Welcome to 2020 and welcome to my first blog of the year.
As most of you know, I am Australian (of Croatian heritage) and you no doubt have heard or seen a bit about the catastrophic fires that are happening here right now. The devastation and long term affects of this crisis will be felt for months and years to come. I personally am safe and likely will remain so, God willing. But the tears I’ve shed and the anxiety I’ve felt as I’ve witnessed my beloved country burn has been enormous and I am one of the lucky ones. We have all too many people here who haven’t been so lucky.
However, that wasn’t the topic I wanted to write about this time. Normally all my blogs are book/writing related but with the events happening around me, I really feel compelled to take the opportunity to talk about friendship. So I will.
Years ago, someone once said to me that my online friends aren’t “real” friends. I took huge offence at that, so much so that we ended up in a big argument. But I stand by my assertion that he was wrong.
When asked, most people would define friendship as a mutual respect and care between people who enjoy each other’s company, who have things in common or similar interests – sometimes lots of that and sometimes not so much – who care about each other’s well being and turn to each other for support and comfort, for shared laughs and shared tears. People who are there for you, no matter what, no matter when.
And wouldn’t that description be right?
So how would online friends not be “real” if they provide you with those exact same things except they’re far from you? I have relatives who I don’t speak to as often as I do my online friends. And I have online friends who are as close to me as my “real-life” friends, people I refer to as soul sisters or forever friends.
Friendship isn’t about being in each other’s physical presence constantly. Friendship is far more layered and nuanced than that. For me, it’s the knowledge that no matter what’s going on in my life, no matter how long it’s been since we last spoke, I can turn to that person called Friend and know that they’re there for me. And vice versa.
It’s about speaking to friends, interstate or overseas and knowing that they are right there, at the edge of your fingertips, a digital click away. Of knowing so much about their lives and their families that you care for those family members as if they were an extended part of your own.
It’s getting upset for your friend in London who’s worried about another friend in Sydney. It’s offering support to others who have newborn grandchildren having operations or husbands going through mental stress. Or who just experienced a parents death and needed to talk to someone and being able to hold their hand metaphorically while they cry. It’s receiving an unexpected Christmas present all the way from Germany just because that person was thinking of you. It’s having conversations with your Chilean friend who can’t speak English at all and you can’t speak Spanish but somehow the two of you manage. It’s waking up to friends in Norway messaging you to see if you’re safe. The tonnes of friends on Facebook from the USA, Canada, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, South America, Germany, South Africa and so many others, all checking up on you to see if you’re safe in this fire disaster. It’s knowing that because you invited them to donate to charities, they did so. And they did so simply because you asked. Because they care about you and your country.
All of these things come from my online friends. And that’s just a tiny portion of the care and friendship shown to me daily. Does the fact that none of them are in my home town negate that friendship, make it less “real” as that fool argued with me one time?
Not at all. Far from it, in fact.
They’re as special and precious and real to me as my friends physically closeby. They’re as important and as reliable; as dependable, trustworthy and as necessary. I may not be able to reach out and touch them like I can with my friends here in town but their friendship is no different. Just the same as my “live” friends, if I needed them, they’ll be there, through good times and tough ones.
They HAVE been there.
And they’ve been there for years now. I know that should I travel to their country and show up unexpectedly on their doorstep, I would be welcomed with both arms. They know they would get the same from me and if they didn’t know, then I’ve just told them.
It doesn’t matter if we don’t speak to each other daily. In this digital era, I can reach out whenever I want and there they are. I can call and speak verbally to them, or have long chats messengering through cyberspace for hours on end, stretching over days and days. The only thing I can’t do is hug them. But one day, I will rectify that. It’ll happen, I swear.
Someone once accused me of making friends too easily (as if that’s a bad thing). However, I’ve always been that way because I think people are inherently good and I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t be a friend. I’ve lived my life that way and I’m not changing at this late stage. I think it’s one of my better personality traits anyway.
All of this means that I’m blessed to be able to call so many different people around the world my friends. And I adore them all.
I hope you didn’t mind me blogging about something other than my stories. If you didn’t and you think I should do it more often, let me know. Or if you’d like me to talk about a specific subject, let me know that too. Either way, thanks for listening.
Till next time, much love as always,
PS…. Here’s some links that might be useful to you. No one is obliged and I know some of you have already donated but I can’t not put this information out there. Every dollar helps.