They say people cover our nakedness, so I often wonder why people beam with so much pride that they have no friends. I think people need people. We aren’t built to live in isolation. However, I understand the need for self preservation and protecting yourself from the fall outs and disasters of certain friendships. Maybe I am just lucky. I know it has become a cliché, as I say it all the time. But I really do feel lucky with my relationships, both older and newer ones. This is not to say I haven’t had my own fair share of disasters, but even those have played a huge role in the learning curve and the journey to building long lasting friendships. I think there are so many more brotherhoods and sisterhoods to build and there are powers even blessings that come with real friendships.
My friend, Seun, once pointed out that the reasons why a lot of women stick to conversation about handbags, hair and clothing sometimes is because going any deeper would require openness and vulnerability which can be very difficult. Basically it’s baring yourself naked for someone else to come into your world of discomfort. The truth is, building substantial relationships require you to give something in order to receive. Consequently you build trust for that sense and space of safety to happen. Openness doesn’t happen in a day and sometimes you might feel like you are giving a lot and not getting much in return. Remember, it is not a competition on who has shared more secrets than whom. It is a process that requires understanding and one that is judgement free.
Making An Effort
People require work and friendships even more so. You have to communicate; you have to spend time together. I know I’m making it sound a little intense like it is a marriage, but I reckon it is almost like that without the intimacy involved. Being there for people and people being there for you requires work, and if there is no effort made to nurture it, like a plant… it withers away. It is the reason why you hear from someone else that your friend has moved to a different country or had resigned from their job, because you probably never made out time to find out what was really going on. Then you feel hurt or insignificant because you weren’t told.
Affirmation & Appreciation
It isn’t only family members that should do the affirming. I always say the reasons I have been able to do all the things I do, and even have the courage to continue doing more, is because I have people around me that believe more in me than I actually believe in myself.
When I was 16, I had scribbled some things on pieces of paper. My best friend read it and said to me ‘Dude this is some poetic sturvs oo’ For my 17th birthday, she got me a journal. I started reading these poems I had written to most of my friends or posting them as notes on Facebook to which they always posted comments and shared them. Today I have an album and I’m performing to crowds. It is no longer the girls in the living room, but they are all integral to that milestone and many others.
Tell your friends you love them, you are proud of them, you have their back. Be excited for them, help them see even bigger dreams they didn’t envision for themselves. Sometimes, just listen and be there. Be the warmth even if you don’t know how to fix them when things aren’t going so great. Appreciate the things they give back.
Manage Your Expectations
I know they say ‘do unto others as you want others to do onto you’. I strongly believe that the common thread connecting us all is our humanity, but we can’t deny that our experiences and the way that we have been socialised as individuals taints the lens in which we view the world. It is why, in friendships, you have to manage your expectations and not project your own values onto other people. Besides, we all have different character and behavioural traits.
Some friends can’t be there at your beck and call. They are just not capable and it isn’t in them. I always tell my friends: ‘Please don’t put me on the organising committee of anything‘. I am completely useless at it. I wouldn’t even know where to start. It isn’t because I don’t care enough or I don’t love you enough, but I’m just really rubbish at organising anything. Sadly I have never organised any showers – bridal or baby. So using my inability to orchestrate soirees as the valuation metric for our relationship would be a waste of time. Again, it isn’t a scoring board. I did this for her and she didn’t do this for me. Besides you don’t need the agony and palpitations from constantly feeling disappointed because your friends never meet up to your friendship standard. This isn’t saying we shouldn’t have expectations; we are human after all but just manage them.
Grow Up! We Are No Longer At The Playground
The beauty of new friendships, especially when you are much older, is the fact that you get to choose. It’s no longer the gang culture of the school playground or some kind of Darwinian exercise. Your survival is not dependent on your crew. At least, not in my books. Leave that to alumni groups and business networks.
You don’t have to be friends because they are part of the cool crowd or because they are the rich kids, or the grimy hard kids. You actually get to choose – perhaps you share or exchange values or you just enjoy each others company. The other beautiful thing about the power to choose is that you can be yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling building friendships on genuine grounds.
I remember attending my friend’s wedding in December. Whilst in the cab from the airport, both my friends at the back seat spent the next 45 minutes to an hour talking about infant formula, breast feeding, crèches and Lord knows what else, because I just had to figure out a way to drown out the conversation. Unfortunately it didn’t end there. When we got to the house and everyone was eager to show what styles of dresses they had made with their aso-ebi, I became miffed by how many times I heard ‘my husband doesn’t like me wearing this so I couldn’t make a skirt’ or ‘you know I’m no longer a single girl so I cant be exposing body parts again’. Truth be told I became so uncomfortable I had to leave the room. All I kept saying to myself was, ‘who are these women, please bring back my friends’
Coming to terms with the transitions in your life and your friends lives can take its toll on relationships if you aren’t careful especially relationships that have been nurtured from childhood.
It doesn’t only happen when your boy has become a family man or when your girlies start popping kids. It happens when they move abroad to go to school or even move back home or become a big shot in a company.
We are constantly evolving and transitioning. So are our identities, interests, ambitions, dreams, ideals and of course our relationships. Everything is always in a state of flux. Pretty much like life. Sometimes the graph goes upwards, other times downwards and most times it plateaus. We have to leave room to accommodate those transitions, but at the heart of it is carrying along those that are important to you helping them understand that at whatever place you find yourself, they are significant.
I recently told someone, I’m no fixer but I refuse for you to be a part of my life and not be the best you can be. I am a huge recipient of the generosity of people’s love, affection, support, advice, encouragement, funds, couches to sleep on, spare bedrooms, kindness and most importantly, time. Real friends always deposit something in your life. They don’t have to be so huge. It’s as little as your presence or just saying ‘lunch is on me‘ when they’re broke, or giving them room to share good news without feeling paranoid or apologetic. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell them the truth when they’re going off the ledge or rein them in when they are going overboard, but finding solutions rather than always pointing out problems never did anyone any harm.
Dealing with other human beings can be difficult sometimes, but there is a great deal of joy when you meet people that make you feel like life is really worth living and enjoying. Friendships are a crucial part of that. A lot of the time it’s as simple as letting somebody know that ‘I’m here’ or ‘I need you’
Photo Credit: Aishah Augie-Kuta
Wana Udobang is a Broadcaster, writer, blogger, poet, gender advocate, culture fanatic and chiffon lover living in Lagos. She hosts the Drive Time at 92.3 Inspiration FM and Blogs at www.wanawana.net. She is currently working on her spoken word project titled ‘Dirty Laundry’ which will be released later in the year.
You can follow her on twitter @MissWanaWana and on Instagram @Mswanawana