When I was five, I had a friend who would eat my food and call her uncle a pig. It was bit shocking to my five year old brain, but nevertheless, I stuck with her. Because, I thought, if not her, then who? A few years, and we both made other friends, other interests, and I could finally let her go. For about 3/4th of my school life, I was friends with almost everyone, but I didn’t have more than three friends.
Life happened, and I moved to Mumbai from my small town for the last two years of high school. I made amazing friends, became a part of the coolest group of the school, and soon found my old friends to be a burden. I would dread calling them every week to talk about topics that had died long ago, the conversations becoming mundane. Slowly, we drifted apart, and I thought I was free at last. I wasn’t. But I was just a fourteen year old. School ended, and everybody forgot the pretty new girl in the class. But I was no more five, and it didn’t bother me as much. Like almost all sixteen year olds, I found art. I always read, but never quite identified myself as a reader until I learnt the art of transforming my loneliness into solace, through words.
I was growing up, and soon found myself evaluating everything in my life. Was it the way I’d want it to be? Were the people around me really my friends? Is my blood family all the family I can ever have? Soon, books became my friends, I became my own friend, and I realised I don’t need to be needed. If I could advise my five year old self, I’d tell her she didn’t need to be with someone she didn’t feel like being with.
Today, I’m a seventeen year old, and I’ve a family I choose for myself. It has taken me years, but I can finally say I know what friendship means, not doubting myself for a second. When I look back at my years of growing up, I know I didn’t have more than three real friends outside my blood family, and it doesn’t bother me. There are people who want you with them, people who want to see you laugh, people who love the flaws you hate about yourself. They are your friends. People who will wake up in the middle of the night for you, people who will watch the TV shows they don’t even like, just because you like them. Your mother who cooks food for you even when she’s fasting, your father who will always manage to put up a smile on his face on returning from office, even if his boss humiliated him a few hours ago, because you should stay away from it all. They are your friends. The love of your life, who will do the stupidest mistakes, only to hear the sound of your laughter, he is your friend, your best friend. That girl you see every day on the subway, who smiles at you every day, and who ran on the crowded platform just because you left your purse? She’s your friend.
A friend is anyone who makes a difference for you, anyone who puts in efforts for you. Learn who your true friends are and cherish them, because today, I realise I wasted so many years of my life after people who didn’t value me, after people I didn’t value, not really. Life is too short to spend without realising who makes it so beautiful, isn’t it?
-Genjourist Shivani Rao