30 Days – Day #10: Friendship

This one isn’t in-line with rest of the meme – it’s one of the days I’m opting out of, because I don’t have any photos of me that I like from 10 years ago on-line, or any practical means of getting them there. Instead, I’m doing a topic that Budgie asked for – what friendship means to me. There are a few more of these that I want to evade, so if there’s something you’d like me to waffle on about, do ask…

When I was younger, I was a boy scout. Stop laughing at the back – I looked good in a woggle. The scout master may have been a little archaicaly homophobic, but he ended every meeting with the words “You live as a result of your actions, and you are judged by the company you keep.” It’s something that still informs how I pick my friends.

So what does friendship means to me? Well, to state the obvious, every friendship is different. Some of my friends, I see once in a blue moon, and it’s like no time has passed – we fall easily back into our friendship, and the conversation flows freely. Other friends, I see regularly, and yet every time, there’s a certain hurdle of not really quite knowing how to start talking to be overcome – like we’re both looking for the level, and not quite sure where it is.

I’ve got friends where I feel like I put more effort into the friendship, and friends where I know they’re the one doing all the work (and I feel bad about that). There are people I’ve met in the last year who are close friends, and friends I’ve known for a very long time who I keep at arms length.

One of the ways people define friendship is how far you would put yourself out for another person. Like, I think, most people, I have a small group of people that could call me up at any time, and I’d drop whatever I was doing if they needed a hand. Except, well…

Everyone says things like that. The truth, I think, is more complex. Because it’s easy to drop things if they’re just things for me, but as soon as other people are involved, well, that changes the equation. And that’s where friendship comes into it. Because honestly, if any of my friends asked for my help, my time, and giving it wouldn’t interfere with any plans but my own, well, how could I refuse? But suppose that interferes with plans made with another friend? Or more complicated yet, what if it interferes with helping another friend. Or with plans with groups of friends?

It’s not just about how your prioritise your own time – it’s about how you prioritise other people’s time and needs. And honestly, that’s the measure I tend to use for friendship – I try to place the same importance on someone else’s time that they appear to place on mine. So that means there are people I see once in a blue moon who are still very close friends, because I know that while neither of us has lots of time to see the other, when we do make the time, it’ll be a solid priority for both of us, and if they called up needing a hand, I’d clear my calendar for them. And there are people I see regularly who clearly can’t be arsed to actually make time, who routinely show up late, or cancel at the last minute, and while they’re still my friends, they’re not people who I would cancel plans for except in direst need.

There’s a chance that that last line has stung a few people reading this. It’s happened to me a bit of late, friends not showing up when they said they would, so if you’re worrying that this bit was aimed at you, well, you’re wrong. It wasn’t aimed at all. I don’t like you any less, I’m not having a dig. I really am just answering a question, and explaining a bit about what friendship means to me. I am absolutely certain that I fall short of my own standards, and that I have friends who think that I’m unreliable, that I’m never around, or things like that, and I am sorry for that (but on the other hand – make actual in-the-diary plans with me, and you’ll probably find I show up). This is not about what anyone else does, it’s about what I try to live up to.

Ultimately, friendship means being someone that someone else can rely on. Common interests, a shared sense of humour, these are the things that start a friendship, and without them, there’s not likely to be one. But if I am to be judged by the company I keep, then I want the company I keep to be reliable. You don’t need to always be around, you don’t need to expend lots of effort keeping in touch, because god knows, I probably won’t. But you do need to be someone who can be relied on to hold your end up when it actually counts.