Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Love is blind. Friendship tries not to notice.

There are all sorts of friendships. And, though it’s safe to say that some are preferable to others, I believe that the way we communicate (IE: email, text, video chats, etc) in this day and age has changed the way we rate their importance.

It’s so very rare, I think, to have a friendship that stands the test of time, but what about distance? Are friendships like romantic relationships in that respect – near to impossible to keep going when you aren’t sure when you’ll see that person next? What about if you’ve never even met that person?

My best friend in elementary school was my cousin Ben. He was three months younger than me and, consequently, in the same classrooms until about the age of 10, when they suddenly realized that separating us would not only benefit our learning abilities, but the sanity of our teachers. Unfortunately for our parents this was not an option at home as we happened to be next door neighbors.

We spent many an afternoon discussing the merits of karate vs. street fighting or seeing who could spit the farthest. I was pro street fighting, Ben was pro karate and, though I’ve often had reason to believe he cheated, he always spit the farthest. He would pull me, blinking and irritable, away from my latest paperback and out into the sunshine. We were the last of the Mohicans running through the woods, he in his bare feet and I in my navy Keds, only discarded when I was a safe distance from my prissy mother and her entirely rational fear of snakes and poisonous spiders. We raced bikes, played horrendous games of basketball, and made solemn promises with sticky handshakes.

Over the years our friendship changed, adapting, like so many boy-girl relationships, to make way for the things puberty claimed we needed. He became my protector rather than my sparring partner, and I became his sounding board for all things female – an idea as preposterous now as it was back then.

Though we remained close through the few teenage years we were allowed, and though I continued to call him my best friend, we branched off and found people that met with our often changing qualifications and fads. While I dabbled in a particularly heinous Goth phase, he was trying his hand at the All-American jock. While I practiced the art of the hanger-on, he took up afternoons with the fishing club. However, by the age of 15, we seemed to be moving within the same circle once more. The common circle, collector of teenagers everywhere – trouble.

I was only just discovering the feeling of constantly having him around again, of being on the same wavelength. Afternoons were spent using every curse word we knew, playing video games, burning rap CD’s that would make our mothers faint, and smoking cigarettes on the sly. My favorite pastimes were riding in the car with him next to me, singing Afroman at the top of our lungs, and lying in his bedroom at night giggling over things that only made sense if you were stoned. I’d barely begun to appreciate our new relationship when he was killed suddenly in a jet ski accident.

Losing my very first best friend – my brother – my blood – in such a terrible way, crushed me. But after the anger had run its course, after the hurt dulled to a controllable throb – he managed, in death, to give me something. He pulled me out of my shell again.

In the years that followed Ben’s death, I made friends with an ease I’d never had before. I still disappeared behind my books from time to time, but I wasn’t the same withdrawn child being coaxed to come out and play. Interacting with all those different people was necessary.

When I think over all the friends I’ve had since, there are only a few that even bear mentioning and I’m glad - glad that I had so many imposters, so many which passed through quickly. It’s made it much easier to recognize the real thing.

Rachel, whom I’ve written about before, was the next person to make a big impact in my life – helping me move into adulthood with honesty (I had a significant problem with that.) and much needed hilarity. And though she’s still my best friend, things seem to be at another turning point. I’ve changed yet again, and I suppose when that happens, you need new people in your life to reflect that change.

I’ve recently (over the past year) developed some unexpected, unconventional friendships. At times, especially in the beginning, I couldn’t think of them as anything special because it would just be too weird. But I’ve since readjusted my thinking.

I’m talking about my friendships with you guys.

This whole online dating fiasco I entered into recently? I’ve been pretty embarrassed about it, depending on who I’m talking to and what day it is. But in all honesty, it’s not that different from blogger. Sure I don’t have any romantic intentions as far as the lot of you are concerned, but I’ve formed some pretty close attachments despite myself – without even being aware of it happening at first.

Every comment and every reader has a special place in my heart. I love all of you guys for giving me the validation I wasn’t aware I needed until I started this blog. The support I’ve received here, through some of the most difficult times, has occasionally been the push I needed. Your comments are always encouraging, more often than not hilarious, and usually better than any anxiety pill. See, even having a great group of “in-person” friends, I just don’t get much encouragement on the writing front. I needed that, and you all gave it freely – so thank you.

