What do you do when your friends at home need you?
Emily Rose Simons
I read the news of my friend’s mother passing away in my dorm room in New York. One of my oldest friends has just lost her mother at the age of 25 and I couldn’t be there for her to cry on, to vent at, to talk to. I couldn’t make vague attempts of being useful by washing up during the shiva. I just couldn’t be there. She needed me and I was here in New York.
Once I boarded a bus in Bristol and I didn't have the perfect change for ticket so the person behind me paid my fare. I tried to pay him back but he wouldn't let me. I said to myself that I would the same for someone else. Months passed but I saw someone having trouble with their fare so I paid for them, so in a strange way I felt I was repaying the man who had helped me. I guess friendships are a little bit like that for me now.
I didn’t know my friend in New York that well when he was taken ill. A sense of duty kicked in that seemed premature for how little we really know each other. He is here without his friends and family to go visit him in the hospital or to generally support him. I hope my old friend in London has new friends that will help her get through this hard time, just as I am sure that my new New York has family and friends hoping that there is someone on the other side of the world to bring him food in hospital because they can’t.
I used to look at friendship as a sort of investment. The more you put into a friendship, the more you get out of it. To a large extent, that is true. The more often you see your friend, the deeper the friendship can be, but life is no longer so simple for me. I put in the investment into friendships that aren’t translating so well across oceans, and I am making new friendships that require the depth of a long term friendship within a short time. To some extent, I can think of this along the lines of the ‘pay it forward’ system – like the bus in Bristol.
Really, there are no rules for friendships anymore. All I know is that it pains me to not be the friend those closest to me throughout childhood deserve me to be, and I feel a sense of duty towards those I hardly know. I am not unhappy, but it is strange.