Dear Old Friend
Updated: Jun 17, 2021
by Carine Saeed
Dear Old Friend,
It’s been ages since we talked. Around 12, or 13 years, right? I honestly lost count. You might think I hated you all these years. The truth was, I had nothing to say…or rather, I had a lot to say but I never knew how to frame the words. Years passed though. I am older, wiser, but most of all I finally got the courage to tell you what never got past the tip of my tongue.
There are days that I despise you. ‘Despise’ might sound too harsh, but it’s the truth. I hate your naivete. You always adorned your yellow glasses, seeing the world as a beautiful garden. For years, you only noticed the pulchritude of the roses that decorated your balcony, neglected completely the thorns that came alongside the beauty. It wasn’t until you choked, that you cleared the yellow off your spectators. I wonder how it felt seeing clear for the first time. You thought you knew too much, that you’re too wise for your age, but standing out of the frame now, I am telling you: “you knew too little.” Granted, you always scored top grades. However, all you knew were the few lines written in the books you read. You were only smart academically. I don’t blame you though. We were consistently taught that being smart academically is the ultimate recipe for success. They just forgot to mention that emotional intelligence was an ingredient to success as well.
A couple of days ago, I flipped through our box of memories. Truth be told, I didn’t recognize you from our old photos. It isn’t your fault; I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Do you remember that day when you created your first official group of friends in 5th grade? Oh, how happy you were, having friends of the same nationality. Several years had passed blended with multiple humungous fights, yet you always pointed at your two friends from a distance and said “these are my best friends.” Just as you felt the thorns suffocating your neck, you decided it was time to expand your circle of friends. Hence, you found a new friend who wasn’t all that genuine but at least you spent every day with smiles, laughter, and jokes. Nevertheless, that was just a temporary solution, because deep down you knew that you both never shared a similar mindset. Therefore, the moment there were no more words to say, there was also no more friendship to keep. Unfortunately, you were back to square one: sitting with the same squad. I recall that this was the same moment in which I witnessed your transformation.
Somehow, from the talkative person people you knew you were, you became a silent chair, commenting only when needed. In the middle of fights, you would never take sides although you knew both perspectives; instead you just plugged your earphones on, focusing intently on the novel you were reading. Even though you loved reading, you knew as well as I know now that the 240 novels you read in the three years of junior school were just another defense mechanism. Another escape plan from reality. Simply because you decided that friendship meant spending few hours in school and meeting once off-campus every holiday. Ironically, when you were given the opportunity to leave the school, you refused on the fear of not making any friends. Would you make the same decision if you knew what I know now?
As you dug deeper into your defense mechanism, you suddenly became a complex person. You had a whole bundle of secrets: your secrets blended with others’. Suddenly, from the girl who can talk hours on the phone, you stopped answering phone calls in the first place, because you knew that when your phone rang, it always meant they wanted some favor from you. Not that it ever stopped you from doing that favor. You never learned to say no to helping someone, yet you always blamed people for taking advantage of your kindness. With all due respect, you wronged yourself when you started believing that your worth is in the number of times you help a person. The day you didn’t help, guilt would tear you apart and you would feel worthless. Years and years of helping, you got used to your role of simply being the helper to the extent that you never asked for help. People always thought you were problem-free or too smart. The truth was, you simply searched the internet for that one math problem you never understood, and you always neglected emotions because they were just too dramatic and sappy to handle. I hope all this has changed now. I hope you found help, and I hope you ended the strong woman act you always had on.
On the other hand, there are days when I adore your personality. Maybe even to the extent that I wish to learn some from it. Did I tell you before that I equally loved and hated your naivete? This obliviousness, sometimes made you carefree. Every day, I would wish that I could learn that from you, but the weight of the world’s burdens seems to conquer me, much more than I conquer them. I love your ability to live day by day; you were never really the person to plan; unlike me who can plan every hour. Perhaps because you had nothing really to plan, your routine was simple, from home to school and back again. Either way, I am truly proud of you, because you always managed to cope. I don’t mean to judge you to this extent, but as I grew, I began understanding you better.
Enough with the analysis, I know you’re curious about how I have turned out.
I changed a lot. Did you know that colliding with a large community teaches you much more than school ever will? I always considered myself an open-minded person; after all, I loved dealing with different personalities just to analyze their character. Having said that, I have never noticed that I always stuck to the same type of people, but most of all, I never noticed the rules I created all through my upbringing. All the rules which I thought made me “a strong independent woman.”
Upon entering university, I met new people…all of whom dealt with the world with simplicity. Unlike me, they didn’t plan much, they just moved on with their day without fearing the outcomes. Thus, they made me realize that more often than not, we have to leap and follow instincts. Indeed, there is beauty in simplicity. As simplicity meant that not every step of a journey should be calculated. I hadn’t learned this until I lost many of the opportunities, because I was scared of the consequences that never happened. Therefore, I am more spontaneous now. Granted, my friend says I still need one more step to be formally called a spontaneous person…but, at least there is progress.
