Just because we don’t speak on Facebook messenger, doesn’t mean I am not loyal to you. Just because I haven’t seen you in more than 6 years, doesn’t mean you’re not still my best friend. I see you everywhere. I see you in the books I read, the places I visit that remind me of you, the dreams I have of memories past, and in the smiles of strangers that crinkle in the same way as yours. I see you in all my successes, I feel your support and your pride even if you are a million miles away without any idea whatsoever.
I cannot carry my friends with me on my adventures. It’s one of the hardest realities I’ve had to face on this location-unspecific journey I’ve pursued. But I’ve learnt that friendship is not defined the way I once thought. It is not defined by the dinners you have out together, the photos online of you together or your WhatsApp history. It’s defined by what you carry in your heart. It is defined by that never-ending squeeze when you meet again that says I have loved you, I still love you and I will always love you, regardless of where you are in the world and what you’re doing.
That friendship doesn’t change as time passes. When you are reunited, they don’t ask you indirectly – who are you now? – by endless questioning about what you do and the logistics of your life. Those friends look into your eyes and know immediately of all your adventures through the happiness they find there. They take refuge in the magic when friendship comes together in time and space, and will never take that small miracle for granted. They don’t ask – when will I see you again? – with their calendars poised, but instead give you gifts for the road, and wish you courage on your journey, without the fear of goodbye.
The truth is – we have a common understanding that friendship is something that needs to be worked on. That needs to be kept up, as a commitment to one another, and maintained. But real friendship will sweep you up off your feet and carry you away with no effort whatsoever. Real friendship is the one that you cannot hide from, that appears again and again when you didn’t ask for it, that finds you in the darkness. The one that you never planned.
We cannot hold on to friendship. We cannot own it in the same way we try and control everything else around us. It exists only in the present moment. The here and now, and then it’s gone. You will never know if it will exist again. It’s a leap of faith, moment to moment. If we use our time and energy maintaining and updating our complex network of acquaintances worldwide online, we will miss the quiet man sat next to us in a cafe, crying out for that human connection. Calling out for a friend. And it might just end up being the most beautiful friendship we will ever find.