Just as we are: taking a chance on friendship

Stroll with Nicole

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Nicole Law says it’s essential to ‘go deep’ with a friend.

It has been a tiring day at work and I am finally ready to knock off. I scan my phone for messages and am surprised to see a name I haven’t seen for a while flash across the screen. I open the message and read 

“Nicole, can I call you for a while?”

I wasn’t expecting to hear from my friend – the one who always had her life sorted out, who seemed to have everything hanging in perfect balance. I feel the fatigue setting in but I dial her number.

Video call

She picks up almost immediately, her tear-stained face filling up the small Zoom screen. I pull down my mask and say, “I’m here to listen, what’s the matter?”

The next hour, I do nothing but listen as she recounts her struggles. As drowsy as I was after an intense day, I knew my friend needed me. So with a few swigs from my water bottle, I pressed on and listened. At the end of our call, she thanks me and she smiles weakly, her shoulders relaxed. It’s like an invisible load has been lifted off her shoulders. I remind her to try to get to sleep early and send her a goodnight text, with a voice message attached. 

I put my phone away and close my eyes. I am tired, yet somehow my spirit feels lighter.

I reflect on how often I have not made time for the important relationships in my life and feel grateful that my friend was not alone that night in her time of need. 

I had always thought she was a sociable girl with an extensive network of friends. We didn’t speak much in real life and lived very different lives. Yet, something that night drew us together into a hastily-created private Zoom room.

It’s often said one can still feel alone in a crowd. That probably happens when a person is not seen or loved for who he or she is. This struck a dull chord in my heart – I have glimpsed this before … people hungering for this deep connection, to be embraced and to be understood. There is a fine line between superficial connections where we bond over the latest craze, and the messy friendships that see us through our 3am quarter-life realisations.

I have had my fair share of the former and come away feeling a similar sense of emptiness, drowning in conversations that barely scratch the surface of what it means to be in a true relationship.

To relate means far more than knowing a list of facts about each other or trading stories, it goes to the heart of our deeper motivations, our insecurities hidden from the light, to the worries that keep us up at night. 

We baulk at the idea of sharing our deepest struggles with people who do not know us and for good reason – not everyone has earned the right to know us with such depth. True relationship with another is built on trust and the establishment of a safe space that engenders sharing of the deepest parts of ourselves. Even the seemingly perfect individuals I know have worries that they keep private; it is just a question of who we open ourselves up to. 

That night, I saw my friend for who she really was and she let herself be seen. It takes vulnerability and courage and trust on both sides, as if we are in a secure embrace, each holding space for one another. 

Heart

Going deeper into how we relate to one another requires hard and ‘heart’ work, and sometimes a little bit of patience and generosity. 

Friendships have ended, new ones have started, and some have stood the test of time. Our friendships are spaces in which we need not present a facade or a game-face; our friends know and love us for the goofy and often damaged people we are, quirks and all.  

Sometimes we just need a reminder that we are very much seen and loved … just as we are. 

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