Is it just me or has friendship taken a beating these days? When we were younger, every action and every decision was taken as a collective, a gang of best friends standing by each other through thick and thin, exploring and experimenting together because we had each other for support. We were much more gullible in the days and hardly ever stopped to ponder our actions, but we always knew that whether it was the chaotic corridors of school or the loud and robust canteens in college, there was a camaraderie that was constant.
Flash forward to twenty years later and the very foundation of friendship has taken on a whole other facade. You can wake up tomorrow and find seven or eight new friend requests on popular social networking sites like Orkut or Facebook; distant friends, friends of friends, and most of the time, completely random strangers. You may accept or reject them, but you cannot ignore the reality of this very scary social predicament; where did all the ''good friends'' go? As phones replaced letters, then those long, glorious chats on the phone were pushed aside for one line e-mails and broken language text messages. Now you meet people who roll their eyes and exclaim, ''I'm just not a phone person, send me a message instead''. If we don't have time to take each other's calls, how will we find the time to bear a shoulder during a crisis?
As we get older, we embark on a long period of extreme independence where we realize that we don't really need anyone to get by on a day-to-day basis. Come to think of it, most of us have built so many protective barriers around ourselves that even the ones with the secret passwords cannot get in. Cynicism, stubbornness, and often times a fear of rejection surges over most of us, and we learn not to expect anything from anyone because inevitably, they will let you down.
Where I come from, I know (and am known to) a lot of people, but to identify the true friends amongst the crop is a balancing act I still have to master. So much of self-worth and confidence comes from a support structure you'd like to believe won't tremble, but with all the plastic friendships popping up, you really have to dig deeper and ask yourself who your people are in this world.
Where do you find them and how can you ensure that they won't change or snub you when you need them the most? Are the oldest friends really the best of friends? Do they know you as you are now, or are they stuck on the person you were before? Is a good friend someone who can affect you the most, and are you a bad friend if you cause your friend pain? We are human and we bleed very easily. We can trigger tears and our punches can blow even harder. Our actions might be restrained and our words of love and support may have shortened, but at the end of the day, all we really need is the security of knowing that there will always be someone in your corner who will run to you and clean you up no matter how severe your crimes are. I have learnt that friendships cannot be evaluated, and people shouldn't put up their friends for a trial.
There are no tricks or tips to life-long friendships, but know that when you are in the presence of a friend and with their presence you feel safe, that they are the keepers and the ones worth fighting for. Mark them, brand them, do whatever you legally can do them, but don't ever let them go because when you're staring the cold, harsh realities of life in the face, they will be the UV to your designer sunglasses, and the fleece to your coat, and on days like those, when all else seems bleak, they will be the ones to break your fall.
Pick your friends wisely, and they will make you wiser. A wise man once told me that... and yes, he was a distant friend.