How much do you love your friend (s)?
Do you love them enough to let them mess up your life?
These are some of the questions that keep me grounded on matters friendship.
I’m not so sure how it happened, but I did mention in there is no one like a mother that my dad didn’t really exert daunting disciplinary actions on my sisters and I. Instead he chose to sit us down, where he would subsequently give us a few tips on ‘how to live’; most of the time I deemed it unsolicited; nonetheless it didn’t deter me from paying attention. Truth is, I never really listened because I found it interesting, I only played my part-listening- so I could get done with it.
I found those pontificates quite humdrum; he was repeating the same old stuff he had told us before, as if drumming it in so it wouldn’t go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes he would talk about ‘obvious’ things, in my head I would be like, “That too?”
But I respected and loved him and I knew he was trying to be a good parent, so I listened; we listened, even if we didn’t want to hear it.
Somehow, when we were young it was difficult to find my sisters and I in one place together, except when we were sitted in front of the TV, plugged into a particular soap. My father has always been a shrewd man; he knew that was the only time he could talk to us because if he pulled the ‘we need to talk’ line in advance no one would show up. In his opinion, if it wasn’t school work anything else could wait; TV could wait; he always chose that most inopportune moment to share with us his fatherly sentiments.
Both my sisters and I went to boarding school when we were slightly over a decade old, each one of us at their own time. My father knew he wouldn’t always be there to guide us, so he gave us what he felt would walk with us wherever we went; his wise words. If we were sagacious we would heed to them. He didn’t force them down our throats.
Of the invaluable advice he has given us, the one that always stands out is one he’s been reiterating ever since I was ten. He advised us on one of the most rudimentary issues; the business of friendship.
“You’re not going to school to make friends”, he would say squinting, as if peering into the future, guided by his own past. “You are going there to read so you can get good grades.”
“But one can’t live without friends”, I would counter silently in the depths of my mind. I didn’t find any sense in his words.
“Don’t let friends derail you. They will be with you only for the duration that you are in school”, He would emphasize. “After that you will go your separate ways”.
All through my life I have made many friends; some true and many false…I have learnt so much from those experiences. For instance, when I was in high school, one of my closest friends, who also happened to be my deskmate got expelled from school; she and some other girls had been found in possession of alcoholic drinks. She was a very lively person. If ever I was punished for noisemaking it was because we had been caught exchanging banter during class.
Her expulsion didn’t happen out of the clear blues; I had seen it coming; she also knew it would happen ultimately, but the company she was in numbed her mind, she didn’t see the dangers she was subjecting herself to, but unlike her, her friends came from affluent families; I knew they would easily get into other good schools, but her? What would become of her? My heart felt heavy.
As I watched her carry her luggage out of the school compound for the last time, my father’s words came back to mind, “Don’t let your friends get you in trouble, because they will not always be with you, but the things you do, that’s your life”.
At times I took my father’s words for granted, but during such instances I would see the truth in them. So much as I hated to admit, I knew peer influence wasn’t something I wanted to get caught up in. He always pointed out that the repercussions would be dire if we let our friends guide our actions, and I’m only too glad I heeded–even though begrudgingly- to those wise words, because now as I take a look see at my contacts, only a few are my friends from high school-whom I seldom keep in touch with- and from primary, only three to be precise. Now I can definitely say that he was right indeed!
Sometimes I bump into familiar faces on the streets; people I was so close to in school; people I would have dipped my hands in the fire for. But when we are standing face to face, I don’t see the loving people that I once considered ‘family’, I see strangers. Our time apart attenuated all the love we shared back then.
Sometimes we exchange contacts, which we never get to use; sometimes in the excitement we set up dates, where we catch up on all that has happened since we parted ways. In most cases I don’t feel that connection; it faded away. Then at that moment I remember my father’s wise words, “Don’t spend too much time on friends, because chances are, when you part ways you will never meet again in this lifetime”.
Two years ago I ran into a lady I grew up with. She wasn’t my best friend, but she was a member of our ‘famous five’ group-a clique my sisters and I had formed with two other girls (she being one of them). We played together; excluding other kids who we felt had ‘issues’.
Our families were very close. When I was thirteen they moved. I didn’t cry, but i remember feeling melancholy descending upon me; we were so tight, and I didn’t know if I would ever get to see her again. I never did, until that day when we met in a lingerie store. She was in the company of two other friends-a guy and a girl.
I recognized her and my heart did that joyful leap. But to my disappointment, she did not seem to remember me…maybe I should have said hi, but then maybe she did it on purpose. I didn’t care to “Halla”… I wasn’t sure I wanted to rekindle a flame that had long died out.
Everytime my dad brought up that subject-friends-I would wonder why he was discouraging us from making friends. It’s only now, when I’m all grown, that I see the wisdom behind them. My father wasn’t asking us not to make friends, he was only asking us to be weary, because not all friendships last; not all are real.
He was young once; he had travelled the road we had and he had learnt. Out of his love for us he warned us, so we could be cautious when dealing with friends-to discern when to follow their advice and when to make our own independent decisions.
God willing I’ll repeat the same words to my children. Chances are they will roll their eyes then look the other way, and when they do that I won’t blame them; I did that too. But eventually-just like me-when they have made and fallen out with friends; when time has thinned strong bonds that once were, they will grasp the concept; hopefully it won’t be too late.