“Here’s something I realized,” G said, as we sat under that red umbrella, soon after the fan and the lights were turned off. It was late — way later than I expected to be up on my first night back at this country. I wanted to be in bed earlier for the long day tomorrow, but it was the only time we would be with R while I was there. In times like this, I learned that you must sacrifice sleep for things that may never happen again. So we sat there, the night dark and humid around us, with bottles of beer in front of us going along with our discussions. Over at the other bar, the band that was playing earlier had started packing up, and all we can hear were the noise of the people talking, laughing and drinking the night away.
“I realized that you don’t need to be friends with everyone,” she continued. I nodded slowly as I took a sip from my beer. “You just need a some people, outside of your family. I mean, you can be chatty and chummy with everyone you meet, but you only really need a core group of people. The ones I know and who know me and the ones I trust. And with them, I’ll be okay.”
“They’re the people you can run to anytime and won’t judge you.”
She smiled at me. “Exactly. And you won’t judge them, too. They’re the ones you would keep for life. The friendships you will put a lot of effort on.”
“The ones you’d call at three in the morning in the middle of a breakdown, or the ones you’d call first to celebrate with good news.”
“There’s one you’d call for financial advice, and another for love advice. And maybe another one when you have a stupid decision to do and they’ll remind you of the things you don’t need to do.”
“And they’d cry with you too. Or just let you cry until you’re all out.”
“Then they’d find a way to make you stop crying and make you laugh again.”
We laughed at this, because it was true.
“And they’ll be the first ones to tell you that you will be okay, even if you feel the furthest away from it.”
R, who sat on the other side of me, smiled. “My psych friend from college said that people don’t always need counselors or psychologists to help them feel better. Sometimes, all you need to make you feel better is a good set of friends.”
We sat in silence for a while as we let the words sink in. It was dark and humid, and the fan that whirred over our heads earlier that made us choose that table among the many tables in the bar had long been turned off. There were empty bottles of beer in front of us, some cigarettes (for them) and other knick-knacks (for me) from the day-long tour. It was so late into the night that it’s already considered early, and I was tired but also not so much. I sat there, thinking and feeling and being, and in a place 2,391.81 kilometers away from home, I smiled. Because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I already have my core people.
* * *
Good friendships are like breakfast. You think you’re too busy to eat breakfast, but then you find yourself exhausted and cranky halfway through the day, and discover that your attempt to save time totally backfired. In the same way, you can try to go it alone because you don’t have time or because your house is too messy to have people over, or because making new friends is like the very worst parts of dating. But halfway through a hard day or a hard week, you’ll realize in a flash that you’re breathtakingly lonely, and that the Christmas cards aren’t much company. Get up, make a phone call, buy a cheap ticket, open your front door.
Because there really is nothing like good friends, like the sounds of their laughter and the tones of their voices and the things they teach us in the quietest, smallest moments.
– Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist