I thought I understood for the first time yesterday, what people mean when they say the older you get, the harder it is to find friends of the soul and heart. It’s not just about turning strangers into newfound, meaningful friends, but also about keeping and retaining old friends as dearest friends.
The former is unsurprisingly difficult the older one grows, simply because life commitments stack up and priorities change – life gets in the way; networking is the new definition of friendship; country boundaries are permanent separation lines …the list of inevitable becomes longer as life takes its natural course and growth makes itself felt. But to be honest, the latter isn’t any easier. I’m right now at this phase in life where old friendships are outgrown one after another, shaken and eroded from the metamorphosis of individuals as we go from who we were to who we are.
I met two friends yesterday: a Stanford classmate and my decade-old high school friend. The latter was the friend with whom my birthday conversations were anchored to, that quiet night on the 21st of March, 2015.
I care, sincerely, for both. But there is something – a lot – to be said about the depth of both friendships. The quality of our conversations, the breadth of topics covered, the insights shared, body language… One hour into my meet with the classmate – who’s a cool gal, also incredibly nice – and I felt exhausted, frustratingly empty. On the other hand, last night, after the live show I went with the old friend, I stayed overnight at her place in the city. We spoke through the night about music – the singer we caught live just hours ago – and of course, being Malaysians away from home and now in grand ol’ San Francisco, about Malaysia. The disappearing Malaysia of our childhoods, the Malaysia that we still call home …and the Malaysia that I will return to in just a little over a month. We also spoke, of course, about our transitioning adult selves.
“It would be interesting,” she said, “I look forward to how being home and entering the working world will change your… perspectives.” I laughed. “Definitely. I’m curious myself.”
Do you, like me, know some incredibly kind, wonderful souls who never seem to be able to catch a break in life? And you wish, how you wish, life would cut them some slack on at least one major life event – just one thing, one little detail, so they could have some breathing space? Something about this friend always tugs my heart and when I reminisce the girls we were to the young women we are today; some days it breaks me. Whatever happened to the bright, shining star? Prolonged down on her luck, maybe. Every now and then I put in a prayer for her, because my goodness, how I wish she could settle upon true happiness, even if it is only for a moment.
This morning, we had breakfast at this wonderful Russian bakery in Richmond district, first sitting out in the cold because the cafe’s indoor space is tiny and later, walking randomly in the maddening cold for a few minutes as we waited for my bus to arrive. It was gloomy and cold – unsurprising basically, and to be honest, of course. When I’m in her company… for some reason, even the weather’s rarely on her side.
Yesterday she attended an event that left her grumpy because she kept getting stuck with snotty people who spoke about nothing else but themselves. To make it worse, she arrived late so missed out on food, too. Funnily, her sister who went along with her was surrounded by more decent characters. I laughed when they told me this. “It’s just like you,” I told my friend, “but it’s not you. You just… have a tendency to attract crappy people.”
But I thought, while on my way back in the Caltrain – train rides, I swear, always make me weepy and melancholy – that for the first time, with adult lenses, I understood the value of a person and the strength of a friendship. I came to a conclusion.
“You have a gift,” she told me last night, her tone flat and matter-of-fact. “of making others listen to you. You have… advantages to back up who you are. Don’t exploit them, but make them work for you to reach your goals. Become somebody. It’s never too late.”
I wish I had told her then, what came to my mind only this morning.
The conclusion I came to.
You might not have great luck with attracting wonderfully kind and interesting characters, but you are exactly that for me. My life is small, my person obscure, but for what it is worth: I choose you. I will always choose you.
This isn’t much at all, but thank you for a decade’s worth of taking care of my heart.