So many times I have drafted and deleted, drafted and deleted, and drafted and deleted. So many times I have written this post and not let it see daylight. And so many times, I find myself sitting in the same place, thinking the same thoughts, and feeling the same hurts.
At age four, on the first day of pre-primary, an amazon of a child threatened me in the sand pit. She wanted my spade and bucket, and when I said I would share with her once I’d finished the sandcastle that I was making, she stomped all over everything I’d built, and then put sand in my hair. Another child looked up from her sand-play and asked her why she’d done it. I don’t really remember the conversation that was had, but it ended with the other child pushing her over and out of the sandpit, returning the spade and bucket to me, and resuming her own sand-play. We returned to our separate classes and the next day was the first day of many that she never left my side.
When I started high school, I somehow found myself included in the “popular” crowd. We used to all hang out at lunch times underneath this enormous tree on the boundary of the school campus. One lunchtime, the “head” of our little group decided that we were going to play a game, wherein you were given a task and if you chose not to complete it, you were exiled from the group. My task was to go over to another girl with whom I’d played on a netball team for two years, who was sitting by herself as her usual friend was either away or moved schools (again, I forget the finer details), and knock her sandwich out of her hands and into the dirt. Pathetic, really. I accepted my challenge and walked away from the group of girls I’d spent so much time with. I sat down next to the other girl and asked what was in her sandwich. “Boring Vegemite,” she replied. I then asked if I could sit with her to eat lunch from now on. She asked me why, and what about my friends, to which I said, “I kind of don’t have very many anymore.” She welcomed me with open arms.
At age sixteen, and it completely escapes me as to how, but I found myself a friend in a boy that I worked with and shared classes with at school. He and his brother became like family to me.
At age seventeen, I found a friend in a place that I least expected to. I met a person who I initially thought to be… Well, let’s just say I wrote them off very quickly with one massive eye roll. They somehow managed to be very involved in my life, by accident, for the next few months. Needless to say, I got over my initial book/cover/judge, and although I never really let them have me wholly, they fought long and hard, albeit silently, for my friendship for nearly four years before I could finally let them have all of me.
At age eighteen, I found a friend through a boy that I was seeing at the time. She was his sister-in-law, for all intents and purposes, and she was amazing. I was there the night that his brother proposed to her. I felt the connection instantly, which was pleasant and surprising, given how I was changing into a defensive and untrusting version of myself due to spending excessive amounts of time with a person who saw the slow breakdown of our relationship as my fault, and I suppose punished me for it. He roughed me up in front of my friends at the pub one night, burnt me with cigarettes and put a number of them out on my skin, with threats of worse. He was unfaithful and horrible, and I removed myself from the situation as soon as I could upon realising how dangerous it had the potential to be. She was his family, and she stood by me and my decision, and every other decision from then onwards. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.
At age nineteen, I found a friend through another friend. It took a long time for he and I to warm to each other, and then longer for us to stop butting heads. To this day, I think that the butting heads part was the most valuable. To meet someone who challenged my thinking and passion in such a way that it needed defending… I learned a lot about myself very quickly.
At age twenty-two, I look back on the notable friendships that I have had, the ones that really stimulated and bettered me, the ones that I honestly could not live without, and I am sad. I am sad for the ones that came and went, I am sad for the people who never made the list, and I am sad for the people who once did make the list, but for whatever reason, were written out over time, however recent or long ago.
My mother told me once that I tend to pick up “stragglers”; that the friendships that seemed to have prominence throughout my life were ones with people who seemed to need more than they could give. I disagreed. I told her that I think stragglers tend to find me, and that she raised me in such a way so as to never give up on a friend, no matter how hard, or draining, or exhausting, not ever, not when they needed you. And that standing up for yourself or talking about your feelings, even and especially when they would make the other person feel guilty or defensive, was always okay. She taught me that sometimes it really did have to be about number one, and that even though quite often I would find myself in a position where it would not be about me, that I never budged from the number one spot. Never. She taught me that in some friendships, I will always and only ever be number two, and that that would be okay sometimes, as long as I never needed to be number one. She taught me the difference between a lifelong friend and one who is closed away in an old chapter of my life story, and in one simple sentence.
"Anyone who can’t see the value in what you can give, but also what you can take, will never respect you the way that you respect them."