We can have large or small numbers of close friends depending on the course of our lives.
MCKNOTES ON BEST FRIENDS
I think almost everybody has somebody they would call their best friend. I know a lot of people, and many of them are just that; people I know. I have a good number of friends, too. These are people I know that I can count on and that care as much for me as I do for them. When it comes to best friends, however, I can think of a relatively small number of people who are what I would call best friends. I could write about any of them and fill pages with what they mean to me. The number of people who qualify as best friends can, in fact, be fairly large, but it’s a small percentage of the people we know with whom we interact. Some career paths lead a person to higher numbers of people than others. Large numbers of people live in big cities, but often they live rather isolated lives. The nature of the many jobs I’ve had in my life has brought me together with large numbers of people. The places I’ve lived have included very largely populated cities and small towns where it seems that everybody knows everybody. It’s interesting to me that people from small, rural towns often interact with far more people than some who live in more densely populated areas.
I’m not sure what I would do without best friends. I refuse to limit myself to one “bestie,” which is the term presently used in place of “BFF,” or best friends forever. With most of my best friends, there was a period of time when we fell out of touch. Maybe it was that emptiness that made me know how significant that person was in my life.
One of my friends is from my high school days. We were both a little bit nerdy, I suppose. We both had a love for music, art, poetry and things that didn’t exactly rank us high on the “most popular” list. I don’t remember caring about that. After high school we went in different directions. We fell completely out of touch for nearly forty years. Several times I tried to search for this friend, but I didn’t really have enough information to start a reasonable search. I suppose I would have been a lousy detective.
Eventually, I got a note on Facebook, and in order to determine he had really found me, he asked me some questions that would verify we had made contact again. Now we’ve been in touch for…..oops, I don’t even know how long. The years of our separation simply melted away, and we have been in daily touch since that reconnection. We celebrate each other’s successes and joys. We still have similar interests. There was no ice to break when we finally got together again. It seemed as if we had been in touch “just yesterday.” We’re still both a bit nerdy too.
Another “best friend,” I got to know because we both taught high school music. We laugh at each other all the time and grieve over each other’s losses. When I was virtually at sea and didn’t know what to do next, he dropped everything and traveled significant miles to tell me what I must do next. In fact, he is responsible for my coming to Kirksville. Eventually we were housemates during our graduate studies. We studied together and kept a watchful eye on each other. His now departed wife became dear to me, and we made music together. In fact, my biggest selling composition is based on a poem she wrote. This couple let me know when they needed something from me. He is an ongoing project for me, even today; one who I believe needs me looking over his shoulder knowing when to say, “No, that’s wrong for you.” He tends to work so hard even in retirement that he forgets to keep a watch on his own health. Likewise, he would not hesitate to steer me in the right direction when I veer. He is brilliant, and he would probably say something flattering about me. We both know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. He will always be my friend.
I met another friend when I was in graduate school. He was neither a student nor a colleague of mine. In fact, I don’t know how we even got to know each other. We went through a period of separation, which only reinforced our importance to each other in the long run. We will never again allow that to happen. I know that I can count on this friend for anything he has in his power, and he knows that I support him completely as well. We’re not really so much alike, but we appreciate many of the same things. We respect each other.
There are women in my life who are equally important and significant to me. One of them I met when I was in college. That relationship is personal, and I will not share any details, but that doesn’t make it less significant than any other relationship I’ve had in my life, and we continue to support each other. Suffice it to say that she is a person I consider to be a great lady.
Another woman was only half my age when we met. She was the friend of one of my students when I was a teaching assistant in graduate school. We quickly became important to each other. I suppose I was partly a father figure for her, but she made me feel so important. She still does. She lives far away, in Japan. We don’t see each other often, but the bond we have is undeniable. Her daughter and I have become important to each other, too. Her daughter senses the importance of the relationship between her mother and me and treats me with a respect to which I have little right. Even though we are both older now, she is still in some ways the 18 year old somewhat fascinated with a 36 year old graduate student. I would not trade our relationship for anything. She knows how to rise above hardship. She is an over achiever. I’m continuously amazed at all that she is able to accomplish.
A former student of mine has grown into a proud and vibrant woman who has made impressive strides as a singer and teacher of singers. I could not be more proud of her advancements in life and the difficulties she had to overcome. She holds her head high, as she should. Some of the indignities she has had to endure speak volumes of the strength she possesses. She sings like the angel she is, making every shimmering note seem effortless. That is exactly what she teaches her students; singing beautifully requires only letting go and spinning an effortless web of tone.
I have only scratched the surface of the people in my life I consider among my best friends. Originally I hinted that candidates for best friend status are rare, but individuals have different qualities that lend to the strength of our friendship. Recently another former student of mine contacted me to update me on his life. He, too, is a singer of considerable ability. He was a student of mine my first year of teaching, forty-two years ago. He has always kept in touch with me, and I’m so proud of his progress. We sang duets when he was a high school student mature well beyond his years. He has learned more about the business of performance in L.A., a city where people flock to realize dreams. He is well educated, but also self taught. He has repeatedly recognized me for giving him, at the very least, a nudge into the direction of his life.
I have friends who are older than I. A woman who has taught me a great deal about humility and grace comes to mind. I cherish her friendship. She is beautiful in every way. I have purposely tried to shield who these people are. In fact, I have left out some that would be too easy to discern if I wrote about them. Even these I have mentioned, some people will know.
When I write these segments to my blog, I have to ask myself what my point is. Why have I written about these people? The answer is clear to me. We always need to do a bit of self-evaluation. The best way to see who we are is to look at the people we love and who love us. I haven’t shared all of my friends with you. In fact, I haven’t even come close, but if you’re ever feeling a bit down, just look around at the people you’ve held close in your life and you will see your own image more clearly than you would if a mirror were right in front of you.
Cherish your friends and they will cherish you. Any possession you have can be replaced. The only exception is the people you hold dear. No one or nothing can take their place. I can’t share these individuals with you. They are a gift to me that cannot be traded or given away, nor would I ever try to do such a thing. I can simply say that the friends you have in your life are extremely important. I stand by my statement that “best friends” are few and far between. I don’t see it as a contradiction that there are many people I think of as true best friends. We all go through different segments in our lives. Some of the times of our life are separated by geography. Other changes can affect the people who are current in our life, and it is from those people that we develop good friends who stay with us when we move on to the next iteration of our ever developing lives.
I’m happy to know that I am still close to people I went to high school with. I’m thrilled to know that I have friends who have been with me through different segments of my life. I’m equally pleased to be able to support those friends in the changes they go through.
A look in the mirror is much less pleasing to me than a review of the people in my life. And the image that I see reflected from the mirror I know has much more value than what I see. I wonder at the people who put more stock in their appearance than in the quality of their lives.