There comes a time in our lives when, with a new awareness, we know we need to help ourselves and count on ourselves, personally or professionally, in order for others to start helping us. It comes from a personal responsibility, a decision to finally take charge, and a sobering maturity to accept something we know all along – that our lives begin and end with us. When we do, when we take ownership of our lives, we will discover, that people will reach out to us, friends will become real friends, and even acquaintances will become closer. Being self-reliant works on many levels. Here, I am specifically referring to our connection with friends. Friendships are built on various premises. The strongest friendships are between strong people. Not strong-minded people, but people who are confident and selfless. They know a friendship is not just about themselves, but about the needs of two people in a relationship.
Friendships are also founded on another understanding of the human nature. In her career-defining song ‘People’, Barbra Streisand proclaimed that ‘people who need people are the luckiest people in the world’. When we fully comprehend we are not meant to be an island, that we need to be a part of community, to be in touch with people, to interact and to share, our world view of the way we approach and treat people will be attuned. We need people. We don’t just want people, we need them. When we do, and when we know we do, we should be so lucky. We will treasure them. We will love them. Each one of them will be special. And they will in turn love us and treasure us as special. To know we need friends is a strength. It is not being needy, but to acknowledge a human condition. Once we value friends, we will be a good friend to others. As the saying affirms, “If you want real friends in your life, be a real friend.”
In our teens and 20s, we feel we have all the time in the world to make friends. We make friends as fearlessly and swiftly as we drop them. We tend to make more permanent friends in our 30s and 40s. Friends who are a part of our strive in our careers and family lives. When we are in our 50s and 60s, we start to consolidate our friends. This is the time when friendships are tested. Do we still have enough in common to spend time together? Beyond our 60s, surveys show loneliness to be the biggest threat to our health. Which is tied directly to the lack of communication with friends or the lack of friends. I have personally found the happiest people are those who intrinsically know the importance of friends at all stages of their lives and make it a lifelong habit to cultivate and keep friends. There are some who, through a dramatic turn, see how just one friend can make the biggest difference in their lives.
Albert and Freddy were soul mates. They met in their 20s when both were just starting to discover and explore the real world. There was so much to talk about. Mostly to find someone who understood what it meant to be afraid, to be insecure and sometimes to just be mindlessly frivolous, was invaluable. They respected each other and knew they would be there for one another. When Albert had a near fatal argument with his fiancée Amy, Freddy took it upon himself to iron out the last misunderstood fact so that the wedding could go on. However, from their early 40s, they drifted apart. Albert felt Freddy needed him less and less as a friend. On Freddy’s 55th birthday, Albert did not show up for his party. When he tried to contact Albert, it was a few months later.
Freddy would discover his friend had passed away the day before his birthday. Other than his immediate family, Albert had included and provided for Freddy in his will. He also wrote him a letter a week before he passed on. In it, he expressed he had felt blessed to have Freddy as a friend. And felt a void when they grew apart. It was his wish that Freddy stayed close to his wife and children. Because to him, Freddy was not just a friend. He was family. Freddy fulfilled Albert’s wish by staying very close to his family. He realised some friends leave your life, while others leave tracks behind and your life was never the same. Now in his early 70s, the mention of Albert would cause his eyes to tear. And he would feel the void left behind by his friend. His friend for life.
‘Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.’