To my friends

I have not always been particularly good at friendship. The combination of being a strong introvert and taking pride in being self-sufficient is not a terribly good foundation for strong friendships. I have l always had friends, and I have managed to make new friends as I move around from one school to another, from one university to another, and to various countries, but has taken me a good while to discover the real treasure of friendship.

In my years as a teenager and a young adult, I made friends with those in my immediate environment. Overlapping living space and a shared interest in one or two things slowly evolved into good companionship. I have good memories of conversations and laughter, and some of my companions from those years are still a part of my circle.

Then something shifted, I moved to a new country. I made friends with two extraordinary women who I met through my job, but because we lived in three different places in the country, we had to make an effort to get together. It was no longer a happy accident or a casual catch up. The gatherings had to be more intentional. In my friendship with them I began to glimpse the truth that there are some people who actually really value my presence. Why else would such an effort be made?

That understanding made my re-entry into Cape Town substantially easier. I intentionally began spending time with various people. Seeking each one out and making the effort to spend time with them. And I grew in my confidence that perhaps my presence was actually valued by more people. Still though, whenever I struggled with anything I would withdraw and hibernate for while, as I sorted myself out, before reengaging.

It was only a couple of years ago when I was going through a particular rough patch, as wave after wave of chaos erupted around me in a relatively short time period, that I risked talking to a few very close friends about the fact that I wasn’t okay. It was only a little while later that I began to recognise the significance of the shift. I had shown my friends my weakness and my brokenness and they had stepped up. I could now trust my friends to hold me even when I wasn’t fine. They were willing to stick around even when I was unable to give much.

It has been a long journey, and I am grateful to those who were my companions in the early days – I don’t think I was a particularly good friend back then. As I write this, I know that there is a clear correlation between the slow growth out of my own insecurity in this area, and my capacity to engage. But all of that has happened because I had companions along the way who were willing to stick with me even as I struggled, before I realised the real gift in friendship. I am deeply grateful to all who taught me so much along the way.

2 thoughts on “To my friends

  1. Thanks for this – its amazing to me how you are able to articulate your experience and how much it resonates with my own. Having said that, I have known you for over a decade and my experience of you stands in contrast to much of what you write about. I am very grateful that you continue to show up and be present as I journey.

  2. Thanks for this post Mags. I really resonate with that sense of having had to learn to lean on my friends and allow them to be there for me when life is hard. It somehow always felt so much easier to disengage
    and try to sort things out on my own when times were hard, and yet over the years I have also learnt the incredible gift of the mutuality of friendship through some amazing people. Here’s to those relationships in which we can truly just be who and where we are and know that that we are profoundly loved and valued.

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