The power of friendship
When you were younger, did you have a friend who was the mac to your cheese? A buddy who was the Ashley to your Mary Kate? The cosmo to your Carrie? I had lots of best friends. They’d call me out saying “You can only have ONE Best Friend, Hannah, not ten”. Well, I didn’t have just one, okay? I sometimes longed to be able to identify the Kenan to my Kel, looking on at young women who even started to morph into one another as they navigated life in tandem. Being a young extrovert and a social butterfly, I could never commit to one friend to be my person.
This was for two reasons that stem from one truth. Firstly, if I spent all my time with the same person, there is literally no way that I wouldn’t find them annoying at some point. Secondly, I was nourished in different ways by different people. The simple fact is that no one person could fulfil all my needs – nor should they have to. That’s too much pressure and would eventuate in me finding them distinctly irritating! You see the dilemma!
Instead, my mum explained that we have a range of friends for our personalities’ assorted facets. A few extra special ones will straddle numerous lanes, but that is rare. Let’s take a look at Orange Is The New Black. Taystee, Poussey, Cindy and Suzanne each show up for one another in various ways. Taystee is maternal and caring; Poussey is often the moral voice; Cindy is loud and a good time gal; and Suzanne’s eccentricities offer a much-needed innocence and insightfulness amidst the darkness. They are not clones of one another; they celebrate their differences. They are a kooky but loving chosen-family who are stronger together.
As I get older, the diversity of my friends has broadened, but my list of really special people has shrunk. I’ve met people along the way from a plethora of backgrounds with a myriad of life experiences that help enhance my perspective. But what I’ve learned more deeply is that our friends are not our sidekicks; they’re not just the people we update with the latest job interview or relationship drama we’ve had; they aren’t our yes-men. They are our tribe. They are our cheerleaders, but they are also the people we are accountable to. They will call us out and lift us up. The power of friendship is that it is the foundation from which we live, explore and love.
You know how they say ‘laughter is the best medicine’? Well, you can thank your friends for the healing powers of silent laughter, the freedom of unadulterated giggling and the bonus ab workout during the time you snorted because their story was so funny. When you know someone on a soul level, and they share an anecdote, you can feel their role in the scenario. The humour is that much more profound because the connection is.
For all that friendship is a feel-good festival of fierce love and flavour… it also has a more tender and sincere side. A true friend will challenge you. They may even guide you when you are lost. Recently I fucked up and hurt two of my friends. Separately. In quick succession. Man, that was painful! I did not intend to, but I am so grateful that they told me what I did, and I could therefore apologise and learn. Essentially I wasn’t being present, listening or honouring the space that they had held for me. And what is a friend if they aren’t the person that makes you feel fully seen?
I may not have a Timon to my Pumbaa but what I do have is community. My oldest friend and I were born on the same day in the same hospital. I laugh the hardest with her and share my most tender side. My teenage bestie inspires me and checks in on every single whimsical dream I voice, encouraging me along the way. I have my hype-girls who listen to every single podcast episode the day it drops and call me straight away to discuss. Then there’s the one who I met overseas and have spent more of our friendship voice-noting than we have in person and yet I’ve never felt more seen than I do in her eyes. Another calls me out when I blur my ethics because staying true to that moral code feels too hard in the moment. One shows me how to fight for equality with humility and gentility, and on the other side of the coin, another calls on me to fight louder and harder. The combination of their love is the making of me.
Friendship allows us to be seen fully, for all of our quirks, flaws, passions and facets. The power of that is it allows us to soar to the most incredible heights imaginable. Yes, Merideth Grey would still be successful and beautiful, but she would be bloody depressing without Cristina and Alex. You might be the protagonist of your story, but your whole ensemble will get you that lifetime achievement award.
Opening image: photo by @skylarmarshai