Today is International Friendship Day.
It’s the perfect time to celebrate awesome friends, whether they’re on the other side of the world, a few doors down the street or half-watching Pretty Little Liars in bed next to you.
I made, kept and lost a lot of friends when I was growing up, as my family moved around exactly eight times before I turned 16. It’s tough, and my poor mum endured a lot of tears and tantrums that I dedicated to her.
We first moved to another country while I was at primary school. I felt like a pea being ripped out of its pod and thrown into a mountainous salad of the unfamiliar. The kids in my new school wanted to know more about me and I just wanted to go back to my ‘real’ home.
But the tears of sadness and anxiety soon dried. I found the joy of writing letters to my pen-pals in England and started to open up to the new crowd and give them a chance. I made friends and soon felt like the most popular kid in school, just because everyone wanted to be pals with the new English girl.
After a couple of years, my family returned to England and I faced the sadness and frustration all over again. I cried my eyes out when my new best friend gave me a brown faux-leather coat as a leaving present – I’d eyed it up in the local department store for weeks.
But my emotions were mixed once more, as I was excited to be reunited with my old buddies, telling them all about my time away and showing off my pierced ears and bobbed hair. I would reach peak popularity, again!
I never saw the girl who gifted me with the coat after I left, but I’ll always be thankful to her
for being my pal and giving me something that made me feel like I was a total rock star. And I’m forever grateful to the friendly classmates who welcomed me into their school and invited me to their birthday parties like I was royalty.
Looking back, these experiences helped me to mature into a teenager, then adult who can cope with change. I learnt to be brave and open minded about meeting new people, which can often feel like walking into a room of Death Eaters.
I inherited and continued the habit of moving around well after finishing school and leaving the nest. I even somehow ended up in Paris for six months! It put me in good stead for continuing to make new friends. I learn something from every person I meet; about the world, about them and about myself.
I went on to live with an Irish girl and a Spanish girl when I moved to Edinburgh. We’d never met before moving in together but I soon considered them two of my best friends. Last year we reunited at my Spanish friend’s family home in Madrid and it felt like nothing had changed, except her gorgeous apartment wasn’t infested with mice and mould like our old digs. We’re meeting up again this year, in Morocco, using our friendship as a perfect excuse to explore the world together.
There are also the times when other people are the ones to leave a friend-shaped hole in my life.
My best friend moved to Canada with a boy. She was so excited, I thought I’d never see or hear from her again. But thanks to Skype, we ended up speaking more regularly than we had done in a long time. In fact, I definitely did the old ‘oh the Wifi is breaking up’ trick a few times when Made in Chelsea was about to start during one of our Monday night catch ups. But even though she was approximately a million miles away, I knew she’d be there for me no matter what.
Friendships don’t need constant attention, just a little watering now and again to keep things in bloom. And in a world of social media and instant communication, saying goodbye in person doesn’t mean that the friendship must end.
I have recently reconnected with old friends in London through Facebook, I natter with my Yorkshire based buds on WhatsApp throughout the week, and I receive much needed grownup advice and guidance from my talented writer friend in China (along with British reality TV lolz and bantz that she admirably keeps us with over there).
Even if all you can do to today is send a good thought to someone, do it for the friends – old and new, near and far – who have helped shape you into the person that you are.
Me? I want to thank all my friends, wherever you are, for constantly making me feel as special as I did the first time I put on that coat and strutted into the classroom.
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Image: Kate Borrill