Today’s post is quite different from the ones you’ve been reading over the last few months. Some of the blogs I enjoy reading the most, are ones where the author opens up and shares aspects of their own lives, be it career decisions they’re considering, at a crossroad in their lives or relationship issues. Whatever the topic is, these types of posts nearly always generate great discussions and interactions between the blogger and his or her readers. And on many a blog, these “reality” type posts have helped foster a great sense of community and a considerable number of friendships have been borne….which actually brings me nicely onto today’s post: friendships. Events during the last few weeks have got me thinking about the importance of friendships in our lives.
The last few weeks have been really strange for me, as I’ve had a date looming over me like the blackest rain cloud. You see, as I’m typing this post, on my way to NYC to meet-up with the Domestic Prince, I have tears rolling down my face, having had to say goodbye to the gorgeous Alice, and the rest of her family, who are off for a new adventure. (I’m sure I’m going to get banned from flying with BA the amount of tears they’ve seen me shed over the last few years. I’m not sure I’ve taken a flight in recent times without great, big fat tears rolling down my cheeks!)
I didn’t expect the goodbye to be as hard as it was, as when we arrived in India 4 years ago (tomorrow will be our 4 year anniversary of living in India!), I never expected to make the friendships that I have, and which I treasure dearly. We were supposedly only coming for an 18 month assignment (how little did I know back then!), so I pretty much had the view that I had enough wonderful friends in my life, the 18 months would fly by (we had a lot of travel planned!) and that I didn’t really need, or want anymore friends. I was worried about being lonely, but thought a few casual friendships / acquaintances would get me through the short 18 months. Anyhow, what I hadn’t bargained for, was meeting some amazing people and forming what I know are life-long friendships.
In the “real world”, aka not the expat bubble I currently live in, the opportunities to make new friends were few and far between, unless they were connected to work. I worked long, hard hours in the City, so pretty much most of my free time was spent catching-up on chores, catching-up on sleep, or seeing the existing friends I already had.
I think those closest to me would agree that I don’t make friends quickly. It takes me a long time to trust people and to feel comfortable opening myself up to them and to go from a superficial friendship, into something more meaningful. However, the friendships I’ve made during my time in India have been formed hard and fast. In writing this post, it’s made me think about why friendships are formed quicker in an expat environment?
- Many of the people who choose to take an expat assignment often have similar personalities and outlook to life and who are eager for an adventure; I think this is especially the case with a crazy place like India!
- The frequency that you see people. In the UK, you’re lucky to see your friends once a month, as everybody is so busy. However, in India, it’s not uncommon to socialise with your friends most weekends. And the wives, or WAGS, as we’re fondly known, tend to see each other regularly during the week too.
- I think the best analogy I can use, is that it’s a bit like speed dating. You quickly learn and find out the people who’s company you enjoy the most.
- You’re all living a very similar life and experience pretty much the same highs and lows, where back in reality, this just isn’t the case. People’s lives don’t run in parallel. The commonality with your friends here runs much deeper, be it the frustrations of no water or electricity, to sharing the details of your most recent travel adventures.
- Because your families are typically thousands of miles away, your friends end up becoming your family and your support network.
Life puts all sorts of pressures on friendships: different life choices, being at varying life stages, growing apart and physical distance. All of these factors make it very hard to keep friendships alive, especially when there are maybe other pressures being experienced. Your friends might not be constant in your day to day existence, but when you finally see each other after weeks, months or even years, a close friendship will just pick-up exactly where you left off. That’s not to say that you don’t need to nurture or foster the relationship; effort still needs to be put in from both sides in order for the friendship to be sustained.
I value my friendships; they are incredibly important to me. The friends I have range from the ones I met at school, to those I met whilst working, through to my most recent ones made during our expat assignment. I love them all dearly and am blessed to have them in my life. I miss the ones that are not in my daily life and relish the time we do spend together. They are all completely different and have various qualities and personalities – my friendship with each one is extremely different. Different friends fill different needs.
Having close friends helps give a different perspective on life, together with the ability to bounce around different ideas that you may never have thought of. They are always there for us: to laugh with in happy times and providing a shoulder to cry when life throws us a curve ball. In my experience, a good friend will accept you for who you are. They will rejoice at your success and commiserate your failure. They’ll empathise and let you know that they care deeply about you. With good friends in your life, you should never feel lonely. A friendship should be a relationship of balance. You should get from a friend as much as you put in. Of course, there will be hard times , when a friend needs you more than you need them. That’s only natural. But you look at your friend in the whole, and know they’d do exactly the same for you in a heartbeat, and you never, EVER feel as if you’re being taken for granted. If you start feeling the relationship is lopsided or that you’re being taken for granted, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate that friendship and ask if it is still working for you.
It’s not just my friendships with my girlfriends that I value, but also my friendship with my husband. Our expat assignment has helped cement my friendship with the Domestic Prince. I didn’t think it was possible to become closer than we already were, but we actually are. When we first arrived in India, we didn’t have the wonderful friends and support network that we have now, so we had to be everything to each other. We became a really tight unit. That’s not to say I don’t need my other friendships, I do. But it goes back to what I was saying earlier, that each friend in your life brings a different dimension / quality to the friendship. I know The Domestic Prince will always be brutually honest with me.
So, what is the point of today’s post and my ramblings? I guess it’s a reminder to myself to not close myself off to the possibilities of forming new friendships and that for the right person, there is always room for another special friendship in your life. I’m so glad I didn’t close myself off to forming new friendships, as I wouldn’t have the friends that I have today. I’m not exaggerating when I say that last night’s goodbye was extremely distressing – I look like I’ve done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. I’m devastated that Alice won’t be there when I return in two weeks. It feels like a great big void. But, just like my other friendships that are divided by thousands of miles, I know that the friendship we have built over the last 4 years will last forever. This year, I’ve had to say say goodbyes to four wonderful girls and I’m just super grateful that I have some fabulous friends in Bangalore to go back to, otherwise I would be truly lost.
In the words of The Domestic Prince (who, incidentally is equally sad), saying goodbye is not goodbye, but au revoir. And on that thought, I’m off to watch an episode of Glee…in fact it’s the Whitney Houston tribute week and if that can’t cheer me up, nothing can!
I’d love to hear if friendships are as important to you, as it is to me? And what qualities do you look for in a friend?
With much love to everyone, but especially my amazing friends near and far!
The Domestic Princess