I cannot say how friendships begin. I know they begin at early ages. They begin in classrooms and schoolyards. I am not how friendships take form, or why they can change almost suddenly, and those that we were so close to us are more distant than the deepest past.
Life evolves. I know this. And we evolve as well. I know this too, We either grow or stay the same. And when, or should I say if we grow, a piece of us remains as we were in the heart of someone we shared time with. To someone, we will always be that kid in the playground. To someone, I will always be that kid in a classroom, or that short little kid that lived down the street from the baseball fields on Merrick Avenue. To some from my childhood, I will be referred to as Benjy. Some call me Benny and most from my adulthood will call me Ben.
I know there is something more cosmic to this thing we call friendship. There has to be. I believe this is why we meet; we meet for a reason. It is fate, I say. It is a slot we fill for either a temporary or long-term commitment. And that is what friendship is.
Friendship is a mutually beneficial commitment.
At least, it’s supposed to be.
As we go through life, our situations change. Our disposition changes. We mature. Our appetite changes as well as our tastes. We move on either figuratively or literally. We move to a new town or switch jobs. When it comes to life on life’s terms, our responsibilities change too and we become less available. We find ourselves in different places at different times.
And when it comes to this we say things like, “Let’s keep in touch,” and we promise we will. We say, “Let’s get together soon,” but life happens.
Something gets in the way. Time happens and days turn to weeks. Weeks become months, which turn into years—next, tomorrow comes and it is as if yesterday never was. We are somewhere else or someone else and the changes we go through no longer translate to the person we were. This is life. And I understand that. We are made to move on. We are made to explore and journey. Otherwise, we remain still or stagnant. We become stale and less-vivid. We are made to seek experience; otherwise, we are lifelessly living and fading into the mundane truth of mediocrity.
I have come to the realization that I am not along on my journey. Our paths may align, cross, or run parallel. They may split and reconnect in later years—or sever and you and I could sit in the same room, but feel as though we were still on opposite ends of the galaxy.
Our paths may seemingly break apart; whereas the connection we felt with one another—or the bridge that once joined us together has burned in a terrible blaze. And when this happens; when the bridges that connect us burn, we hope and pray the firelight is bright enough to show us the way.
We are all mutual lessons to one another.
We are all inspiration. We inspire to do either one of two things; either we inspire for good reasons or bad, because even bad relationships will inspire us to be better.
There are different kinds of friends in this life. There are true friends. They are the ones that will always be there. No matter what. They understand you best. They will instinctively know when you need them. They will call when you at the right time. They are the ones that can talk with you for hours, and still, there is so much more to say or share. The words, “I love you,” coming from a true friend are the same words that can change the direction of your life.
There are old friends. And old friends are a special sort. I always say there are no friends like old friends. They are the ones that know the juicy details. They were there for the wild moments and crazy nights.
The old friends are the ones that were there to see wins and losses of days from long ago.
They are the ones that have seen you grow. They know who you were then and who you are now. Old friends, like neighborhood friends, are the backbone of our childhood. They are a part of our necessary history. They were there for the regrettable yesterdays and the bad outfits, the bad hairstyles, and they share a mutual, unspoken knowledge that can never be shattered or taken away.
Although some old friends are not good friends, there will always be memory. And whether the memory is good or bad; who we were then is what shaped who we are now, which is why I stand behind my saying.
There are no friends like old friends . . .
Unfortunately, there are friendships that are not mutually beneficial. They are not good. They are poisonous and cancerous. They can decay the soul and break the heart.
There are part-time friends and fair-weathered friends. There are friends that secretly wish to see you would fail.
They would rather watch you stay as you are (complacent and lost) than see you succeed and be found. This is because friends like this are terribly flawed and frightened. They are unable to dare and too given to insecurity. They are spiritually lazy and resentful of what other’s achieve. They are there when you fall, but only to say, “I told you so,” instead of, “Get up,” and “Let’s try it again.”
Then there are transient friends.
They are spiritually homeless and brokenhearted. They are the ones that find you when they are at their lowest. You inspire them to improve. You help them grow and spiritually heal. And they love you for this. They really do. They swear they will never forget your kindness. And they promise to repay it. And you believe them. You really do. But they improve, which is good. They move on, which is something you support. However, days become weeks and weeks turn into months. This is when you realize your position was temporary. You were needed to fill a slot in time, but you were replaced by something more promising or glamorous and self-serving.
I compare friendship to a source of light. And not all light is the same. Not all is as bright and not all that are bright are better than a light less piercing. In some of the best, more heartwarming occasions of my life, the company of a dim light was made perfect by a flickering candle.
Not all light is the same. Take the city. Take Times Square for example. Lights flash. They glitter and sparkle. Lights brighten the heart of the city. And this is beautiful. This is lively and invigorating. There is art and spirit. There is glamour and adrenaline. As I see it; light like this is truly amazing, but it is not better than another.
Take the light of the full moon as it beams down on a snow covered field. The nighttime sky takes on the electric blue reflection from the ground. The stars twinkle. The full moonlight comes down in the midst of a cold mid-winter’s night, and yet, all is so beautifully warm.
Then there is the light that beams on the front porch of your family’s home. And you see this light from down the street. This light is a beacon. No, the light is not powerfully bright; however this light is the most welcoming of its kind. This light is the light that leads us to home.
I use these different versions of light to define my friends and their status. I realize that we each come with our own color that varies in shades and brightness. We all have our own unique source of light and we each depend on one another so that when our light fades—a friend will come along and all will brighten.
I use the association of light because I have friends, both near and far, that have made a difference in my life. They have given light when all else was dark. They have allowed me to shine in their world and coexist on their journey, which together, is a brighter path because we are together—and together, there is no chance we will shrivel or fade.
If you are my friend; then you will always be my friend.
If you are my friend; then you will always have light in my eyes.
And if you are transient; if you are part-time, or fair-weathered, and a self-serving friend, then at least you have inspired me to improve.
You have inspired me to improve and realize my value is better than an unsatisfying friendship. If you are a bad friend to me or I was a bad friend to you, and the bridge between us burned in the fire’s light; then may the bridge that burned light our way to a better path or shed light on our wrongs so that we can connect again someday.
But see that?
Even bad friendships can be described with light . . .