We’re complex creatures aren’t we? We go through school being fickle, making friends, breaking up, making new friends and getting in with groups.
And then there are those who try to be a little bit different, as I did, and choosing to never really being part of a group, but rather just coasting through school making individual friends here and there.
We grow up, meet new friends along the way and we lose a couple here and there. Then there’s the steadfast friends that we keep throughout our lives; we might not see them much, but we know they’ll always be there and when we do catch up, we pick up where we left off.
Finally there are those people who meet a best friend at primary school – and 40 years later, they’re still best friends. How wonderful for this to happen; sadly, it never happened to me as I pretty much chose to make friends with everyone and anyone.
I was popular at school but probably for all the wrong reasons. I liked to make people laugh and I was the class clown. I was also a people pleaser; as long as I was doing things to keep others happy (which included doing dares or playing pranks), I was happy to go along with it. But all I ever wanted was that special one friend who was on my wavelength. And for most of my life, that’s always been the case.
Well, I tell a little white lie. I did meet someone who was to become my best friend when I was 15; yes, I admit it was a little later than I would have liked, but better late than never. And this person was to stay my best friend for many years. But the truth was we drifted apart as we got older. Our lifestyles couldn’t have been more different – and equally our aims, ambitions and what we generally wanted out of life couldn’t have been more different. And whilst this shouldn’t have been the catalyst for us drifting apart, sadly it was.
Friendships for all occasions
I get on with most types of people and I take a real interest in getting to know others – almost as if I’m looking for that something that we might bond over. I’ve been lucky enough to meet plenty of people along the way, particularly in the last 12 months where I’ve changed career and met people through my cancer care.
And don’t get me wrong; I’ve got plenty of friends: those who I call to put me in a positive mind frame, friends who I talk to for business advice, those who I call just to have a good old laugh, friends I confide in…the list goes on.
And then there’s friends for different occasions – the ‘be silly’ friends – those that I can just let my hair down with; the friends I can just talk to and never tire of talking to – all day long; friends that I discuss parenting with; occasional friends who I don’t see often but we pick up where we left off; and, dare I say it, friends that I should have said ‘adios’ to many years ago.
Some of my friends are draining; of course I would never tell them that, but being a self-diagnosed empath, I tend to take on people’s emotions, which can leave me feeling lethargic. It’s the same with friends that talk and talk and talk…. Sometimes the noise just gets to me (like when you’re in a club and can’t hear yourself ‘think’). It has to be small doses otherwise I end up just switching off from what they’re saying.
In fact, it’s one of VIP’s bugbears about me. He’ll be talking and realise that I’m miles away and never heard a word of what he’s just said but I think he’s used to it now! Being easily distracted by my thoughts has got me in trouble before, and as I’ve got older, I think I’ve got worse. I find that I really have to concentrate, focus and be in the right frame of mind to have long, meaningful conversations. Talk about the attention span of a fish!
Moving on to other friends …there are those that offer advice when you don’t want it, but they feel it’s their duty to ‘sort you out’. Instead you just want a shoulder to cry on or an ear to bend. I’m guilty of this myself, thinking that I can solve everyone’s problems – and I’m sure people get fed up of me trying to come up with solutions, but really it’s never that straight forward is it?
However, what I haven’t had is that one best friend that I turn to for everything. Just, you know, a real best friend. You hear about friendships that are rock solid; women that have known each other for most of their lives, have been through thick and thin together, always know what the other is thinking; are super supportive of each other; and would be there in a heartbeat if you called them at 3 o’clock in the morning just to have a chat because you can’t sleep. That sort of friend.
I’ve met some women later on in life and often I’ve thought they could be ‘the bestie’ – in fact, this has happened quite a lot in the last year, but then in the clear light of day there’ll be a reason why having this person as a ‘bestie’ just wouldn’t work – it could be that things like their religious or political beliefs drives the majority of their conversation and behaviour; I steer well clear of both these subjects as a matter of course as I can see what differences of opinion can do to friends and families. Or it could be that I think I’ve got them sussed and then they throw in a curve ball and I realise that we’re just not on the same wavelength. Or it could simply be down to the geographical location and being miles apart.
The perfect best friend
So, as I don’t actually have a real life bestie, but rather a small group of close friends that I rely on, I thought about what a ‘bestie’ would be like if I could make one up. And here’s what I’ve come up with….
Meet Antonia. She’s in her forties but going on 21. Her goal in life is to work hard and play hard – and have as much fun along the way as she can.
She’s spontaneous and fun loving and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She prefers staying in rather than going out, but enjoys socialising with her nearest and dearest – and that includes things like interior shopping, afternoon tea and er….eating cake.
Antonia is an adrenaline junkie. She’ll give anything a go – from jumping out of planes and swimming with sharks, to theme park thrill rides, diving and white-water rafting. You name it, she’s most likely done it. And she encourages others to ‘live life’ to the max.
She’s got a slapstick sense of humour, enjoys laughing at herself and encourages others to laugh at themselves too. She’ll go out of her way to make you laugh, and loves the idea of ‘laughing through life’.
If you tell Antonia that she can’t do something, she’ll go out of her way to prove to you that she can. She’s really headstrong, refuses to see herself as a victim (whatever life throws at her) and believes in ‘finding a way rather than finding an excuse’.
