It’s February the 4th and I’ve already broken most of my new year’s resolutions.
I feel like a failure.
A double-chinned (hello, 30s!), thinned haired, 24/7 chocolate craving failure.
That’s what the mirror is screaming back at me at any given hour.
But that’s never how my friends see me.
If you would talk to one of them, you’d think I’m the love child of Superman and Mother Teresa, sans the kryptonite issue and with far more better fashion style, of course. That I possess the Benjamin Button gene and age in reverse.
Surprisingly, that is not even the hard-to-believe part. Here it comes: they think I can do anything. Take the world by storm. Move mountains. More to another country and convince the people to make me their leader and worship me like crazy.
It’s needless to say that I’ve been blessed with amazing (and obviously vision impaired) friends.
It’s a fact.
I met my best friend when I was 13. That means we’ve been friends for 20 years, making it the longest relationship I’ve ever had.
I’ve been more loyal to her than to (some of) my romantic partners.
We’ve been together through school, exams, relationships, break ups, marriages, kids, jobs. We lived on the same block and as well 2400 km away from one another. Our lives couldn’t be more different, and yet our souls signed some kind of unbreakable vow another lifetime ago. We’re in this together and committed to one another. So, yeah, our friendship is basically a miracle I’m not sure I deserve.
I met my other best friend (told you I was lucky in this department) when I was 25. We are what you would call an improbable match. At first sight, she’s everything I’m not. She’s fantastically flamboyant while I always play it safe. It might seem like we have nothing in common, and yet we’re the spitting image of one another on so many levels, it’s freaky.
Because of my amazing friends, I now know that anything is possible: loyalty, maintaining old relationships from your teens, forging new ones as an adult.
Because of them, I know what to look for in any other human interaction. Let’s hear it for the world’s longest intro and for what great friendship is made of.
The bylaws of a beautiful friendship:
I have 2 very opinionated and outspoken best friends. They’re fierce. They’re not subtle.
They know me better than I know myself and call me out on my BS. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
They know when I’m slacking, stalling or trying to cheat myself out of an optimal outcome. That’s what best friends do. They don’t nod politely and let you go in the world with spinach in your teeth. They’re job is not to agree with you on everything.
They push. Pull. Shove you in the right direction.
This one is quintessential: best friends do not compete with each other. Not for attention, not for guys, not for jobs. Oprah says this about Gayle all the time. They each had their separate ways and never felt the need to compete. Success is not a finite resource, go figure!
Best friends hold each other up. They help each other get back on their feet after a tough time. They pick up the pieces and make the other one see the whole wonderful picture again.
Competition creates gaps. Kindness builds bridges. (that’s Latin for: stop teaching little girls they have to compete with one another!)
A good friend knows you’re better than your worst mistake.
She knows everything about you and still wants to hang out with you. There’s no judgement. There’s just love. There’s no room for pretending.
Best friends accept different lifestyle choices, body shapes, romantic decisions, opinions of every kind. They see what you can offer and what is not available at the moment. They understand priorities and goals. They safely allow you to be vulnerable.
They see you for who you are. And knowing you are seen, heard and understood is the greatest feeling ever. Even for human-shaped piles of poor choices, like yours truly.
“The best friend” attribute is a badge of honour that is not translated into the number of years you know each other, the time spent together or the same tastes in everything. It’s always rooted in loyalty. In intimacy and trust.
That’s the key ingredient in those weirdest inside jokes that only the 2 of you get. That’s what allows you to spill the deepest and most embarrassing secrets.
Another key element: long lasting and meaningful friendships require time and effort. Just like romantic relationships.
I’m not talking about proximity, similar circles or schedules – although that does help, especially when it comes to adult friendships. Again, it’s not the same taste in nail polish that counts.
I’m referring to a mutually accepted creed: I CARE. That means I’m here for you, I’ll never do something deliberately bad. EVER. I might mess up, I might forget something important, and miscommunications will happen. I might fail you. But as long as you know I care and have that as a starting point for any future sticky situations, we’re fine.
It might sound silly, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own head and forget that simple truth. The next thing you know, you’ll start looking for reasons why someone “did this thing to you”. If there’s one thing sisterhoods need less of, it’s drama.
Starting any tough conversation from the premise that the people involved care about each other makes everything shift in the right direction.
P.S.: Friendships are hard, complex and need a lot of nurturing. They’re not perfect. True friends are less common than we think. There are not a lot of Gayles in the world.
Sometimes, it feels like everybody is doing a better job at maintaining relationships than you. And despite having “a girl gang”, you feel lonely.
Other times, you choose the easy way out and drop an Instagram like instead of making a phone call. Social media and movies where friends *always* hang out together are not helping us feel better. Who has time for that IRL?!