The myth of autonomy

I am a slow learner in so many areas. The most notable of these has to be the development of friendships. As a strong introvert with a powerful need to be seen to have things under control I valued being able to do things on my own over relationships.

In my youth, I was friends with people who shared my interests and whom happened to be around. Of course, there were those with whom I got on better. Nevertheless, as soon as I moved on to new city or new environment most of the people I would have called my friends slipped from my radar. I still have those kinds of friends: people who happen to be in my vicinity with whom I get on.

About ten years ago things began to shift. I made a couple of close friends. I’m still not quite sure what holds the three of us together. A shared sense of humour; a level of honesty; and perhaps a desire to be together. These two friends taught me that there was more to friendship than happenstance.

Building on that platform, as I have moved countries I have made new friends – real friends. Latterly, I have finally learnt that the real of gift of friendship is in the knowledge that these people have seen me at my most broken and still want to hang out with me. I don’t have to be strong and capable and together. They will show up when I am less than fine. And maybe most importantly they will understand when I say – I am not fine, but I need to be on my own for a little bit.

I don’t know quite why it took me so long to figure out the true nature of friendship. I am glad that the penny has finally dropped! I am also deeply appreciative of those who were happy to hang out with me all those years ago, when I really didn’t know what I was doing.

There is much in western society which seems to suggest that autonomy is the ultimate achievement. Perhaps I simply misunderstood what this meant for a large chunk of my life. But, for far too long I thought that meant that I needed to be entirely self-sufficient in emotional terms. My life is so much better for the recognition that this is not so.


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