This is a heavy subject for such a light-mattered blog, and since I believe there will be sequels (as years go by, almost everything changes around and inside us, and this usually happens together), I will make this Chapter 1. I think many of us struggle in this field, whether it’s about justifying ourselves, or because of disappointments; I would welcome comments from friends and strangers alike. Truth be told, I would be grateful for some moral support and encouragement. From time to time it is by strong belief that my being an Aquarius is not tantamount to being a good friend.
I would like to go back in time, all the way to kindergarten. My first friends came from that community. Little girls of whom I only remember the hair colour. In primary school the widening of my circle of interests widened my circle of friends, too. I remember two girls very distinctly, that is to say, three. Irina was a pretty, sassy and slightly lecherous girl with long, black braided hair; she taught me a lot about the world and we often ate salami from Sibiu, which at the time was a delicacy in Romania. We played a lot outdoors, she was a great runner and was always picked for group games; the boys adored her, they sensed the archetypal woman in her. Elizabeta was more refined, but also a truly Romanian girl, one of the smartest in our class, and she ran like a gazelle, graciously, softly. Claudia was a real country-girl but endlessly loveable. I lost touch with them when my family emigrated to Hungary. I wonder if they ever think of me…
In Budapest, everything changed. My heart’s desire was granted: I grew up. The teen age hit me hard with all its glory and doom, I was struggling with my weight, with my acne, with my glasses, and the sense of being an outcast I had experienced in the last two years of primary school here, as well as high school. I was always very reserved, I was the odd girl out due to my height (5′ 9″) when in all honesty I’d rather have disappeared from the entire world… and so, I always walked with a slightly hunched back. My shyness blomed until the age of eighteen, due to the intimidating social life of my older brothers – as well as the fact that I considered every girl around me prettier, and smarter. Sadly, the boys concurred. (I know now that it was my lack of confidence that triggered the refusals and the loneliness. They were neither prettier, nor smarter than me. They were only able to open up and they were brave enough to live.) At the end of primary school I had a friend whom I had met at the Refugee camp in Békéscsaba; her family had arrived from Nagyvárad, mine from Bucuresti. We ended up in the same high school and we have been keeping touch ever since, with shorter or longer breaks in between.
High school brought a few honest, beautiful friendships together with their hitches and initial hardships. In the beginning, these were mere encounters between misunderstood and mocked-at souls, and then, as we stepped out of the shadow or the institution and our class, we found our own voices and were able to open our hearts to each other. We looked upon each other as human beings in our own rights; years passed, relationships came, as well as other friendships, changes and pain, and of course, joy. We could talk about almost everything.
I made some friendships during my university years, too. I remember a lot of faces, names. Some of them I remember very sharply, there are even a few with whom I meet occasionally. To my greatest joy, there are some who came back into my life only recently.
And here ends the part where I discuss relationships which are traditionally accepted by society. Although… these days internet encounters are pretty much considered normal. After all, where else would the forming of an emotional connection that transcends countries and borders possible? I confess I’ve always been more open in writing. Already in primary school I was sending notes and letters to my friends, or to certain (platonic, of course) love interests. I raised the bar and perfected this form of communication to an artistic level in university, when I typed down a loose, stream of consciousness-shaped inner monologue regarding my feelings toward a certain guy in one of my seminars. I think that this piece of writing is still good, even today. (Poor miserable chap, who got the confession in an envelope on his message board did not think so. It is my belief he considered me a psychiatric case. I still know his name; he was a young man with beautiful chocolate-eyes and hair, a pretty face and an intelligent, sensitive mind, his wrist was gracious and his gaze was intense. I fell for him like a stone falls into a river.) Then came the internet, I got accustomed to it, and I came upon certain chatlists, then, the message boards, where I would discuss my favourite celebrities with other fans. One of these chatlists brought me together with my fiancé through a fairy-tale encounter; the message boards gave me a few wonderful persons, friends I often meet in person, too; and they gave me a few people with whom I am only in touch through e-mails, due to the almost insurmountable physical distance. (There is a chance of my meeting one of my most intimate friends this year I never met before; the prospect of this meeting means a lot to both of us!)
The long and short of it is that times are a-changing, and so are the methods of friendship-making. Luckily, my initial reticence disappeared by the time I was in my twenties; I’m not a typical party-girl, but in writing, I open up very fast, and if I communicate with someone who appreciates it, I will open up in person, too. Like everyone else, I follow the changes in the world around me, I adapted, I toed the mark, and joined the current social networks, where I was invited to by friends and acquaintances. I still remember a time when I wrote letters with my hand, with a pen, on paper; then came e-mailing. The telephone was followed by the cellphone, then skype. After the message boards came Facebook and Twitter. And I’m finally arriving at the issue I originally wanted to tacle.