But as with any large group, there are always a few standouts – a few people I’ve gotten to know a little better than the rest. A few people who started as encouraging strangers, and ended up becoming close personal friends.

Mr. London Street, whose real name I wish I could use here, if only to make myself sound more plausible, has been, in a manner of speaking, the driving force behind almost everything you’ve read on this blog since spring of last year.

I’ve always been an ok writer and I knew it was something I desperately wanted to do, but it wasn’t until I read his site that I realized just what possibilities really lay behind blogging. I was using my site to vent and occasionally tell a funny story or fill out a meme. And here was this man, writing so beautifully about everything from humorous bus expeditions to painful childhood memories. It was a wakeup call.

He gave me the courage to write in a way even I had no idea I was capable of and encouraged me to push boundaries. And I will be forever grateful, because one of the best feelings in the world is seeing something you’ve written and thinking, “I can be proud of that.” It might be “just a blog”, but it’s also a record of just how much I’ve improved. I’m a long way from reaching my full potential, but I have a feeling I’d be even farther away if we hadn’t become friends.

And I do consider him a friend...a real one. A mentor of sorts, obviously, but a friend first. Not a week goes by without an email or a twitter message that makes me laugh, think, or roll my eyes in amused exasperation. We have quite a bit in common for all our surface and cultural differences and, of course, our geographic distance. I plan on remedying the latter sometime in the first months of the new year, if only for a brief visit, and I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of meeting him in person.

There’s another blogger that I’ve become close with, though I prefer not to name them as they’re quite funny about their privacy. Suffice it to say that if a few days go by and we haven’t spoken, I wonder what’s going on. They make me laugh constantly and even, on occasion, irritate me to the point of insanity, as friends are wont to do. Our phone conversations often leave me in stitches, but even when they turn serious, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone I enjoy talking to more. I genuinely hope that this is one friendship that will prove the distance theory wrong. (Note to person in question: Just because I’m being nice does not give you license to torment me about it later. I will retaliate, as you well know.)

There are others that I have occasional correspondence with and would love to get to know more. I believe there’s a wealth of possibilities here. A great big world of people that share the same sense of humor and aren’t afraid to say what they think. People that are open-minded and intelligent. People that when you finally meet them for the first time, it feels like the twentieth. And people that, even if you never get the chance to meet, change your life for the better.

Every now and then a commenter has said, “You should stop giving this stuff away for free.” And in the beginning I felt inclined to agree. But as you can clearly tell, if you’ve been paying any attention, I’ve been getting a lot more in return than meets the eye.

I have no idea how long I’ll continue to blog. I suppose as long as it continues to be something that makes me feel good, that makes me feel like I belong to something bigger. And, of course, as long as it continues to introduce me to some truly wonderful people.


Manda said...

Aw, lovely post. Not much else needs to be said. Although I did just notice the tag 'I might make a blowjob gesture.' Unexpected.

Philip said...

That was lovely. I'm sorry you lost Ben. I lost a friend - it's really hard, you're brought up to expect grandparents deaths etc, parents eventually. But not friends.
How you speak about MLS is really interesting. He's a big personality - I feel lucky to know him too. And you. When I first started blogging I saw your blog early on I thought Wow - if I do it half as good as her I'll be well pleased. I still love reading your blog, and I'm also well pleased that we are starting to communicate outside of it. Great post. If we had a mutually agreed salute I'd be flicking it right now. I'm off to sleep shortly - this was a great post to read before I do so.
PS i 'ope the punctuations'alreet.

Mr London Street said...

I don't feel at all qualified to comment on this post but what you've said about me is lovely. I agree with what Philip said, I feel thoroughly lucky to be part of a community with such talented people.

A bit offended that you've never shown any interest in talking to me on the phone though. I went through a phase of socialising with bloggers. Two of the three I had dinner with don't speak to me any more. Hmm.

Julia said...

"Every comment and every reader has a special place in my heart. I love all of you guys for giving me the validation I wasn’t aware I needed until I started this blog. The support I’ve received here, through some of the most difficult times, has occasionally been the push I needed."

Exactly how I feel about blogging. Well put :)

Molly Malone said...

