By Jyoti Chauhan 

Typically, the people we spend the most time with shape who we are. From the conversations we’re having to the behaviours and attitudes we’re exposed to. For a lot of us our friendship circle is a refection of ourselves. I’m very lucky to have made great friends with people from all aspects of my life – from school to university to work to living abroad. People I feel lucky to go through life with.

Sometimes when you’re very young, you’re so desperate to be friends with everyone that you’re not really that selective. When you’re in school you’re surrounded by so many different people and so many different personalities whilst at the same time trying to figure out who you are, so it gets a bit messy. Friendship is very much a two way street – you have to give as much as you take or it becomes toxic. It becomes mentally and emotionally draining to be around some friends. You sometimes end up becoming friends with people you don’t feel comfortable being your true self around. As you get older you become more aware of who is worth your time and energy and who you want to be surrounded by. As you get older you learn to read people better and (hopefully) know if they’re genuine. You begin to realise your worth.

There are some friendships that span years and continents. They survive through distance and through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between. You have the privilege of watching each other evolve and change. You can talk about everything and anything and you can sit in silence. You are each other’s personal and public cheerleaders. When they win, you win. When they hurt, you hurt. You just want the best for each other. You see each other grow, thrive and become adults – you become family (and sometimes you argue like it too).

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

Muhammad Ali

Then there are some friends who come and go and this isn’t a good or a bad thing. They are there for you when you need them and then you drift away as friends sometimes do.  Sometimes there’s the sad moment of realisation that you will never be in that same place with those same people ever again. But that doesn’t take away from the shared experiences and memories you had together. It doesn’t lessen the quality of time you spent together, relying on each for support or a shoulder to cry on or a good night out. Those pictures that you look back on with fondness, those Facebook memories that you can’t help but smile at. That song that you hear that immediately transports you to a different time, place or maybe even to a different version of yourself.

Having open, honest and thought provoking conversations is an important part of some friendships. It’s important for everyone’s mental health to vent and unload -sometimes you need to tell someone about something or you feel like you’ll burst. Sometimes it’s a burden and when you tell someone you can feel the weight lifting off your shoulders. You want to be able to have all kinds of honest conversations with your friends – the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with empathetic, honest, kind, non-judgemental, supportive friends who have your back. Especially when you’re not around.

With the events of the past few months and the awareness of the black lives matter movement – I think I’ve had some of the most honest conversations I’ve ever had with my friends. Whether that means talking about our mental health whilst the cloud of COVID lingers or talking about racist experiences and how we can all do and be better. It is more important than ever to have these conversations with our friends and learn and educate each other so we can be the best versions of ourselves – for us and especially for others.

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