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Saturday, 5 July 2014

What are friends for?

HAVE you ever felt troubled and wished you had someone you can trust to confide in? Or you find yourself sitting at home on a lonely night thinking that your closest buddies are either in a different time zone, busy with work, babies or themselves?

In the age of social networks, most of us who are active on Facebook and Twitter tend to live two distinct lives, one in which the real thing happens, and the other for the public’s eye.

How many of us truly connect with the friends who comment on our photos and like our status updates? Or have work, relationship, parental and other commitments overtaken what used to be really important to us — friends?

Back in Malaysia, having my big family around me somehow negated the need for having many friends, so I’ve rarely felt that friends are in short supply.

But when you live abroad, friends become your family — people who shape your moods, opinions, personality and perhaps even your career path. In a dynamic city such as London, the ebb and flow of friendships tend to work in the same order so that one day, you will come to realise the people you entrusted your friendship in, have moved on to a different place, whether geographically or in their life.

In my decade abroad, I have made more real friends than I ever did in the other decades of my life.

There are many types of friends — friends of circumstances (studies, work or flatmates), friends of choice (whom you especially get on so well with), friends of thick-and-thin, friends who spark your mind and stir your soul, friends you can have fun with, friends who exist in certain stages and those who stay for life.

Friends come and go, but the generosity and warmth that they have shown you somehow stays with you long after they have gone.

As I reflect today, I have benefitted from the lessons that they have each imparted to me; whether good or bad, they have all played a significant role in shaping the person I have become.

It occurs to me that a true friend will always tell you what you need to hear so that you can learn and grow in your life’s journey. They do not bail out on you and will display a preponderance of patience despite how much of a pain in the arse you have been to them.

Looking back, there were those pivotal moments when a friend, whether new or old, have quoted words that went on to change the course of my character, and therefore, my life:

“You know if you were not my friend, I would have hung up the phone already. This is negative.”

“I want to help you, because I believe that you’re the sort of person who can one day help others.”

“Let him go.”

“New friends are not the same as old friends, are they? With old friends, you have history.”

“You can be pretty blunt.”

“There are people out there who can write, but have nothing to say. And there are those who have something to say, but cannot write. The reason I’m helping is, you clearly can write and have something to say.”

“You are like my sister, I want to do all I can for you.”

“I miss your positive energy.”

“Go into the interview as though you’ve already got the job!”

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (words from a friend, adapted from the Bible).

“You have got such a calming effect.”

Because of the words, time and effort of these dearest friends in my life, I may have transformed from someone who needed help a lot of the time to someone who can actually help others.

I am extremely grateful to have — not a huge number — but a small group of friends who tell me these truths and some who will go the extra distance for me.

I know that there is a chap on another continent who will answer my call whatever the time of day. And there is a girl who calls me her sister, who will basically take over all the work that goes into organising a wedding so that I won’t be stressed.

These friends, who despite my unintentional callousness may have disappointed them at times, did not give up on me forever. Friends whom you have so much history with, they will travel halfway around the world to see you.

There is a quote from an article in The Lady magazine in 1904 that I found very apt: “Everyone wants companionship of some sort, and misses it if withheld; especially is this the case with young people. None of us were intended by Nature to live alone.”

Next time you think of a friend, instead of writing to them on Facebook, pick up the phone and give them a call. You are not alone.

Tags / Keywords: Central Region , Tale of Two Cities , Samantha Hiew , London , friends

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