How to be (or try your best to be) a good friend

Being a friend is one of the most important roles we have in life. Without friends life wouldn’t just be boring-we wouldn’t have anyone to laugh about all the stupid mistakes we make, ring up when we feel worthless and pour out our hearts to and share our passion for XYZ.

We make friends with people for a number of reasons. Proximity: the first person we see on our first day at school at the sandtray can often turn out to be our best friend just for that reason. Then there’s a shared interest or passion. The main point is that we have a choice with friends, unlike family. Though, some people don’t seem to realise this-me being one of them for a long time.

At age sixteen experienced is one thing I am not. However, I’ve had enough of them to know a fair bit about friends. And I can honestly say that I am not a bad friend. So here are my five tips based on what I have learned about friendship.

  1. Honesty. This isn’t just important. This quality can tell you straight away whether or not you should be friends with someone in the first place. Liars aren’t friends. The issue is being able tell if someone is lying. It took me two years to realise that my ‘best friend’ when I was ten was manipulating me and I was allowing her to bully me because I believed her lies. I let her tell me that I wasn’t clever or good enough and that knock to my confidence still affects me today. I was in such a close friendship with her that even when I had recognised that I was unhappy, I took a long time to break off our friendship. But it was worth all the tears and upset because now I have a much better set of friends. My closest friends are the ones I can trust to be open with and we are just honest with each other. I mean, you don’t have to tell them everything. Some things you have the right to keep to yourself. Most of my friends don’t know that I had counselling a few months ago. My family doesn’t even know that either. That doesn’t mean I’m a liar, though. That is my personal information to share with the people that I want to tell and hide from those that I don’t. My point is that I believe the importance in honesty is not spilling your every last secret to the other person, but feeling comfortable and happy enough to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas freely.
  2. YOU. A friendship is a relationship between two people and, of course, one of them is you. So be you! I don’t have much confidence, but I am not afraid to be me. I’ll be honest, sometimes I get tired of being me and I wish that I could be someone else, but I can’t and I just have to embrace my personality. Then again, if you’re in a pretty bad mood it doesn’t mean you should feel like you have to act happy for your friends. Being yourself is also being human, meaning you are allowed to have days where you feel terrible. Friends are there to help you through those times.
  3. THEM. And of course, there is the friend. Don’t be so wrapped up in your own life, problems and drama that you forget about theirs. There must be a balance of support between both friends for the relationship to work. So let them be THEM. They are allowed to be upset, angry, cranky just like you are. And even if you don’t quite understand how they feel, they need you to be there.This is really important because it’s easy to disregard something just because it doesn’t make any sense to us. But just showing the support they need is sometimes enough to help you friend. Though, you must know them and want to know about them. Tiny things build up, so let them tell you about their grandma’s favourite type of tea or their secret ability to ride a unicycle. You don’t have to remember every detail, but how can you expect to be friends with someone if you aren’t interested in them? This is what I find key in making new friends. Trying to ask questions about them is so much more effective than waffling about yourself. Don’t turn into the person that stops listening until it’s their turn to talk! Like I said, it’s all about balance.
  4. Fun. Relationships can be complicated, difficult and just plain confusing; especially during the teenage years when there’s bitching, gossiping, immaturity, hormones, drama and all that jazz. However, we mustn’t forget that friendship IS about having fun as well as the mutual support. Often having fun comes from just being yourself and letting go. A lot of people seem to think that those who laugh loudest and act craziest have the most fun. Well, I don’t think that’s true at all. Most of the times I’ve had a load of fun have been simply hanging out, walking to and from school and on the odd occasion through a phone call. We didn’t need alcohol. We didn’t have to do anything particularly silly or stupid. We didn’t need to force it. We simply made jokes or chatted or played twister (yes, I know I’m sixteen years old. Yes, it’s still acceptable to play twister, I don’t care what anyone thinks. ) and had some fun.
  5. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Don’t beat yourself up about it. People change, things change, life moves on. Some friends will stick with you and some won’t-just like you do or don’t for others. Seeing people around school that I was once very close to laughing and talking with people I don’t even know is hard, especially when I wonder how things might have been different if I  hadn’t let our friendship fizzle out. But then I have to remind myself of all the great things I could have missed if that had happened. So the most important thing I believe to remember is to make sure you hold on to the friends you really love, and the for the ones you lose, there will be more to make. And even if you fight and do things you regret, there are ways back if they were (are!) a true friend. I called up my friend who now goes to a different school today. I haven’t seen her in person since October and I couldn’t help feeling kind of sad that I don’t see her everyday like I used to. I don’t make silly doodles in the margins of her notebooks or flick through mine to find hers. She doesn’t sit with me at lunchtime and laugh at the way I eat a panini. We don’t look across the room at each other and laugh at something only we find funny. But that’s okay. I mean, there isn’t going to be someone to do all of those things and be the brilliant person and friend the way she had, but there will be new people that do other things. One day I will look back and there will be so many memories and little things people do that makes part of their personality and part of their friendship with me that I won’t remember them all. That cheers me up.

