Disclaimer: This is a bit different from my usual weekend fun posts, I don’t go anywhere in this, maybe just back in time and into my own brain but I do hope you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.
I watched a YouTube video the other day that stuck with me in a way I didn’t expect. I mean, I went through a phase of watching basically only YouTube videos, became obsessed with YouTubers, went to YouTube conventions, etc, so I’ve seen a few YouTube videos. But this video in particular stood out. A video from Michelle Phan, a woman who I’ve watched since before she had 100k subscribers, now one of the most famous female YouTubers out there. I had not seen a few of her videos in a while, they all got to be too much for me, too many products pushed, too much of her “sincerity” that ends up being so sweet it makes your teeth hurt. I watched this video and within the first minute she said something that made me really think… “Many people say friendship is forever, but I think friendship is fleeting.”.
Sit there and think about that for a minute. I can’t speak for everyone but the idea of “best friends forever” has been ingrained in my mind since I was 4 years old. When I thought I had my first best friend. Now our relationship wasn’t ordinary, he was the boy next door , but we spent all of our time together and I loved hanging out with him. It wasn’t until we started school that our friendship was questioned (boys and girls can’t be friends!). And then he moved away, so my best friend spot was empty. I remember feeling heartbroken for a while, I thought best friends were supposed to be forever, but they weren’t because he moved away and left me. We had our moms drive us up for visits but it wasn’t the same as banging on his door and demanding he come to the forest with me to go exploring. The nineties were a harder time for long distance relationships of any sort. I couldn’t text him, email him, message him on Facebook… We had just got our own computer and even that was a hushed affair that we snuck inside when no one was around. Our huge Packard Bell was one of the first in our little co-op.
I remember going back to school in the first grade, looking for my new best friend. I had floated around from group to group, recounting memories from recesses in kindergarten. I was a kindergarten bull. Not bully, bull. I would pretend to be a bull and run into unsuspecting boys. If you ever read this, I’m sorry Taylor. More people moved into the house of my former bestie, an older girl who my sisters befriended, and a new boy moved two doors down from them. He and I became friends, and to this day I still have him on Facebook.
In the first grade I tested a few girls as my new best friend. I remember spending days alone, trying to sort out what I really wanted. I still do that now come to think of it, but I spend less time trying to capture bees from garbage cans… I was a weird kid and, surprise, I’m a weird adult too. One day, my mom came home and gave my sister Megan and I a set of best friend necklaces each. Hers were ducks I believe, and mine were two sassy cats. One said best, the other said friend. I don’t remember where she got them but I do know Claires had a huge section of best friend key rings, necklaces, earrings, etc. They were burning a hole in my pocket the next day at school. I didn’t want to put mine on until I found my new best friend. And then I thought I found her. A girl named Kelly, whose father had a birthday the day before mine, who lived 10 minutes away (5 minutes running) from me. She wasn’t next door but she was a whole lot of fun. I remember her eyes lit up when I gave her the necklace. We wore them around, making sure everyone knew we were best friends. But then I did something I didn’t expect. I became friends with someone else, and she did too. We slowly floated apart and then one day I decided I wanted my necklace back. She was very mad at me then, even wrote an angry journal entry about it. She made sure to show me the entry from the day I gave her the necklace, something along the lines of “Today Brittany gave me a friendship necklace. I think we’ll be best friends forever.” I think it was in that moment that I realized that best friends don’t have to be forever, and they don’t even have to be the same person.
When you’re little, there’s the idea of someone being your best friend. The one you hold above everyone else. But as I grew older, the people I considered best friends were growing. I had a group of best friends. I remember being jealous when one of my best friends in grade school would get a new best friend. There would be arguments “You can have more than one best friend.” “No you can’t, there was to be one that is THE BEST.”. Those fights seemed to mean so much to me at those times. I remember being very upset when my best friend, who I gave the necklace to the second time, had found a new best friend. And I had introduced them! I felt like such an idiot. I should have kept them separate. I felt selfish and stupid, and I do still think that way sometimes even now. But ultimately, I’m thankful for anyone and everyone I’ve had a relationship. Regardless if they were the person I bulldozed into, or the person I took a friendship necklace from. People come into our lives for a reason, and they leave sometimes too. I think the sooner we realize that, the better.
Some people are lucky, they have friends that they will remain friends with for life. My mother for example, and my “aunt” Kelly. They’ve been friends since high school, and they laugh about the stupid things they did as kids all the time. They haven’t been attached at the hip all their lives but they’ve always been there for each other whenever they needed it. My oldest friend and I had a falling out in the last few years and it was for very good reasons, I think. She had a child, moved away, got married… She changed, I changed, and we accepted it. It was kind of sad for me to realize the relationship was over. I still think about the laughs we shared and smile, but I know our lives are different now. We can’t pretend we’re drunk on Chicklets gum, or play golf on a busy street… I think I’ll have friends I’ve been friends with for a long time but I don’t know if I’ll have the same best friend forever. And when I saw that video, I really thought about it. Friendship is fleeting, it can be forever, but a lot of relationships change. You change and grow as a person every single day.
