How do you define a friend? Is it someone you speak to on the phone everyday? Is it someone you have an occasional drink with? Is it someone you do lunch with? Is it someone you email regularly? Is it a Facebook friend? Is it someone you call on when you're in a bind? Is it someone you share a laugh with? Is it someone you cry with? Is it someone you laugh and cry with? Does a friend have to be all these things or can they still be a friend if they're only some of them?
However you chose to define a friend one thing is for sure, there's a whole spectrum out there. As we go through life we 'collect' many different types of friends. Below are some types that I came up with. Some good, some not-so-good, but all have their time and place in our lives.
THE CASSETTE TAPES
The sentimental favourites. Great all those years ago, but it was time to let them go. When you listen to them you're filled with nostalgia and good memories.
THE EX'S MIXED TAPE/CD/iPOD (depending on how old you are)
They were also great at the time and you definitely needed to let them go. When you listen to them you're filled with bitterness and regret.
THE BLANK COMPUTER SCREENS
The ones who take all your input, i.e. time and effort, but give absolutely nothing back in return. Then they are actually surprised when you no longer want to play with them and are looking to upgrade to a better model.
The single-cell organisms aka the ones who don't really have room for anyone else in their life but themselves. When you are together, they're never fully 'present'. And if you do manage to grab their attention, unless it has something to do with them, they don't really seem that interested.
THE BLACK JELLY BEANS
The ones that are a combination of all the not-so-good types. They turn up with all the other 'lollies' in the packet so you keep trying to give them a go, but they keep leaving a bad taste in your mouth and you wonder why you bothered in the first place.
THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE STUDENTS
The ones with whom you share only a few phrases of the same language. You can engage about certain things, but not about others. It's not necessarily a bad thing as you can get by quite comfortably with what you both know.
THE CUBIC ZIRCONIAS
The ones who look good on the surface and that's where everything stays - on the surface. No more, no less and that's actually okay. They're the ones you don't have any expectations of. You're happy when they're there but you don't worry too much when they're not. They're good in the moment and may or may not last.
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS
The ones you rediscover after many years. They spark your interest and you realise that you still share a common bond. They're the ones you start putting back together, piece by piece, so you get to understand their world and be a part of it again.
THE HAPPY ACCIDENTS
Those you find when you're not looking. You stumble into them when you least expect it and they turn out to be blessings in disguise. They're the ones who bring something new and wonderful into your life, and unexpectedly change it for the better.
THE PRECIOUS GEMS
The keepers. You only need a few of them to make you feel rich. They're the ones who are your shining lights. The ones who just "get" you and accept you for who you are. The ones you sometimes take for granted and drop on the floor, but they still bounce back intact. The ones who appreciate in value and stand the test of time. The ones you keep safe in your hearts and who you never want to lose.
Recognise anyone? Recognise you? Throughout the years, each of us and our friends can move between these types. Whether we like it or not, we have been or are someone's Cassette, Mixed Tape/CD/iPod, Blank Computer Screen, Amoeba, Black Jelly Bean, Foreign Exchange Student, Archaeological Find, Happy Accident, or (if we're really lucky) Precious Gem.
When we were young we always thought that our best friends would be forever. Over time, we realise that this is not always the case. Like everything else in life, our friendships change and really, they have to because we do. As we get older, our lives become filled with other priorities - partner, children, work, home, extended family - making our ability to maintain our friendships more challenging. But we need to make sure we look after the friends we've got because as someone once said, "friends give a rich texture to our lives that differs from our partner, children or colleagues."
Friendships, like anything worthwhile in life, do mean responsibility (albeit a pleasant one) and do take work (though not the tedious kind). You can't opt in and out when it suits you, and expect everything to remain the same - you need to be in it to win it (unless of course you're gunning to be one of the not-so-good types). However the rewards - joy, fun, laughter, support and love - are priceless.
So come to accept your Foreign Exchange Students, enjoy your Cubic Zirconias for what they are, take the time with your Archaeological Finds, nurture your Happy Accidents and treasure your Precious Gems. I'll leave you to decide what to do with the rest!
In our world, our good friends are like family. So to all our friends out there, this one's for you. We're very lucky to have you in our lives. Thanks for everything.
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank MOH (My Other Half) for his contribution. Without him the titles of Cassette Tape, Mixed Tape/CD/iPOD, Foreign Exchange Student and Cubic Zirconia may have never come into fruition.