Image: Photo © Rebecca Frey
Author: Rebecca Frey
‘The Importance of Having Friends’
In search of a suitable topic for my contribution to this first online issue of Muse, I was thinking that I should probably best write about a subject that interests me personally and keeps me busy right now besides work and university. The topics I discuss with my friends a lot. Like theatre, our love- and sex-life, strategies how to battle street harassment, or maybe it all comes down to one not so simple question: How to be a happy and confident young women approaching her thirties and at the end of her studies, on the brink of real life…
(But then again, what does ‘real’ life mean exactly? Why should I think about my current life as less ‘real’ than what I can expect it to be in the future, when I finish my studies, work full time and fully provide for myself? I have always focused very much on the present moment in my life. Even if at times a little more planning or at least thinking ahead could have saved me from making choices I would later regret. But from those few mistakes I always learned and I also learned to accept them as part of my history.)
Well, I am drifting am drifting away here, while I am actually figuring out what I really want to write about: Friends. ‘The Importance of Having Friends.’ (Why did Wilde not write a play about that topic? But only about twisted relationships full of deception, façade and intrigue?) Anyway, this article is intended to be a eulogy on behalf of my friends.
In the course of this last year I have once again fully realised to what extend friends make your life so much better. Not that I am against loneliness. I am actually convinced that spending time alone is also essential (at least for me). Loneliness is not necessarily a bad thing. Ask Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Co. Although I am not an expert on romantic poetry, I always felt that the ideas of loneliness and experiencing the sublime are closely linked. But on a more pragmatic level I believe that loneliness is less of a monster when loving, caring, funny, inspiring, faithful, honest and at times annoying, overwhelming, unreliable friends – just good people – surround you. Then it often happens that you need to be alone from time to time, to relax, procrastinate, do nothing, sleep, sing, play computer games, play the guitar, go swimming, anything. Then you actually perceive loneliness as a freedom and a blessing.
When I ended my last long-term relationship about a year ago I was devastated because I realised I was not only losing my loved one but also one of my best friends. Nobody knew me better, in a more intimate way, I thought. But when I had to break away from that person I realised to what extent my friends were there for me. They listened to me reasoning with myself, supported my choice and helped me be strong. Friends can be better (and are much cheaper) than any psychologist! When you are close enough to someone to be able to tell them exactly what your fears are, the mistakes you make and how unfair you sometimes feel the world is to you. I believe that good friends take you very seriously while at the same time they manage to relativize your problems. They care and don’t at the same time. They listen to your stories and they make you discover other sides to them.
Sharing about personal experiences is another thing friends are great for. You can compare, realize that your feelings are often similar, that your reactions are ‘normal’, that others have the same problems but that they might have other strategies for solving them. Being that open and intimate with good friends does make us vulnerable on one hand, but it also helps us to accept our vulnerability and be stronger after.
But what makes us able to build such intimate relationships with others and why do we need them? (Sometimes I wish I had studied sociology…) Well, there are many things I do with my friends and which I love them for. Eating is one important thing: shared lunches, brunches, dinners and the occasional lemon tart. Spontaneously inviting them to your place, cooking for them, which forces you to finally clean up your messy kitchen (“Ah well, while I’m at it, I might also quickly vacuum my living room”). Obviously drinking together is also an important friend-factor. Although I must say that I also enjoy a glass of wine on my own from time to time along with a cheese sandwich in front of some TV series’ latest episode. But it is great as well to drink a lot of beer with friends and then decide together to be abstinent for a month, and pay very close attention to whether the others are cheating or not. But not only alcohol, coffee also: I love spontaneous sleepovers, or friends squatting my living room and sofa for several days. At night we watch a movie and in the morning I make them coffee, a nice creamy cappuccino.
Spending time with my friends enriches my life immensely. I feel more alive; it boosts my energy and my enthusiasm. Discussions fuel my intellectual hunger, my thirst for knowledge and sometimes even motivate me to actually start writing that paper I have only been complaining about so far. On the other hand, when I am not at all in the mood for intellectual talk, when in fact my head is spinning and I need to get out and back in touch with my body, friends motivate me to do some exercise: “How about we pick up modern contemporary (or is it contemporary modern?) dancing?” or “Let’s run the Lausanne Marathon on that Sunday when we come back from our trip.” – “Are you crazy?” – “Well, I’m hoping that way I’ll be able to sleep at night despite our jet-lag.”
There are many more things friends are great for, like planning weekend trips, travelling, planning to go see an exhibition and never actually do it, talking about your flirt adventures, about your sexual adventures, about broken hearts and butterflies, about bees and flowers, about how reality laughs when you suddenly stop having your period, about family planning, about hypothetical unconventional plan B family planning, about the names of your future kids, being childish together, being angry together, being badass self-sufficient persons together (yes, together it is easier!), being completely lost together. But even when you’re lost, friends help you to organize your day: “Are you at the library tomorrow?” – “I was planning to. Let’s have lunch together.” – “Great, that will force me to get up early.” They help you find apartments, move, find jobs, translate stuff, they correct your papers, they lend you money, they plan your Friday nights, they are your matchmakers, your surrogate sisters, your surrogate brothers, your role models, your troublemakers, your mirror, and your shelter.
Thank you guys, for helping shape who I am and for making me feel alive!