I like to think I’m not the same young girl who ran into boys when they annoyed her. Though sometimes I do get the urge to… My ideas about life have changed, the people I’ve been around have changed a lot too. I find myself thinking every day about people and who I like spending time with. I think friendship, like any relationship, requires work. Living abroad and even going to University away from home, allows you to be surrounded by whole groups of new people. I’ve met some amazing people in the last 5 years of my life that I hope will be around forever. Or least a really long time, but it’s not without effort. Especially since these people are scattered around the world.
Living in Korea makes friendship sort of hard. You meet many people, from all walks of life, and you get to know them. Some people build romantic relationships, some people build lasting friendships. But they all require an effort. It’s been hard being here, developing relationships with people, because no one stays here forever. Some people stay one year, some people stay several years, but people come and go all the time. Since arriving in October, I’ve said goodbye to more people I would even like to think of. Now some people I was closer to than others, but it still sucks to not see them around all the time. One of the best things is that new people are coming all the time too. I’ve met some incredible people in the last couple months, and that just solidifies my thought that people come in and out of your life for a reason.
The friends you make abroad will stay with you your entire life, physically if you’re lucky, but emotionally for sure. No one from school will ever know this part of you completely. They won’t understand how ridiculous your craving for cheese sticks is at 3am. They won’t understand how wonderful it is to sit at a convenience store for hours with a Korean couple who just want to take you all out for dinner and then never see you again. They just won’t understand that part of you never wants to come home, but you know you have to at some point. And you won’t understand why they don’t want to hear you talk about your life outside of them. Many of your life stories will involve places they don’t know, customs they don’t get, people they’ll never meet. It’s hard to think of someone who has been in your life for so long not knowing or understanding you completely,but when you travel or leave your comfort zone, you spread parts of yourself all around the world. Wherever you go you leave parts of yourself, whether you want to or not.
There are many people who I love with my whole heart, even if they don’t realize it. Every friendship, no matter how short it was, has shaped me into the person I am today. But I think a big part of a good relationship, romantic or not, is knowing when to move on. I don’t believe in cutting anyone off, but as friendships grow and change you’ll realize you start drifting apart without even really knowing. A person that was a huge part of your life one year may be nonexistent the next. You can think of it as sad, but I’d prefer to think back on all the good things you got out of that friendship. As you grow older, you change. It’s inevitable. You’re not the same person you were in elementary school, you’re not the same in high school, you’re not the same after. If you can accept that you’ve changed, and find people who accept that too, I think you’re lucky. People can grow together, apart, and back together. I really do think friendship is fleeting, rather than forever, at least in the physical sense. You can’t expect to stay close to people forever. It’s sad but it’s true.
When you make the effort, send a message, reach out, and get a reply, you know you have something good. I have several friends who I don’t talk to, nor do I see every day or even at all, ever, but I still love and appreciate them all. There’s my wife who I send monthly updates to, the guy who I constantly check up on (sorry, not sorry), my love in England, my love in Wisconsin, and several friends from high school that I still regularly talk to. It’s an effort. All relationships are. Friendship can come easily but it doesn’t stay unless you’re both willing to make it. I do think, as do some of my friends, that there are varying degrees of effort though.
Some people have an advantage; they live in the same city as you, they have the same time zone or they catch you at a good time. People are busy in their everyday lives, even if it doesn’t feel that way all the time. We’ve all got our own stuff going on, and I think to keep a relationship meaningful, you need to dig deeper in conversations. It’s easy to get into a routine and continuously ask the same questions like “What’s up?” “What are you doing today?”, but there has to be more to that. I see my core group of friends here in Korea more than twice a week usually, and when the conversation seems to go in the usual direction, I try to throw them off. I tend to ask questions that make people think and those can lead to some of the best conversations. The seemingly meaningless conversations can be just what you need sometimes though, and having people who understand that can be great. I feel like there are friends I have that I can count on for conversations that can lead to anger, tears, or just general catharsis, and friends I have where these daily conversations will be the deepest I’ll ever get with them. Some people are just more open to discussions than others and it’s not a bad thing. You just need to get all your bases covered I think, and if you can find that in one person or ten people, you’re going to be fine.
So where is this coming from, you may wonder, if you even got this far… Recently I’ve been thinking about my life here in Korea. How I feel like I’m at my best, like I am my best person here. I have met some really great people, and even though it’s really hard to be away from my family and friends, I’m enjoying exploring the country, getting to know so many new people, places, and things… It’s a lot to process and think about and I find writing to be cathartic. I always have. I’ve been thinking about staying in Korea. I haven’t told many people this because the idea is still new to me, but I had never really thought about my life beyond my first year here. I have attachments at home, people I love, people I care about… but I went to school to learn how to be an ESL teacher. I’m finally here, doing it, loving it, and I’m going home after my first year? I know I’ll be going home after my contract ends in November, but I don’t know how long I’ll be staying there.
I have four months left in my contract, and now people are asking me what is next? Am I staying? Am I going? I’m even wondering to myself “What’s next?”. The only answer I can think of is “happiness”. I hope the happiness I’ve felt here continues for the rest of my life, or only increases.
As for now, these are my thoughts on friendship and life… I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you did, or you didn’t, I’d love to hear from you. And I’d just like to say a special thank you to the friends I shared this with before posting, your thoughts and ideas helped me greatly.
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Michelle Phan video