in the end

Last summer, before the start of my final year of university, I found this old print in a pile of ones similar to it in an old garage. I liked the size of it and its old fashioned text. Dark blue filled the background while flowers of red and orange transformed into a post on which sat a birdhouse. I liked the poem, its old school wisdom and rhyme. 

A Friend Like You
It's sweet to be remembered When you're feeling sad and blue, It's sweet to be remembered By a dear good friend like you; It sets the pulse a throbbing And it cheers the heart up too, And it makes life worth the living To have a friend like you.

I took it back with me to university and hung it on my wall next to other paintings and photos. I hadn't read that poem since; fate would have it that the most important lesson I learned from that first-last semester was about friendship. 
That old poem I had found months earlier was preparing me for the realization that what I had conceived and expected of friendship wasn't really what it is, nor what I truly need it to be. 

Growing up, I never had a best friend, rather several groups of friends that fulfilled interests or aspects of my personality. I loved the variety of thought and expression offered to me through these groups. I was able to participate with these friends of mine and then retreat when needed, having time alone to think and recharge. It wouldn't be far from the truth to say that in some capacity my relationships were for the benefit of myself. A little give for a lot of take. 

The friendships I've formed at university are surprises to me. Inspired moments to say a "hello" have paved the way for deep and meaningful friendships. If I'd been searching for these friends, I'd never have found them. These women who've become my dearest mates, each unique in their interests, goals, and perspectives, have shaped me, molded out a place of soulful connection, and filed down some of my rough edges (there's still plenty there though, believe me). But the biggest lesson I've learned this past semester from these women is how much I stink at being a friend. I didn't learn of this from their words or actions; all of them have only ever shown me endless love and support. I discovered this part of myself through my own confrontation with the sweet and sour aspect of my personality: my idealism. 

I see most things as I think they ought to be or could be. And while this type of lens helps me to both empathize with and challenge those around me, it can also create false expectations within my own personal life. 

During the middle of this past semester, I realized that I was squeezing my friendships to death. Several of my dear friends are considering moving abroad after graduation. I, on the other hand, have absolutely no idea what I will be doing. I found myself anxious and fearful, and so for the first few months I chalked it up to the "unknown future". One day after class, I found myself opening up to my friend A about my subconscious worry and fear. Without any hesitation, she said, "well, my mentor told me once that you have to love deeply and hold loosely."

Love deeply and hold loosely.

At that moment I could see that I was holding on too tightly to the status quo, to the style and structure that my friendships have been. I understood that I was not fearful of where I would go or what job I would have after graduation. No. I was frightened about whether or not I would still be friends with these women. I was worried about the impact such distances would have on what we'd already formed. I know myself and the difficulty I have with communicating through technology. I dislike texting. I dislike talking on the phone. The physical presence of those I love is important to me and I was having the revelation that that kind of quality time might not always be part of these friendships in the future. 

A's simple phrase caused me to acknowledge how selfish I had been over the past four years with my friendships. How I would often choose to be a hermit; how I'd neglect to participate in parts of their life or forget to check in with them on how they were doing. A's phrase also brought to mind a story I once heard Jordan Peterson tell. A little girl was given a bunny for her birthday. She loved that little bunny so much that she squeezed it to death on the ride home from the pet store.

By holding on too tightly to the things we love and cherish, we end up killing them, and parts of ourselves too. 

I've realized since that conversation that I don't know what course each of our lives may take. None of us know, really. But if I love these girls and cherish their friendship, I must learn to let go of my expectations, my comfortability, and aspects of my nature. To love them deeply, I will have to hold them loosely.  

In the end, love is all about giving and letting go; not asking anything in return but embracing each moment that is offered. And so, in this last semester, I hope to do that. To love deeply and hold loosely. To practice the aspects of friendship that I find difficult or unnatural. To give more and take less.  

"We need, in love, to practice only this:
letting each other go. For holding on
comes easily; we do not need to learn it."
- Rainer Maria Rilke


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