In the end,the key to friendship and being a good friend is not through a set of rules. There is no recipe (and even if it was, it would be a souffle or something pretty darn hard!).

When you’re little your parents and schoolteachers try to teach you to be kind and respectful and polite. But they don’t teach you how to deal with the huge number of assholes you come across in your life. You have to make your way past them and learn to let go of them when you realise that no, they are not friends, they are simply assholes.

Even when you find the best friend or the group of friends you love, no one tells you that puberty and parents deciding to move across the country and just change in general have chosen to shake everything up like a tacky snowglobe. You land on the ground and have to start rebuilding again, whether it’s your fault or not. And that’s before people start dating. No one warns you that you are going to end up being the fifth wheel on what should be a double date; or that you and your best friend would have a crush on the same person. Or even that you might have to face heartbreak alone.

Friendship is harder than it seems. Often harder than romantic relationships. But I know that it’s worth it. It’s worth all of the tears, all of the lonely years and all of the pain because one day you look around and every face you see you trust and love.

This was a (late, sorry!) response to the writing challenge for Writing 201

Frogs Wear Dungarees-according to eleven year old me

A little frog smiles through the shine of fired clay.It’s blotchy patches of green from my eleven year old, inexperienced hands. My frog friend is a girl- I can tell from her black eyelashes-and she sits in floral dungarees,each flower a cluster of blobbed purple dots.For five years she has been sitting, smiling at me, resting on my desk. Though her big black eyes might seem vacant to some, she has seen plenty.She has watched me through the moves, the drama, the hours of work. My body growing from a lanky little girl to the beginning of a young woman.  She has seen my every emotion as I sit in my chair. Even all of my amazing performances as I belt out a bit of of Beyonce. And through all these years she has stuck by me with just books and paper and the odd misplaced hair pin as her friends.

Dust has collected. In each groove of her little hollow body, pockets of it lodge. As I stare into the seemingly empty eyes, I wonder why I chose a frog. I hate frogs-real frogs. They’re all slimy and gross and jumpy. But this little hollow creature looks so happy and cute, innocent.

A Tiny Little Ring, A Tiny Little Part of Me

Writing 101: The Things We Treasure 

What is my most prized possession?

Since most of my challenge responses are related to childhood, my first thought was my teddy bear. I’ve had him since I was two or three and despite my growth and realization that he isn’t actually that big, he goes by the name of Big Bear. But if I’m honest, I would  be able to sleep without him. I have, a few times. His awkward size meant there wasn’t room in suitcase or rucksacks on trips. That doesn’t mean I don’t want him anymore. I hope to one day pass him on to my son or daughter, however tatty and old.

So, after thinking more deeply, I think that my most prized possession in terms of what it means to me is my ring. Apart from this one ring, I only have a couple of rings, which I don’t wear very often. This ring is a tiny little gold plated one with a heart shaped aquamarine stone, for my astrological sign-Aries. My mum bought it for me when I was thirteen, I think. Ever since she gave it to me, I have always worn it. When I can’t find it after I took it off to get a shower or bath, I have a sudden sense of panic. It seems to have thinned slightly and when I’m not wearing it, it could be mistaken for one of those kiddie’s toy rings.

But the reason this ring means so much to me, is that it reminds me that I am different, and that it’s a good thing. I feel like, even though I don’t really believe in horoscopes (but sometimes it’s fun to see what they say!) embracing a part of me, however tiny, and wearing it everyday makes me feel unique and special.

This ring will always remind my of my mum. And I know that in the future when I’m miles and miles away, studying at university, travelling, living with a partner, building a new family and whatever else I will be reminded of her and how much I love her every time I see the ring.

I have problems with marriage. Having divorced parents and watching the effects of so many failed marriages, I am wary of it. And thinking of rings, symbolizing a commitment, kind of scares me. I have a lot to say about marriage, so I’ll come back to that another time. But what I like about my ring is that it doesn’t have so much meaning and worth at risk. I’ll never have to give back this ring. I’ll never have to take it off to deceive someone (not that I would ever cheat) It can mean a lot to me, or it could seem pretty to me. Its up to me.

