True friends

I'm neither afraid nor sad to admit that I don't have many friends. I have ex-schoolmates, colleagues, acquaintances, people I know from groups, organizations or the Internet, but I won't consider all of them as my friends. In fact, there are some among them who hate me. But, oh well, as the saying goes, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.

I have a few good friends from school and from work but as time went by we drifted apart because of relocation or other commitments. However, whenever we meet the years seem to melt away and we're taken back to the time when we used to spend more hours together. It's nice to reminisce but we are always keenly aware of how things can never be the same. We now have different jobs, some live in different countries, our appearances have changed, our interests and beliefs have changed too. Although in my mind I still consider them as my friends, I'm not sure whether I can still perform my role of a good friend to them. If one of them comes to me and asks for help, will I go all out to help that person? I haven't seen some of them in such a long time so I really don't know how I would react when faced with such a situation.

What makes a true friend? Someone who would lend you money or a helping hand when you need it? Someone who celebrates you joy with you when you are happy and offers you a shoulder to cry on when you're sad? Someone who does not abandon you because of your loss of financial or social status? Someone who shares similar interests and spends time with you? Someone who accepts you despite your shortcomings? Someone who accepts instead of judges your actions and decisions? I think it can mean different things to different people depending on the situation and the person's experience but few people who deny that the test of true friendship comes in times of need.

For me, a true friend is someone who offers loving advice and support but makes no judgment and with whom I can share my joys and sorrows. I don't always do things the way everyone else does and certainly have some less-than-conventional opinions. I don't expect anyone to agree with me but a true friend shouldn't condemn me for my choices or opinions. A true friend would celebrate my joys with me (versus getting jealous) and be supportive when I'm feeling down. I've made a few difficult choices in the past few years, e.g. turning Atheist. A few friends asked me about my decisions and were concerned whether I was feeling ok while other "friends" who felt strongly that I was making a mistake talked to me as though I've developed some kind of mental problem. As a matter of fact, I do have a mental problem! I have developed a greater ability to think and that, to society, is a type of problem. "When you start making choices, you start losing friends" - Kent Conrad, the Democratic Senate Budget Committee chairman. I suppose people who can only be "friends" with others with similar views would reject me as a friend.

But don't feel sad for me. I have 2 best gal friends: my 2 sisters. And I know that their friendship is perennial.