Friendship. Such a simple word, but it’s one that I have spent a lot of time thinking about.
I switched schools this year. I went from a tiny school, where I had been for a very long time to a larger but still not very big school where I was one of a very small number of new kids. I had actually never been the proverbial new kid before, and the experience seemed daunting at first.
I joined a sports team—my first real team sport—and I found a kind of friendship that I didn’t know was possible. From day one, my team of over 100 girls took me in, and decided that I was one of them. The uniform drove that acceptance, but the people did too. A team mentality is a kind of friendship that you won’t find anywhere else, and sometimes you only find it when you’ve all been running for an hour and you all look like crap. But they are my team now, and I know without thinking too hard about it that it doesn’t have to be the competitive season for me to identify myself with them, to become a part of the whole.
There is another kind of friendship that I had forgotten was a type of friendship, because it was around me for so long, and that is the friendship of proximity. This is the sort of friendship that is born from seeing the same faces every day, and knowing that you have something in common with them, because you all do the same activity, be that school or a sport or anything else. This is the kind of friendship that will fall apart immediately afterwards, but it is also the kind that fuels team ethics as strong as the ones that I’ve experienced.
Proximity friendships can evolve into true friendships, which is what happens when you go above and beyond the things that you do have in common. This takes time to grow, but it’s so worth it. When a true friendship develops, it is a bond that will never break, and it transcends the boundaries of the place in which it is made. Put simply, it’s what happens when you and a proximity friend go and do things outside of that specific place and time, and you get to know each other in a different environment.
When I switched schools, I expected to keep closely in touch with everyone that I had known at the time. I had been with them for so long that I expected all of the friendships to stay, because I had gotten used to them to the point where I assumed that they were all true friendships. But when that didn’t happen, I learned something. I learned where all of my true friends were, because they were the ones who stayed in touch.
The thing about true friends is that you don’t necessarily have to have see them all the time. I have some very close friends whom I see very few times a year, but I can rely on them for everything.
And then you get the friends who are the best of all types. My friend Annalise, for example. We were thrown together by circumstance in preschool. We’ve remained friends, as a result of immediate proximity, for more than a decade. But we’ve been on teams together. We’ve gone places, we’ve hung out outside of school. She was one of the people from whom I was separated when I switched schools. She switched schools as well, and we were worried that it would be hard to move on but to hold on to each other. But we did. She’s still one of my best friends, as a result of time, common experience, and also of our shared willingness to work for our friendship.
There are a lot of types of friends in the world, and they’re all really, really important. There’s no way to say what the best kind is—that depends on the people, not on the categories—but I do know that I am surrounded by people I can rely on for absolutely anything, and I am incredibly lucky to be able to say that.