Friends Who Are Keepers vs “Energy Vampires”…

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I am properly exhausted. Last week was my best friend’s birthday and what an epic week it was. It seems like just yesterday when a birthday bash involved a trip to the cinema followed by an A&W feast, or an exciting McDonald’s party, complete with a dunk in the pool of plastic balls if we got lucky. At some point over the last thirty years however, birthday celebrations have evolved into week-long festivities spanning multiple countries, involving in excess of one hundred people and resulting in sheer exhaustion. Throw in a fortieth birthday milestone, and the celebrations become worthy of a spot on the national calendar of gazetted public holidays.

Granted we are no longer pre-adolescents when life was much simpler, but the birthday guest list far exceeded my entire phone book of contacts, and much to the trepidation of my inner hermit, I had to do more socialising in the past week than I have done in the last five years.

Nevertheless, a best friend is precious and only turns forty once. So it was a non-negotiable yet admittedly enjoyable sufferance.

And amidst the late nights, fatigue and recalcitrant recovery, it was a time to reflect on friendships. I have found that you meet so many people in the course of daily life, but there are few whom you feel compelled to invite through the front door. Friends come and go, yet it is always the good friends who never seem far away, even if they were to be living in the Arctic. Not that I know any Eskimos, nor do I have anything against them.

I ask myself what turns a friend into a close friend, and I conclude that the answer lies not in the level of fun you have, nor how much time you spend together. I believe it simply comes down to how comfortable you feel with a person – how willing you are to open up to them, to let them see your true self, and to dare to trust and be trusted. There are those whom you have known for a long time, but there are also those who you just meet and find an instant connection with. In the blink of an eyelid and before you can make any sense of the situation, you have invited them in for tea and scones to discuss your inner soul. It is this inexplicable chemistry that forms the foundation of a close friendship. Time then naturally weeds out the bad fruit, and many fall by the wayside as your developing friendships face and fail the tests of support, trust, loyalty and the other usual suspects that define a close friendship.

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And then there is the concept of energy. A few days ago, a friend introduced me to a new age term for someone who through spreading their inherent negativity constantly drags you down – a “hangdog”, it is apparently called. Soon after, I coincidentally read an article about applying Feng Shui to your friends – by eliminating negativity and spring cleaning away the people who deplete you. A harsh concept at first glance, but it speaks so many truths, not least that good company leads to good mental health, which in turn can only lead to happiness and success in the long term. It considers friends as objects in your environment, either nourishing or depleting you, and referred to these hangdogs whom I so recently learned about as “energy vampires” who suck the life out of you.

Whilst my best friend’s birthday celebrations have done just that, the friendship and bond we share does just the opposite. But life is flying by. Last week brought the realisation that our teenage years were a rather long time ago. The twenties then came and went in a flash, and the thirties are done with, god forbid. As you look back, you marvel at how time flies. It seems like only yesterday when we were leaving for boarding school, or celebrating the birth of my best friend’s niece, who coincidentally turned up for the birthday party donning a trendy romper and proceeded to dance the night away in bright lipstick and sky high heels.

They say life is short, but I do not wholly agree. I feel that the lucky ones amongst us are given a decent length of time, but it moves rather quickly. It is essential to make the most of every moment because before you know it, you are knocking on the door of the middle ages. And by that I am not referring to Medieval Europe, but to our very own ageing. Those “uncles” and “aunties” who appeared so old in my eyes not too long ago are now the reflection in the mirror, and it is a strong reminder to make the most of the time you have with close friends, because before you know it, the topic of the day will be cholesterol levels and brands of Zimmer frames.

I have no doubt that we will still feel and most likely continue to act like teenagers when that day comes, perhaps even continuing to indulge in McDonalds if our arthritis and dentures allow. But we should identify, appreciate and value the close friends we have today, those who enrich your life rather than the energy sucking hangdogs, to build up memories that we can look back fondly upon whilst struggling to balance in those looming Zimmer Frames.