Everyone has those friends. You know, the ones you won’t forget for the rest of your life. The ones that will still come to mind should you live for a thousand years.
It’s fun, having someone your own age to relate to. Over time you begin to almost resemble one another, as your interests and passions – both similar and non – influence and effect you both in a process that is making you what you will become.
Of course, sometimes friction arises when your youthful self-centeredness causes you to abuse your relationship and seek only your own happiness at the expense of your friend. Inevitably, tensions will get the better of you from time to time – especially in your very young life before you’ve learned self-control and compromise. If you are lucky this won’t happen much, but every so often spats are par for the course.
After all, we are only human.
Over the years your friendship deepens and grows. Instead of selfishly thinking of friendship strictly as a means for self-fulfillment, as you once did in your folly of youth, you begin to see it as a commitment to self-giving; of putting another before yourself in a beautiful dance of loving and serving one another, even when you gain nothing in return.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that there will be no more rough patches or that you always see eye-to-eye. Differences may remain between you even as your relationship becomes closer. And that’s more than okay, because having a true friendship does not mean giving up your identity as an individual and bowing to the desires of someone else in the name of “self sacrifice” or “being a good friend”. It does not mean having someone else tell you who or what or how you need to be. That’s not a friendship – that’s manipulation.
A true friendship is two people loving and cherishing one another in spite of – and maybe even because of – their differences. It means that, disagreements or no, you will always have one another’s backs in a pinch. It means that in the thick of things you are ready to sacrifice your own comfort and security to help a friend who is desperately in need – and to do so without batting an eye or thinking twice. Not because you have to, but because it’s the deepest desire of your heart to be there for a friend.
Usually, as you continue to age you will find that areas of interest you once overlapped in begin to lose their draw for you, but other areas of commonality will sometimes surface.
You might find that one of you excels at a particular activity, and the other does not. This can make connecting difficult as interests and skills take you to separate places. If your friendship is worth its salt, though, you will be happy for one another in your successes at separate endeavors, and support each other with your time and enthusiasm.
Showing up to a friend’s events, cheering them on from the sidelines, and groaning with them when things don’t go the way you want them to – these things continue to build the friendship even if you don’t get to participate with them to the fullest extent.
Other times you luck out, and your skills and interests are more compatible. When this happens there is a good chance that things will get competitive at some point. A friendly rivalry can be fun – it can push you both to new heights and keep you from getting too lazy or comfortable with your skills. Of course, that’s providing that you don’t let the competition be bigger than and overcome your friendship.
One of the toughest trials a friendship can face is when new individuals join your group. Adding another person can cause feelings of jealousy in one or both of you, as time you once spent with each other must now be divided out to your new friend, leaving less of you to go around. One friend may feel spurned, given the shaft, robbed, while the other can often remain blissfully ignorant of this fact.
Never is this more true than when the new face is a member of the opposite gender. A friend suddenly announcing that they have a boyfriend or girlfriend can come as quite a surprise – especially if the week before you had both been worried about cooties. There is inevitably that initial shock, as it dawns on you for the first time that there will come a day when they have someone more important in their life than you; and it is scary.
But that doesn’t mean you friendship ends there. You can still do things just the two of you, and yes, when the significant other feels like they need more time in the mix there will certainly be opportunities for you to tag along with them both as well and do things as a group.
Just make sure you’re invited first…
You are an inseparable part of one another’s lives. You turn to one another for advice, for support, for understanding, and for hope. You are the dynamic duo. Batman and Robin, David and Jonathan, Sonny and Cher, Calvin and Hobbes, the two Musketeers, teammates and, if it were possible, siblings. And that’s the way it always will be.
But it won’t. Not really.
Days, weeks, months and years go by. Seasons change, fires die, and frost clings to the branches of all things.
You grow apart.
It’s subtle at first, but ultimately undeniable. One of you is changing.
It’s not the kind of thing that happens all at once. It sneaks up on you, like a frog in a pot of water coming to a boil. But one day you wake up and realize: you’re not dealing with the same old friend. This is someone new. Someone different. And your relationship, much as you wish it could have stayed the same, is different too.
You’ve avoided breaching the subject for some time, by this point – not wanting to hear the answer you expect. Not prepared for what you might find out. But knowing it must be done. You’ve bitten your tongue for too long.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so daunting if you hadn’t watched, with bated breath, their decent into darkness. If you hadn’t been beside them every step of the way, silently asking them to snap out of it – yet feeling like your spirit is all that is snapping.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, telling yourself that something must have, had to have happened to change them into this – yet feeling as though it would take a miracle to reverse.
Begging them to come home – yet knowing without knowing what their answer will be.
You try to argue, but their will is just as strong as yours.
In the end, you are forced to make a decision.
Will you remain in the light? Or follow your friend, your dear friend, into his ever-growing darkness?
Happy birthday, my friend.
When are you coming home?
… Please come home.
Naruto and Sasuke characters property of Masashi Kishimoto
Everything else… property of personal experience.