Another great thing about this ring is that it’s more likely to stay with me. People grow out of clothes, lose old toys, things get stolen. My hands might get a little wrinkly-or a lot-but they will still wear the ring. I hope that one day my little boy or girl, or one of my grandchildren will point at my ring and ask ‘where did you get that’? And I will tell them how I got it and how I’ve carried it through my life. It’s been through all of the things I have faced. It’s only tiny, and only represents a tiny part of me, but it means the world to me. Thanks, mum, for reminding me that I’m different.

.

No Dolly… but a little grey cat

Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

Once I felt I was unpacked, and a pathway to my bed had been made through all my junk, I stumbled across a small cardboard box. It had been pushed into a corner and forgotten. Tiredness had begun to creep up on me, in gradual yawns and aches. The day had been long and filled with change. I only noticed as I pulled the curtains shut that the sun had set, had gone down hours ago.

Peeling back the brown tape, I felt a wave of confusion sweep over me; though it was mixed with the feeling of receiving a gift, as I had no remembrance of the contents of the peculiar box. There, at the top was the little toy cat, with its grey and white fur and tiny pink nose. Guiltily, I plucked her out of the box and stroked the soft fur. How could I forget you? 

My best friend had bought her for me years ago. I remembered her smile as sunny as her golden hair and her contagious laugh. Almost instantly, I was transported back to her garden and we were six again. Giggling on her swing set, bare feet tickled by the dry grass. She told me as if I didn’t already know-as if she hadn’t told me a thousand times before-that she wanted to be a vet. And I told her that unfortunately I’d given up my dream of becoming a pop star. Then we smiled for the photo that I’d keep for years and years.

I thought as I looked at the dark glass eyes shining at me. I had never given this poor little cat a name. I shall call you Megan, and I’ll never forget you again. 

Was that really four years ago?

Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths

Branches and leaves, spiders and ants.I’d found a little haven, tucked behind the shed. A faded plastic ledge offered a small, but welcoming seat to be concealed by the thick tangles of bush.

Past the shed and it’s belly of books-which seemed to always be over fed- was the tiny garden. A circle of grass and pebbles and a neat little stack of potted herbs. Only just enough space for three cartwheels. Maybe a couple of handstands.

The sloped roof with my bedroom window jutting out mirrored the rest of the street. Inside, my cabin bed only just managed to fit in my minute room, with a little space on the floor for me to lie and contemplate life and existence. One of my favourite twelve year old pastimes.

My bedroom used to belong to a baby, with thick wooden shelves, designed for nursery rhyme books, and little wardrobe handles to match the walls, which had been painted over in lilac at my request.

My next favourite place was the loft. Though horribly cold, it was the only place where I could get lost for hours with my dollhouse. No, I didn’t ‘play’. I decorated, I planned, I organised, until I would have been the top interior designer of the doll house world.

The long, laminated floors of the living room, although unknown to my twelve year old self, would be the space for hours of blanket gliding at Christmas time. And the front garden home to a trampoline, which would eventually be eaten away by ice and rust. Years of laughing in the dining room at my sister’s face covered in spaghetti. The wall of photos smiling at me in black and white would accumulate more and more of my smiles.

In the small village, a bus journey from the world of school; a walk from my best friend’s house and a an even shorter walk to the shop. And in the shop was over-priced chocolate. Chocolate!

Birthday Cake and Eating Whole Pizzas

I’m finding it hard to think of a particular meal that I really enjoyed. I am conscious of trying not to sound like I have (or have had) eating disorders, because I haven’t, but I’ve never really been into food the way most people are. Whenever I am anxious or stressed, the first problem I have is a loss of appetite. Even when I am happy and healthy, I never eat much-I’ve always had a small appetite. It is only on the odd occasion where I can finish a whole pizza on my own and shout ‘Yeah! I just ate a whole pizza!” Of course, I like treats like chocolate and cake, though.

So, I’d probably have to say my favourite childhood food was birthday cake. That smell of blown-out candles triggers my memory to relive the moments of celebration, and party hats, the smiling faces of friends and family. Every time I look through my photo albums, I always stop for longer at the picture of me and my grandpa at my sixth or seventh birthday and smile. We are so happy in that moment. It almost makes me sad to think about how long ago that photo was taken; so much has changed since then.

When I think about birthday cakes, the image of my little sister’s face slathered in chocolate icing appears in my mind. And with it, her wide pearly grin. I think of my mum and all those shopping trips for party food (and obviously, the big cake), all the setting up of the living room. For me, my brother and sister, she must have lit thousands of candles over the years. Now I remember her in every memory, always busy helping make that memory special, I feel that I was never grateful enough for everything she did.

Thanks Mum, for nearly seventeen birthday cakes and so much more.