Remember when I kept fighting for certain things: a higher grade, and long-term friendships. The elder me finally understood that what’s meant to be will be; whether I put effort or not. Let me update you about one fact, the friends that I fought for, only one remained constant, whilst the rest left just as they came. Of course, I met other friends, but some of those who I called close, remained close for a very short time. Externally, it might seem like I lost a lot, but in reality, I gained much more than I lost: I gained myself, and I gained people who appreciate my existence. Oh, I should add, I created a new definition for friendship. They say, a friend in need is a friend indeed: which is true, but friendship is much more than that. It’s calling each other to check up on them, it is having deep conversations knowing we won’t ever be judged, it’s trying out new adventures together, and it’s jumping from one topic to another like an endless train. Therefore, in university, I learned to select my circle wisely; I must say, I am proud of my choices.
A childhood teacher once taught me, that we should record life through the eye of a video camera, and never through the eye of a still camera because change is the only thing that’s constant in life. The same teacher also underlined that we must accept that people change. I hadn’t witnessed much of this change when I was young, but as the situations changed, people changed as well. While we must keep looking at the cup half-full, we shouldn’t neglect the cup half-empty. In other words, not all changes of people that surround us should be accepted, especially if it comes with the expense of hurting ourselves, simply because we are scared to lose them. Thus, I learned to say 'no'. ‘No’ to anything that I don’t deserve. ‘No’ to people who seem to only waste my time. We only live once, and it’s our duty to live it all without anything to weigh us down.
That wasn’t all that I learned. If you met my friends now, you would learn a lot too. One of them taught me that feelings don’t make us weak. You know well, that I was never a dramatic person…and emotions were just sides to our lives, and all that mattered was our brain. Half of my actions were what seemed logical and never based on my wants. I might be considered overly sensitive…at least close people knew that I can get hurt by the smallest things. Either way, I never make a huge fuss about things that bother me. Instead, I would distract myself by keeping myself busy by jumping from one academic subject to another, just to avoid emotions. My belief in dealing with sentimental situations is by never acknowledging them. I always thought it was the ultimate method… but, as the ignorance of these feelings increased, my bucket-full of grudges seemed to keep filling, until it surpassed the brim. Hence, for a particular period, I never got close to anyone and decided to cut ties with those who filled my bucket. Yet, as I met new people with different mentalities, I acquired the habit of addressing these emotions. I wasn’t a robot; therefore, I shouldn’t act as if I was one. Once this realization settled in my brain…I started sharing my thoughts freely, talking about how I feel. The thought that I am a ‘drama queen’ still nags me whenever I mention something sentimental, but I try to keep it at bay. Keyword is 'try', as I haven’t succeeded yet.
I haven’t changed a complete 180 degree, because who can change to this extent in 3 years or even lesser. There is still a lot of knowledge I need to gain, and much more things I still need to change. Acceptance is a concept that used to seem foreign to me. As problems arise, and situations change, I would panic and it would take time for me to adapt to them. Sometimes, it’s hard to accept others’ social rules, or their means because they would seem so different from mine. Thus, I am trying to learn to adapt faster. I was always taught that a strong character would never change with the change of the wind. In other words, they would never be affected by people’s mentality. Modifying this meaning, we would get the actual definition. A strong character is a person, who holds their values high but still acquires more from the ones surrounding them. A strong character is a person who knows how to bend their own rules such that they can expand their horizon, such that they adapt to changes. It cannot be denied that it is hard to change our thoughts, particularly if they grew up with us since childhood. However, at some point in time, we have to pause, look back and think: were these habits, thoughts, and rules helpful in every point of life, or did they just draw us back from experiencing every aspect of life? For instance, I was always the composed, elegant girl in public, because I was taught that this was how a girl should act. Looking back now, I know that acting composed was the reason why I missed out on all the fun. Yet another thing to change, because I am still considered too serious about life.
My friends might say, I changed in many more aspects than I mentioned above, but to me, these changes seemed very discreet, to the extent they were challenging to point them out. Despite all these variations, I know I haven’t reached the optimal me. Of course, there are things I would still like to modify, starting with my habit of doing things alone. Perhaps after a few years, I would read this letter…maybe I would cringe a little. However, I know for a fact that I will be back at the same spot: writing another letter, to inform you of my new updates. Meanwhile, I will just pat myself on the back for the miles I have walked, and brace myself for another long journey.
I wonder after reading all this if you think the same as I do: it’s ironic that you and I are the same person, isn’t it?
In the memory of the good old days,
Your new friend.