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Of friends and friendship

“Surround yourself with people who will only lift you higher” ~ Oprah Winfrey

My dearest E., 

I felt compelled to write this because these people, your friends, will be one of the most important features in your life. Like family, friends occupy a special place in your heart. But there are many types of friends. And eventually, as you grow older and wiser, you tend to weed out the fair-weathered friends, the insincere, the ones who use you because they have ulterior motives, the ones who call themselves friends only in name and then utter half-truths or dishonest things about you when you have your back turned. I’d hate to say this because friendship is a wonderful thing, once you have discovered its true meaning: but along the way, you must keep your guard up. There is a certain measure of distrust that you must employ for self-survival. And your true friends will remain.

You will meet people from all walks of life when you grow up. But keep yourself grounded, your feet firmly planted on the ground. Do not discriminate by gender, race, colour, social standing, etc. Open your heart (carefully) to those who open theirs to you, but learn to take all colourful accounts of life from others with a pinch of salt. Believe what you see with your eyes, not what you hear with your ears. Learn to trust your instincts and listen to your inner voice. It is, as I have discovered, one of the most effective survival methods you will come across.

Oh, I know many people, E. I have many “friends”, but when I say friends, I mean people that I know. As I grew older, and the people who were once close to me drifted further away from me, I learnt to see only those who remained, notwithstanding the circumstances. I have a handful of good friends, people I trust and love and whom I can count on. People for whom I will sacrifice my life and liberty, because they will sacrifice theirs for me too. I have a childhood friend from primary school- she is a true friend to this very day. Our friendship has spanned a course over 20 years. She lives abroad now: a small woman with a truly big heart, who has given up her luxurious life in Malaysia to do God’s bidding in poverty-torn Aceh. A woman who has given up the comforts of living to serve the noble quest of rebuilding a nation torn by the December 2004 tsunami. A woman who, in all the years I have known her, powered God’s words on our earth. A woman who loved me and understood me, despite the vast ocean of difference between us. And when she returns to Malaysia for a break, we meet up and catch up on old times, as if time had stood still and things had never changed. We pick up where we’d last left of.

And then, when I started work in my early twenties, I met a group of people who were destined to be my friends forever. Or so, I’d like to think. It’s been over 6 years since we met that day when I was a fresh-faced graduate all ready for work. Some dropped out of the “group” but a few of us stuck by together and saw each other through break-ups, weddings and children, amongst others. I avoid using the word “best friend” because inevitably, when once journeys through the roads of life, one meets a special someone who will, at that point, be the “best friend”. So one tends to interchange “best friends”, depending on whom one is closest to at that point of time. But I have good friends, are they all my best friends? So I adopt the Hollywood, diva-like term to these people, they are my BFF.

The years have passed, but my friends remain. In particular, your godparents. Extend the circle a little more, and we find partner, spouse and friends of your godparents. It doesn’t matter that we’re all a little older, or that we don’t go on holidays together anymore (because we have children now!- and let’s face it, a parent must first consider the needs of the child: comfort, food, convenience, healthcare facilities- before deciding to go on a holiday), or that some of us meet each other once every month or so. Some have moved abroad to work: Singapore & Australia. Some have found new passionate adventures, like rock-climbing, which the others, unfortunately, through some measure of constraint, are unable to participate in. Some bond because we’re mothers hoping to achieve financial freedom.

And you, the apple of my eye, have become the apple of another friend’s eye. He who loves you with unbridled attention, who seeks to ensure your every comfort and need, who gives in to your every whim and fancy. He who bought a pair of swimming shorts just so that he could be one of the first people to be with you when you first took a dip in the pool. He who cares for you like a father cares for his own child. He is one of my dearest friends.

We will all be friends until the day we die, and simply because we have shared with each other the most significant events in each other’s lives. This is the kind of friendship that I hope you will experience someday. These are the kind of people I hope you will surround yourself with in your life. Because they will lift you up and stand beside you, no matter the circumstances.

I wish I could tell you more about friends and friendships. But I know you will come to experience them in good time, and your experiences will surely differ from mine. Never forget the underlying tone, though- that all experiences of friendships, no matter how different and no matter how they are viewed through your eyes, your friends are the people who will shape you as you shape them, and together you forge a connection that binds you close to each other.

Love these friends like you love your family. In more ways than one, they will become your family too.

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