I don’t have that many friends. No, it’s true. I don’t. But I am okay with this. I am not the kind of person who likes to be surrounded by circles of people. I would rather have one solid friend I can speak to every day, than one hundred people I hear from only once in a while.
As a private person, it isn’t an easy thing for me to relax around others. It takes a great deal of time before I am at ease enough with someone to call him or her a friend. It is a big investment. I don’t have casual relationships. There is quite a gap between friendship and acquaintanceship. Work associates, classmates, neighbours, people I talk to at the bus stop, these all fall into the latter category. They come and go out of my life and don’t leave any scars. Friendship, for me, is much deeper. It involves loyalty and shared confidences, emotional connection and mutual concern. Whether with a winky face or an outright jibe, You know I consider you a friend when I am comfortable enough to make fun of you.
I tease because I love.
Which is why, the few friends I am so lucky to have, are people I have known for a long time. For example, I am still friends with the very first person whom I ever gave this title, at age three. Almost thirty years later, we don’t speak often, but the friendship remains intact. With or without social media, I do believe we would have kept in touch.
My friendship with Kelly is young in comparison. I met her in 2011 when we shared an office. It is rare for me to befriend someone at work. I like to keep separate worlds. It is easier to organize and prevents me from having to reveal too much about myself out of my usual sphere. At work, I like people to think I have my shit together. The less they know, the better. I had just left an awkward job elsewhere and was still trying to figure out if there was a polite way of unfriending former co-workers on Facebook. I told myself I would never add colleagues to my personal accounts ever again.
This vow didn’t last long. Kind of hard to ignore a Facebook friend request from a boss.
Kelly and I weren’t immediate co-conspirators or kindred spirits. We both have our issues, after all. I can’t say when we shifted from officemates to partners in crime. It was a seamless, gradual change. Maybe it was after her cat drew my blood after the Sandwich War of 2011. Or perhaps it was more subtle than that. I don’t know if it is because we have so much in common, or if I just like people who test my patience, but in retrospect, it seems to me she was bossing me around quite regularly within six months. It stopped annoying me after twelve.
Remember, verbal abuse equals affection, just ask my sister.
We’ve been through some stressful times together. At first they were all work-related. I can recall so many episodes of Adventures in Late Night Photocopying and Let’s Get This Conference Over With. Of course, we can’t forget the classic, Year of Shittery. Always a pleaser. But as horrible as things seemed and as overwhelming as it all was, we could always laugh about it. We experienced so many breaking points together, moments of meltdown over inoperable hand carts and frustrating emails. But the solution was often just a Starbucks trip away.
And if it wasn’t, we were there to support. We couldn’t solve each other’s problems, but we could understand.
I don’t keep in touch with many former work pals. As I’ve mentioned, previous acquaintanceships have died the instant I left the building. When we made the decision to leave Halifax, one of my biggest regrets was moving away from friends. I worried I would lose what I had gained.
Kelly was, and is, different. At that point she knew who I was, dorky dog blog and all, and didn’t judge. She put up with my heckling and my insecurities and I put up with her commandeering and lack of filter, knowing she had the tougher end of the deal. My hermit ways are not easy to withstand. I should have known if she’d already ignored my previous attempts to evade, she wasn’t going to drop me the instant I was out of sight.
We still talk almost every day. She has been an incredible source of calm, even from a distance. When Shiva was injured last fall, Kelly didn’t think I was crazy or overreacting when I called her in tears. She understood my fears, stayed up long past midnight to listen to me yammer, and offered her resources to help us out. There was no hesitation. When I think back on that night, I realize just how lucky I am to have such a warm and giving person on my team.
It’s a small team, but it’s a devoted one. I don’t know if I will ever deserve it. Kelly would be the first to chime in that I don’t.
I am not as skilled as Kelly, unfortunately. I can’t craft beautiful images or dedicate hours to sewing thoughtful gifts. The birthday presents I have planned out for her, have not been good enough to match what she has given me. It is a failure of mine, that I can never seem to synchronize the image in my head with the outcome. I fear this makes me a terrible friend. One little blog post is hardly an appropriate gift. It is just all I have to offer today, alongside my constant support and solidarity.
I often reflect on how much of life depends on the small decisions we make. The deadline had passed when I applied for the job where I met Kelly. I recall wavering before emailing my resume anyway. What would have happened if I hadn’t pushed the send button? Where would I have worked? Whom would I have met? I am certain I made the best choice. I know if I hadn’t met Kelly, if she hadn’t been kind enough to ignore all of my flaws, I wouldn’t be the quasi-well adjusted person I am right now.
Of course, it’s also possible I would have met a friend with a yacht and a house on the island of Sardinia, but I’ll give Kelly the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Happy Birthday, Kelly. Even if you like the Backstreet Boys, I am so grateful I can call you a friend.