After-school Sherbet

Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

Clusters of schoolchildren swamped in the greens, blues, blacks and whites of their uniform huddle around the string of shops. The buzz of chatter is like the low-pitched rumble of a swarm of bees. Sherbet-coated smiles reveal blue-tinged tongues and the children delve into their edible treasures. Bikes lie at awkward angles, looking almost broken, awaiting their owners’ return. But as the crescendo of chatter arrives, bikes are forgotten amid the gossip. A few slumped shoulders enter the shop alone. Probably looking for something to perk up their senses. Tired, or sad, lonely or just alone, the contrast between their solitary silence and the buzz of buddies slices the groups apart.

Lips are licked, blue faded from tongues, and an abrupt urgency arises. Fluttering, the crowds disperse. Bikes regain their pose as noble steeds to the green-shirted gentlemen. Thoughts of tea and homework and football practice emerge in the young minds, quickening their pace. And within minutes the clusters are gone. The shops look bare with just a sparse collection of passers-by. Weary signs flop from age and posters on the windows tremble in the breeze.

Stop reading if you don’t like cheesecake!

You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story?

Who am I really?

I am a teenager trying to grip hold of the little girl inside me that is gradually drifting away; and cowering away from womanhood that looms ahead. Here is my story.

I was born in Chester and it wasn’t long until my parents divorced, when I was age four. It’s not the divorce that I remember, or that hurt me-it was what came after it, and what still goes on now. Yes, my dad cheated. And in short, I am still not fully okay with this.

But young four year old me was protected for some time by naivety. As I grew up, moving house to places across England, I developed into a shy girl. I went through a series of best friends, who left me, or were left by me, who turned out to be bullies or just drifted from. While the bullying and the anxiety gnawed away at me, I was too lost in my shell to realize that one day those things would make me stronger. And over the years, I have developed, as they say, a thicker skin.

More recently I have been through more, and being aware and unprotected by the cocoon of innocence and naivety, it has affected me more deeply. I have lost people I loved. I have met new people I hated. I have spent months trying to work out how to deal with the effects of these things. One of the best ways was through writing. Even now, speaking daunts me, so writing has always been my strong point because it such a liberating way to express your thoughts and emotions.

I think I am allowed to call myself a dark horse, because I always seem to surprise some people when I succeed. Either because I was working hard, but so quietly they forgot about me, or they just never saw me as competition. But my GCSE results are an example of something I have worked very hard to be proud of.

A select group of friends know what I am like when I am being myself, and not the quiet me. Then, I am crazy, silly sometimes, but still as caring-I hope-as usual. If you want to get on my good side, I love oreos, cheesecake and chocolate. I am mildly offended when people say they don’t like any of these divine creations.

Hobby-wise, I like to read, write poetry, walk or jog, listen to music, watch action films, make cards and sometimes draw, watch youtubers, go to concerts/festivals, sing in a choir, hide at the back in the school production, hold my rabbits, have gorgeous lie-ins and be an idiot with my friends.

I am trying very hard not to take life too seriously. (That sounds a bit like an oxymoron…) There’s not much left to know about me! I like honest people; honesty is the most important quality  to me. Oh and I’m sixteen years old, studying A-levels and hoping to go to uni and then become a writer of some sort. And, despite the English rain and other disappointments in my life, I have to say it’s a pretty good life.

Dolly

Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

Lost, never to be recovered or found again;only to be discovered by the next inhabitant of my bedroom, now long gone. Miles and miles away, that old house is now just a memory. Yet, her soft ringlets, her dainty cheeks and the crisp tune she would spin ever so gracefully to was so vivid in my mind. Another of the many items swallowed in the midst of moving house, dolly and I were never to be reunited.

Small fingers too young to help, always shooed away from packing; I never got to say goodbye. So, I sat in the car, wedged between cardboard boxes of kitchen utensils, full of trust that we had brought everything. And I tucked my unassuming little self into the strange new bed in the strange new house, filled with new spaces for the monsters of nightmares to appear.

Dolly was long forgotten in the whir of this new life. Her tune was beginning to fade from my ears. It was only as the waters began to calm, and I had discovered all that there was to discover, that I noticed. Poor dolly had been gone for weeks, left lying on the floor in a cupboard somewhere too far. Or worse-broken into dainty pieces, scattered in places where no one could ever love her again.

And as I looked into my mother’s eyes with pitiful sorrow, she looked back at me with eyes full of sadness and guilt. We just stared at each other for some moments. I knew that screaming and demanding was useless, and I knew there was nothing either of us could do. Only wonder and yearn over the growing collection of loved items that were ‘lost in the move’. My little heart filled with sadness as I thought of these items that once meant so much to one, being found and discarded as rubbish by another.

But gradually, I forgot dolly, the way buried my imaginary friends to make room for real ones. The distant memory, now in small fragments like her fragile face, and remnants of the tune is all I have left of her.