I'm learning to be a better friend
I was raised to view friendships as trivial. With arms wide open and an unwavering gaze, my mother would tell my 12-year-old self, “Look at me. Do you see me with any friends?”
It took several years of both successful and failed attempts at forging friendships and being a supportive friend to fully unlearn that mindset.
I’m far from perfect – often, I fail. But I haven’t stopped trying to be better. I’ve made it one of my many life’s missions to be a truer friend to those close to me. I’ve spent the past eight years documenting and reminding myself of the lessons I’ve learned on this journey.
This letter is for me — a reminder of how to think about friendships and the commitment and diligence required for sustaining relationships with my loved ones.
I know that being vulnerable makes you uneasy; it's daunting and feels like laying oneself completely bare. But embracing vulnerability and allowing yourself to love wholeheartedly can be liberating. Once you're comfortable in a friendship, open your heart up for trust. While there's a risk that some might exploit this, don't let those instances stop you from the genuine joy of deep and lasting friendships. Living in a constant state of suspicion, endlessly questioning who to trust, is not only exhausting but also robs you of the beautiful experiences life offers. Instead, face situations with an open heart. Love and live.
Tears, arguments, and disagreements are a natural part of close relationships. In fact, enduring friendships often experience numerous storms. Nobody actually forgets, but they can forgive. Forgive and strive for that grace to be forgiven too.
You cry too much and you don’t do well with conflict. So, when disagreements pop up with friends, make sure to address them right away. It won’t always work, and sometimes you will fall short, but know that confronting issues immediately prevents resentment from taking root. Tears, arguments, and disagreements are a natural part of close relationships. In fact, enduring friendships often experience numerous storms. Nobody actually forgets, but they can forgive. Forgive and strive for that grace to be forgiven too.
You know how your husband teases you that you’re tribal when it comes to your friends? He’s spot on. Those close to you are well aware of the insane lengths you'll go to support them. But always remember that true loyalty doesn't sidestep honesty. While it's important to choose your words with care and kindness, avoid sugar coating issues. If a friend is in the wrong or needs to grow in their actions, gently let them know. Similarly, encourage them to be honest with you too. True friendship demands genuine honesty and reflection.
It's natural to drift away from certain friends, especially as beliefs, ideologies, and paths stop aligning. Allow yourself to grieve these lost connections, but also remember that such separations make you human. Keep moving forward.
Remember the other day when you crossed paths with a former friend and felt the familiar sting of friendship heartbreak? As the years go by, you'll inevitably part ways with more individuals, and it'll be just as heartbreaking. Sometimes, it’ll be your fault, while at other times, it'll simply be the complexities of adulting at play. It's natural to drift away from certain friends, especially as beliefs, ideologies, and paths stop aligning. Allow yourself to grieve these lost connections, but also remember that such separations make you human. Keep moving forward.
Look, I know you don’t like photos, you think they don’t capture your best angles. But trust me, make an effort to snap plenty of them with your friends. Think about those moments when you miss Eruke, Nneka, and Professor Falodun — it's your photo albums that provide a comforting trip down memory lane. Without videos and photos, so many treasured memories can fade into the background. So, appreciate the significance of preserving those precious times with friends in spontaneous pictures and videos. It's worth it.
Always remain true to yourself. I know you have many versions of you for different occasions, but ensure your essence remains consistent, especially around your friends. Some people mold themselves to suit different friend groups, but that facade can prevent genuine happiness. The essence of friendships lies in being unapologetically yourself without fear of judgment. The idea of masquerading as someone else or diminishing one's true self just to fit in seems tiring. So, don’t do it. Find those who love you for you and stick to them, like glue. They are your tribe.
There are activities you don’t enjoy that others find crazy - phone and video calls, socializing, or going out. But it’s important for you to learn the delicate balance of compromise. It’s okay to communicate your preferences, but participate when you can, especially when it means a lot to someone else. This give-and–take, is part of being a good friend. You won’t always align in your taste or views, but finding common ground is important.
There’s nothing graceful about a friendship that breaks your spirit and demands too much from you.
This is the final and most important thing, Aisha. If the friendship feels like a chore, let it go. I understand that friendships mean the world to you, but if it starts to feel too much, too heavy, let it go. There’s nothing graceful about a friendship that breaks your spirit and demands too much from you.
Navigating friendships is like a delicate dance, balancing our understanding of self with creating space for others in our hearts. It's a continuous journey of learning, filled with many potholes. Just as you journey through life's ups and downs, you should walk through the complexities of friendships with the same dedication.
Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed by the nuances of friendships, I hope you return to this letter. Let it serve as a reminder that the rewards of deep, meaningful connections are undeniably worth the effort.