doing. Some of my dearest friends had tried to talk me into staying but I couldn’t, didn’t want to and although they did everything they could to stop me from hurtling off in a fury in my car that day, they turned up the very next day to give me a big hug, tell me they still loved me and that they were still there whenever I needed. There were also friends, I found out later, who hadn’t really totally understood or agreed with what I’d been doing but I would have never known because they still supported me all the way with my choices.
Most of all, none of them had ever judged or criticised my choices, whatever they were nor tried to lecture me about it. They listened for hours to all my reasons for making those choices, even supported them and never, throughout all that, changed the way they saw or acted towards me.
3. They believe in you
I do think that I could quite possibly commit murder in broad daylight and these friends would still believe that I was a good person. They would help me justify why I did it (“it was an accident” or “you had to, if not he would have killed another 100 people, so you did everyone a favour”) and tell me, over the dead body, that “things aren’t really that bad. It’ll be okay”.
I have a wonderful friend all the way in England who I emailed when I was at my most down. I haven’t seen her in years and there is no way she could really have physically done anything, being so far away. But she sent me back copious emails with lists of my good qualities, to cheer me up and make me believe in myself again. She would write often just to ask how I was and to let me know that she was asking because I was someone important to her, that I was loved by someone, even if she was so far away.
These friends are the people who, when you’re feeling like the greatest scum of the earth, still believe in that tiny modicum of virtue in you, see that slight sparkle of potential that’s lost its sheen for so long it’s turned rusty and remember the few positive, good things you’ve accomplished.
4. They love you no matter what
I sometimes think I wouldn’t be friends with me anymore if I was another person. For the shit I’ve put my friends through, I’m amazed they’re still considering me a friend, still happy to meet me for tea and haven’t blocked me off their Whatsapp list yet. These are friends who know all the worst sides of you, your ugliest thoughts, your darkest secrets – and who will still go out for ice cream with you and laugh so hard through the night until you can’t breathe.
Just days before I left, one of the girls gave me a keychain that said “You’ll always be my friend; you know too much”. Thing is, in spite of all she knows about me, she is still my friend – and that certainly says far more about the kind of amazing friend she is than it does about me.
5. They pick up right where you left off
Admittedly, I’ve kind of disappeared off the earth for the last 6 – 8 years. It was kind of pathetic that I saw on of my best friends maybe 4 times a year if we were lucky, and we lived only 20 minutes from each other; and that we would always try to meet for lunch but I would always have to cancel at the last minute.
6 – 8 years later, now that I’m reclaiming my time, life and friendships, things have picked up right where they left off. In spite of everything, our friendship hasn’t changed and this friend hasn’t let any of my disappearances get in the way of things staying – and resuming – just the happy way they always were.
6. They are genuinely nice people
I put this last one in because I have also met people who are so the converse that it makes you appreciates your friends just simply because they don’t kick shit in your face. There are those people you know, who you think are good friends but who, when you’re down, wouldn’t look twice at you or instead, take some sort of extra sadistical delight in kicking you down further (with a spiked boot or a really sharp, painful heel). There are people who you think are good friends but who will turn around when you least expect it and quip the nastiest, most hurtful thing to your face, just for some kind of smug thrill of making you feel like shit.
Sometimes, it’s good enough to have friends who don’t do this and to appreciate them for just being nice.
* * * * *
So there it is. As you try to put your life back together after whatever it is you’re going through, remember that there are people there for you and they love you, even if you find it difficult to even like yourself.
Remember that even if you feel like there’s no point in trying to be happy anymore, that you could, should, be happy for these friends. Because you know as well I do that the best way to pay them back for all they have ever done for you, is to be happy, successful and as amazing as they see you.