Friend: Bestie, pal, amigo, BFF, buddy………….
However you say it it all means the same doesn’t it. So many different words just describe one thing. Friendship. But how many people are worth of the title. How many deserve to called a friend as oppose to a mere acquaintance?
Ever since I was young I have struggled to make and keep friends. I was always the girl on the outside looking in. Sure, I had a few close friends growing up. Not many though. My extreme shyness creating a wall around me neither I nor anyone else attempted to scale. I was fine with one to one’s, crowds made me worse as did people I really didn’t feel comfortable with. It made for some lonely times as a teenager.
My lack of social skills and an apparent frustration in the communication department saw any friends I did make drift away from me in true teenage fashion. Being left behind as my stubbornness increased and my awkwardness magnified. It was hard to take and a bitter pill to swallow. Yet I was better on my own I told myself.
Leaving school at 16 was my way of breaking from being the ‘quiet one’ and gave me the chance to be someone else. To increase my confidence and find a way to break down that wall and find some new friends and a new lease of life. Unfortunately I was given my first lesson in the real world in no less than 3 weeks into my first job. I remember ringing my mum crying that no one would speak to me and they had left me to work all day with no break and she told me to stick up for myself. That day I didn’t and stood humiliated as my assistant manager ridiculed me for not being able to stick up for myself. Word got round fast and soon people were sniggering behind my back.
The older ladies took me under their wing and slowly I came out of my shell. I learned how to ask for what I needed in work and even felt comfortable enough to eat in front of people. My confidence soared as I learnt my job and became a proper member of the team. It took a while and involved a lot of people leaving but I became happier.
That was now over 16 years ago and whilst I now appear confident on the outside, that young girl still exists inside me. That awkward with people feeling is still there. A simple conversation or hellos leave me tongue tied and embarrassed. The result being my social circle is really small and social life is pretty much non existent. This compacted with my anxiety at being with or around people and need for alone time and isolation doesn’t bode well for me. The friends I have made along the way few and far between. With many having long moved onto different circles leaving me behind.
Then I started blogging. My oldest and closest friend dipped her toes too years before me. I saw how she built herself an online community and I wondered if I could make one for myself too. But it seems, at first anyway, I couldn’t. The verbal awkwardness that had plagued my real life existence seeped into my online world too. My brain building that brick wall up again to a point where I want to interact with people but it physically wouldn’t let me. As if the words were stuck spinning round and round in my head like a washing machine. Only this cycle never stopped, ever.
Stuck and stumped I fell into some sort of daze for the longest time. I lost myself. Using all my metal capacity for my job and focusing on that alone. I needed to be bright and cheery at work everyday. I put on a performance any actor would be proud of. But at home, for me there was nothing left. I shut myself off. Let the isolation in voluntarily and succumbed to it wholly.
Then slowly something changed. Only recently. I started throwing myself into the online world. I interacted with people I don’t know and slowly I found myself others to talk to. Some like me who struggle with interaction and some who are so friendly you can’t help but join in anyway. Things changed. I changed.
Recently I have been facing some real problems and only a few months ago this would have floored me, the black clouds would have descended and the depression set in. But this time was different. There were people there. For me. They listened. They talked and it helped more than they could ever have thought. And even though we have never met. They really are true friends and I couldn’t be happier!
Arriving home one day to this beautiful bunch of flowers reminded me how much I have missed having the friendship circle and as cliched as it sounds it filled a space in my life I never knew needed filling and given me confidence I would never have had before. So this is to my new friends, my new life and my new future, Thank You!