From when I was a child, I don't remember 'learning' about friendship. I think it is one of those things that is born in you. You just know what it is, and you long for it. As a toddler, your teddies and dollies are your friends. They come to your tea parties, they do whatever you want them to do.
Then you start playgroup / nursery / school and suddenly there are real people with whom you are friends with. They come to your tea parties and do not always necessarily do what you want them to do. You learn the long process of give and take, of bonding and scrapping, declaring a new 'best friend' every day. Again, I don't really remember making those friendships, they just started from the minute you walked in the room, was told where the coat pegs were and where your seat at your desk was.
I went to a relatively small Primary School, so had a small but very close circle of friends. Thus, when we started Secondary School, which combined all of the students from all four Primary Schools in the area it was a bit of a shock. Luckily they placed a few of us together, but as invariably would happen, we got to know other people and drifted off to other friendships and groups, formed new buddies to be 'best friends' with on a daily basis.
When we headed off to college I was in quite an unhappy place. I had achieved very good GCSE grades at school, and everyone just assumed I wanted to go onto college, for A-Levels and then University, but I felt that was all being mapped out for me, without me being allowed to consider if it was what I actually wanted.
At college I found I was doing very different courses to all my friends, giving me a different timetable and isolating me from a lot of them. No one else seemed to have this, my classes were packed full of students who had ready made friendships and groups. Trying to crack into them was impossible, particularly since I was of a quiet nature. I felt my friends had all moved on, to enjoying college life and new friendships and now relationships and I hadn't.
After the first year I came to a cross roads, I could continue down a very unhappy road or I could get out into the big wide world of work, become an adult and re-invent myself. I took that chance but in doing so, apart from one or two, unknowingly said goodbye to a lot of friends. I didn't realise it at the time of course, I still had a small cluster of mates that I went out socially with, but with time through work and for some University we all moved on to meeting new exciting people, that frankly we now had more in common with.
When an opportunity to move to a new area arose, it was something I had been longing to do for years. However, I was settled with a serious boyfriend and through him a set of, I would probably say acquaintances rather than friends. I decided I had to take the plunge, and set about starting a new phase of life, in a much more pleasant area. But of all the things going on in that period, a new home, a new job, a new schedule of weekends spent travelling back to see 'The Boyfriend', it was the 'making new friends' part that I was most anxious about.
Everyone always says it is so much harder to make friends when you are older, I think because you consciously have to go out and do it, put yourself 'out there' and find common ground with someone. I believe as a child, you don't need to do that, you 'create' common ground together if your nature is going to rub along with someone elses. I was lucky however. The new job I had managed to secure was within a Students' Union at a University, and being only 19 myself I couldn't have found a bigger pool of people my age, all looking to make new friends.
It was a bit like being back at school again for a while, new 'best friends' were made weekly (usually in a drunken fuzz that bonded everyone together), but being a University everybody left, and although you all claim to stay in touch forever, it is with a precious few that you continue to maintain common ground with to be able to do so.
After 'The Social Years' I found myself a single mum. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this was quite an isolating time, I shut a lot of people out as I didn't have the energy for trying to maintain friendships. I found myself needing to be full time mum and bread winner. As J1 got a bit older, and I started to accept our new life, I went to work in London and this once again gave the opportunity for new friendships to be formed.
Now in my 30's I seem to have found a happy place for friendships. Through the marvel medium of social networking sites I have been lucky and blessed to be able to be back in touch with those very first friends from nursery school (we have dipped in and out of each other lives at various points, but always lost touch again), and I feel as close to them now as ever. I think we are now of an age where we realise how much of each other we hold in memories and how important that is. So 'Thank You' to Adam, Lorraine and Sara for allowing me back into your lives and always still being there with support and love.
And to my 'new' grown up life friends, met through college (the second time around), work (various places) and baby groups. Thank you for supporting, sharing and listening always, Marina, Aicha, Becca, Lil'Vicky, Big Al, Emma, Emma, Emma (no, your name doesn't have to be Emma to be my friend!).
I have learnt so much in the last few years how important ALL friendships are to have, and that no matter what age you are, you should always make the effort to find new friendships and maintain the existing ones.
And now I am lucky enough to have the best friendship I could hope for; I found a wonderful 'forever friendship' in my Husband. For him, and all my other friendships, I am thankful every single day.
THANK YOU to all of my friends, school, social, new and to be.