That was beautiful :) It's amazing the friends you can make in places you least expect...

Adria said...

Solid post...glad I discovered your blog. :)

Didactic Pirate said...

I would write a comment, but I have to go and call several of my close friends and make them uncomfortable by telling them how important they are to me. 'Scuse me. (Darn you, Sweet Girl.)

theTsaritsa said...

This was a lovely post. Your honesty is wonderful. I feel the same way about blogging, and it's funny how strangers through the internet can become fast friends without ever having to meet. I'm happy to read your blog :)

The mad woman behind the blog said...

You, my dear, are so wonderful in every way.
Now hand me a damn tissue. And then swear you won't stop doing what you do so well.


jerrod said...

look at you... growing and stuff.

loved it.

Shruthi said...

I'm a new reader here and I will say thank you first :)

Then I will say, so far, I've thoroughly enjoyed your posts. They're very honest, which is rare to find. I'm enjoying reading your blog a LOT.

The one fellow country blogger who does follow my blog has already sent me a drunk email, keeps starting chat conversations on Gmail and has even given me his number because he would love to get to know me better (what does one make of that?). I'm really hoping that I do meet interesting people somewhere down the line :)

Judearoo said...

Lovely post, Ally. Made me smile.

I definitely agree that friendships can survive distances. One of my best friends - an English girl - I met in Australia working in the crappiest of crappy call centres about 5 years ago. We only actually worked together about 8 weeks and then I moved back to Italy and in time she to London. But when all hell was breaking out and life was falling to bits it was her I called and it was she that stood in her jammies in a call box in Melbourne at 4 am to calm me down and talk it through. We now see eachother about 3 times a year and its honestly like we only saw eachother yesterday. Some people are just meant to be in your life.

Blogging world is similar. You've said it to me yourself to get off my lazy arse and post more. I've not done so on my blogspot site in ages, but I still come back and read other people's stuff for the simple reason that I like them, love their words and would miss their friendships - yourself included.

Been writing for another group blog for a while now - and the support and friendship there has been astounding; these are the girls I wish I knew when I was 12.

And I would also say don't worry about 'giving stuff away for free'. There's not an exhaustable well, the more you write the better you write and the more you'll have to say. Keep blogging, get some ideas together, write a few pitches and get an agent. But you shouldn't have to give up one for the other.

Eric said...

Back at ya.

Rusty Hoe said...

I often joke that some of my best friends are strangers, but it's true. Support and friendships have come along that I never would have thought possible before entering the blogging world. In some ways I value the friendships that have come through blogging as they are people who know more about me through my writing (in which I can be stupidly honest) than most of my 'real' life friends to whom I wouldn't say even half of it.

Big luv right back at ya babe :)

Library girl said...

Slow, sincere handclap for a great post. Blogging is hard to define and justify to those who don't do it but it never ceases to amaze me how someone's heartfelt words on a website has the power to connect with you in a way that can sometimes take years to generate 'in person'.

BrightenedBoy said...

Well, I would say I'm surprised that I've done so much for you, but that would be a lie. Dramatically altering people's lives for the better is just something that comes naturally to me.

In all seriousness, though, you really have measurably improved as a writer in the time you've been here and your growth, both as an artist and a person, has been rewarding to watch.

You have the ability to discern what is important in life. That gift is tragically rare.

Hippest Snippets said...

We seriously love your blog. We would snip it every day if it were fair. Thanks for giving good writing. It's always nice to get here after a long day of blog searching.

Isabealle12 said...

I found your blog a month or so ago, by chance. I read one post, then another...then 10 Honestly, your writing is akin to what I hope mine develops into someday. Not to mention how refreshing it is to read the writing of someone whose use of the English language doesn't leave me cringing. Heh. Your words are very personal, very real, and, as a result, leave me shaking with laughter, reflecting, and, as was the case with this post, shedding a few tears. This particular bit-"People that when you finally meet them for the first time, it feels like the twentieth. And people that, even if you never get the chance to meet, change your life for the better."...even as I read over it, still resonates with me. Not like words I'm reading on some stranger's blog, but so familiar. Kindred. So, I guess what I'm trying to say, (I apologize if this reads as indulgent or exaggeratory), is thank you. Thank you, and more, please. (: