She bounced into my life in a Beatles t’shirt, her short black hair bobbing in rhythm with her grin and it was instant. Some friendships require not even the littlest smidgen of work. One day this person was a total stranger, and the next you start thinking how is that possible? Weren’t they there all along? Who even was I before I met this soul? The kind of people that just slot into your life without any adjustments, in fact are you absolutely positive they weren’t there all along?! These are the type of friends I fill my life with. The ones who just get me, and me them. Friends I meet in the most bizarre of situations. Two years ago my friend asked me to collect her friend from the subway station in Taipei. I had no idea what she would be like, but seeing as she was a friend of my friend, I assumed she’d be cool. Well, she is cooler than cool. I skipped along to meet her in my horse t’shirt and I didn’t know she loves horses. Hello new friend! We talked nonstop that night and now two years later she is one of my bestest friends and seriously, where has she been all my life? We talk everyday and we live in different countries and yet I feel like I have known her since the very beginning.
These are the friends we should be flowering our lives with. Kindred spirits that never cease to inspire or amaze and make us laugh so hard we can’t breathe. Friends you can cry into a bowl of rice with at your local Vietnamese restaurant. The friends who turn the kettle on as soon as they hear your distinct footsteps jumping two at a time up the stairs. The ones who just know you, even when you don’t know yourself. They are the friends I’d like to keep in my pocket and pull out and perch on my desk to make me laugh all day every day. And I guess they kind of do, if by pocket I mean phone. I’m not the biggest fan of technology but I am eternally grateful that I can contact my friends in a second via my phone. Actually, until last weekend my best friend was still rocking an old school nokia or something like that, and she was only contactable via a carrier pigeon in the form of her boyfriend. Now that she has finally joined the social media party, I can harass her nonstop. It’s great.
I love my friends. I wonder if the way I connect with people these days is the same as when I was a little girl? I know my cousin was my first ever friend, and then along came my sister. But I think my first friend outside of my family came into being thanks to a shared fear of being made to lie on a giant piece of paper and be drawn around. And really, when I look back, I realise most of my closest friendships have been formed in situations when a ‘two heads are better than one’ type of scenario pops up. Lucy and I did not want to be drawn around. We refused to hand over our unique little souls to the world of paper and crayons. And so we did what any two 3 year olds would do. We ran away and hid. And cowering behind the door of a bathroom in an old church, a friendship that has lasted 25 years began to blossom.
A month ago whilst travelling in Malaysia, I had a day to myself before my friend arrived. I was quite determined to be an anti-social creature and just read my book in bed, but I couldn’t help but notice that the girl on the bunk opposite me was also just chilling by herself. I decided to stop being such an introvert and I said “Hi, how was your day?” Now, a month on, we chat everyday via wechat about life and love and books, and I am so thankful that I made an effort to get to know her. She is awesome. That’s what I love about travelling. I always meet like-minded people in those dusty dorm rooms, or squeezed together at the back of a bus, or even in an airport when you find out your flight has been delayed by 17 hours. That’s when the beauty of our human nature really shines through. When we group together and figure out how best to tackle such an annoying situation. Actually, all it comes down to is that, as long as you have someone lovely to connect with, nothing can be that bad. Not even a delayed flight, or being stuck in a lift. Even just a little smile is enough. Last night I tripped up the stairs in a restaurant and I laughed at myself, and then all the waiters laughed with me. I like those moments.
Finding people you connect with, people who share your same zest for life and run on a similar wavelength, surely that’s what this whole life thing is about, no? That’s why, now that I’m getting older, I just don’t have the time or energy to waste on half-hearted friendships. Obviously I am willing to exert myself to a certain extent, but friendships and relationships should be easy. As easy as running through a field of daisies or laughing until you cry. Those friendships that require work, yeah, I don’t have time for those anymore. I’d say 80% of my friends live in a different country from me- some of them are on the other side of the world- and yet they are so simple to maintain. All it takes is a little ‘hello’ now and again, just to let them know that I am thinking of them and hope they are happy and well. Then, when I see them every few months, or every few years, it’s like no time has passed. It’s comfortable, even when we are silent. There is no awkward small talk. We don’t have to search for things to say, and we constantly interrupt each other because our minds are buzzing with all the exciting stories we want to share., and that is totally OK. Of course, it’s not ideal. I mean, in my dreamland we would all live in the same
city forest and have picnics together everyday and have dinner parties and sneak into each others houses and leave cupcakes for when they get home from work. But I guess I’ll have to settle for sending little heart emotes and cake emotes via whatsapp, at least for now anyway. Thanks again technology. Oh, and friends? Can we all please move to the same place? Thank you. Preferably a green forest place, but somewhere near the ocean is OK too.
Oh, and the same applies for relationships. Why settle for less than a kaleidoscope of butterflies? That little caterpillar wriggling around will most certainly turn into a butterfly at some point, but as I said for cultivating friendships, it should be easier than that. Instant flutterings of connecting. A stolen glance and sneaky smiles. And then…enjoy.
It really couldn’t be simpler. Don’t force those old friendships. If they fizzle out, then let them. There’s only so much saving you can do before you run yourself dry. And if those dancing butterflies turn into uncomfortable moths, you know what to do. Surrounding yourself with people who make you happy is all you need to do. Goodbye toxic people, goodbye negative nancys, goodbye gossipers. And hello to all the souls that slip into the jigsaw puzzle of your life with absolute ease.
You can stick around, I’ve been looking for you.
Illustration by the talented Katogi Mari