When it comes to business, Antonia likes to think (and dream) big. She’s realistic in her business approach but likes to take risks from time to time and play devil’s advocate. She’s successful at whatever she puts her mind to and therefore inspirational. She loves helping others succeed and is really passionate about making a difference to people’s lives.
She’s naturally caring and is emotionally intelligent, as well as being clued up about most things. You know if you had her on your team in a pub quiz, you’re likely to be ‘quids in’. She’s a firm believer in bettering herself – both at work and at play and reads a lot of self-help and business books to develop herself personally and professionally.
There’s no grey area with Antonia – she’s very black and white. What you see is what you get. Although she’s quite ‘matter of fact and straight to the point’, she’s sensitive enough to know when being diplomatic works best. Despite her political or religious interests or views, she never discusses them with people, preferring instead to take the view that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and some things are better left unsaid.
Antonia is a non-confrontational type of person, but equally she’s not a push over. If she’s upset with a situation, she won’t cause a scene; she’s intelligent enough to know that speaking firming but politely to whom she has a gripe with works much better than a ‘telling off’. She’ll calmly explain why she’s upset and will always come up with a suggestion or solution to rectifying the problem. Having said that, she’s hugely defensive of her friends and will fight tooth and nail for them in whichever way she can. She calls often just to ‘check in’ on friends and genuinely cares about their wellbeing. She’s not scared to let her guard down in front of others, show you her weaknesses or vulnerabilities and wears her heart on her sleeve.
What I love about Antonia is that when she says she’s going to do something, you know she’d walk over hot coals to get it done. She won’t make excuses; she just gets on and gets things done. There are no second guesses with Antonia and no reading between the lines. She’s honest, upfront and refreshing – a bit like my mum (or northerners in general!)
Antonia is a very positive person; you’ll rarely find her complaining or moaning – only about (a) trivial things that she needs to get off her chest or (b) something that is troubling her or is really important to her. Antonia will never make a big deal out of doing things. She rarely complains that life is hard, that she can’t cope with how many emails/phone calls, sales stuff she has to do – she just gets on and does it. She’s focused, determined and energised. You can’t help but let her positivity rub off on you – and if you’re blue, within minutes she’ll have you forgetting your woes.
If you ever ask Antonia for help, she’ll move heaven and earth to get it done for you – that’s the sort of kind, caring and loving person she is, often to the detriment of herself or her own work/life balance. Antonia won’t moan about her finances – she’ll know that only she can control them and will live according to her financial state (most of the time) – and she’ll encourage me to do the same. She’ll explain that everyone can get out of their financial rut if they learned to be better at managing their money and not buying trivial things that are not needed.
In her spare time Antonia loves to bake. She’s creative and enjoys coming up with new designs, new concoctions and great tasting bakes. She also likes upcycling, crafting and volunteering her time to helping others – either for a charity or just helping people wherever possible; she gets the biggest satisfaction from giving and helping others. She is also very grateful for what she has, is a firm believer in practicing mindfulness and gratitude and loves nothing more than spending time with her family (and me of course!).
Finally, Antonia is a fairly laid back soul; she realises that life is what you make of it, and that it’s much better to let the little things go instead of creating a fuss. Because when it comes down to it, the little mishaps, annoyances or frustrations will always be there. Her motto is ‘accept it, deal with it and move on’ because there are so many other people in far worse situations or circumstances. Despite being laid back, Antonia isn’t late for anything; she understands that punctuality is a refection of how you see others and is related to respect.
Antonia grew up being relatively poor ie she wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth and knows what it was like to share toys or having second best growing up. Because now she really appreciates what she has and is a very generous person and would happily share things with her friends. Material goods are not important to her; instead she surrounds herself with people that seek positivity, laughter, love and contentment. People who are grateful for their lives, whatever their circumstance. Antonia always looks for the silver lining and when you can’t see it, grabs your hand and guides you every step of the way until you do.
Having just written the above (and then rereading it), I’ve realised that the person I’ve been describing above is the person that I aspire to be. Some of Antonia’s qualities I think I posses, but there are many that I already get to admire in my circle of friends and I want to emulate that myself.
So basically what I’m actually saying is that I want my ‘perfect self’ as a best friend. Well, that would be a piece of cake wouldn’t it?! I know how I work, how I think, what makes me laugh, what frustrates me and inspires me, what I crave and how I feel all of the time.
But then I’m wondering if ‘playing safe’ might be a bit boring and predictable? I mean, if we were all the same, wouldn’t life be a bit boring? And then the other side of me disagrees and I feel like life should be easier as you get older. Having been forced to take a long hard look at my life recently, I’ve realised one thing: Life really is what you make it; no one can feel inferior without your consent so you can choose to be happy, positive, happy go lucky and always see the best in someone. Or you can choose to look for the dark cloud, be pessimistic or always have a moan about something – but if you choose the latter, be warned, I’m staying well away – to protect my own sanity as much as anything!
So, despite going through life without that one ‘bestie’ to depend on, I think I’ve actually got the best deal – friends for all occasions and all eventualities. I choose these friends very carefully – they know I’m always there for them and they’re always there for me – and for that I’m truly grateful.
Do you have a best friend or like me a select few close friends? And what are their best qualities?
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