I do not know what friendship is. I thought I knew. I was so wrong. I thought that if a friendship exists between two people, or within a community, for many years, then that can only be a solid friendship. I thought that if two people knew each other for seventeen years, and have been friends almost ever since, good friends, too, then this relationship could not crumble. I thought that if two people can read each other’s thoughts, can finish each other’s sentences, are willing to share their innermost secrets with each other, then there can be no anger, misunderstanding, hurting and being hurt in this friendship. I was wrong, and wrong again, and wrong yet again. For years I’ve been experiencing the fact that sometimes even in the friendships we think most stable there can surface a badly chosen word, a misunderstood phrase, question, opinion, which in turn will furrow itself deep into the flesh of the friendship, like a thorn. This thorn can easily get infected, unless removed in time – discussed openly. During the course of the last year I’ve been living these disappointments and the sense of wonder at how things can happen, and that’s why I’ve recently started to ask myself questions. I’m past the part where I blame myself. I cannot be the cause of every crack. I am not that important, I’m aware of that. It usually takes two. Or more.
Can there be hatred in a friendship? Can there exist lies or secrets in a friendship previously thought completely open? What does it mean to love a friend? How far can one go when giving advice or opinion? Does one have the right to interfere in a friend’s life? (Even when one knows they are at fault.) Why are we sometimes jealous of another person, whom our friend befriends? If a friendship falls apart because someone hurt someone else, and then that someone else hurt them back, but the two parties miss the wamth of their past friendship – is the resuscitating of this friendship allowed, or possible? If there are no common grounds, only anger, hurt and misunderstanding, can a friendship be sustained, is it worth sustaining? When is there a time to let go, and when to hold on?
And why, how can a friendship stop living, that had lived fr many many years? Is this the fate of every human relationship? Farewell?
In time, I realized that the modern day methods of communicating are vastly responsible for the fact that human relationships are becoming more and more shallow. In the paper and pen letters, but even in those e-mails that we worded for hours on end we were still able to dig down into the depths of our soul and haul up secrets. We opened up before each other. We bared ourselves to each other. We confessed things from our past that we never thought would become public. We told our wishes, our dreams, and fears. Then came text messages, which allowed us to communicate with each other regardless of place, several times a day, even. Facebook and Twitter enable a constant presence and communication with more people than one, a quick and efficient report on the person’s doings, situation and occasional state of mind. (Twitter reduces the character number; I quickly have it up when I realized that some of my acquaintances were using it for their daily chat-room and tweets came by the dozen each second.) Facebook and Twitter is attractive to many because celebrities, favourite TV shows, communities or even websites have their own pages, where one can follow the news. Who wouldn’t like to know what Justin Timberlake is doing, for example? (Yeah, I know, whoever doesn’t like the guy. But millions do.) The gist of it is that thanks to Facebook and Twitter, people are carrying their speedy lifestyle over to their communication and social skills. They want to use two sentences, or two words, to tell others what they are doing. They want to convey encouragement, empathy, love, and give opinions, create or deepen an emotional connection through one sentence or one single smiley. It is my experience that this only works if two people meet in person and share thoughts outside the internet network. But sadly, we waste most of the time set aside for the internet (in worst cases, the time set aside for building or maintaining relationships) on these networks; we barely have time for e-mails any more, proper letters written by hand, on paper are slowly slipping into oblivion (I would like to remark that my mom, and my brother living in England still write letters by hand!), instead of the phone we use texsts, and private messages on internet boards or Facebook. Sadly, this process, or phenomenon doesn’t spare the strongest of friendships, either. I have been recently brought face to face with the sad fact that some things happening on the internet can mar a friendship almost twenty years old.
I feel that our consciousness has been veiled by the nightmare of loneliness to such an extent that we allow more and more people to enter our lives, we don’t have enough time for our friends, we want to build relationships quickly and in an efficient manner, we don’t want to waste a single word more on the person than needed. A text will do, a comment to their Facebook post, and we can continue with our day. We post that we are happy, that we are sad. A single person comments; the person we carry on a daily correspondence, and with whom we also meet relatively often. And perhaps one or two more people, sometimes, when they are around. But what do we know of our virtual friends? Do we know what their hair colour is, what their favourite food is, what they like and hate in people, what their favourite movie is, when their anniversary is, if their parents live still, if they love their parents, if they have siblings, what they feel when they see a beautiful flower, if they like animals, etc etc etc.? And what do they know of us?
What do you know about me? And what do I know about you?
My life is more or less an open book to everyone who knows me, who corresponds with me, who meets me sometimes, who used to read my fanfictions, and to those, who take the time to read this blog. Sometimes I am flabbergastingly candid. I won’t say people have not taken advantage. Some have. But I won’t say that this has changed me, either. I like to open up to people, I like to look at strangers as potential friends. Most people react similarly, and this makes me happy because it proves to me that we can still be open and sincere, that we are still able to bare our souls to each other, and we are still able to maintain profound, meaningful relationships.
This post is an invitation to you all, to you in particular. Share with me, with us, a secret. Or just read this, and think about your relationships. Think of your friends, ask yourself, do you pay enough attention to them, or do you just fleetingly ask them how they’re doing? When was the last time you made friends with someone, or when was the last time that your soul resonated with someone else’s? If you’re open, why are you open, and if you’re withdrawn, why are you so? Are you scared of being disappointed, of being refused, or of getting hurt?
I must think many things through. I don’t know anything of friendships, or of love, for that matter. It took me thirty-three years to grasp this.