I remember feeling absolutely excited about high school back in the summer before grade eight (I wouldn't find out how unconventional it is to look forward to high school until much later). The five-year adventure seemed to be filled with opportunities – especially opportunities to meet people. I was ready to make friends that would last a lifetime.
Still, as my fourteen-year-old self often did, I underestimated a lot of things. Of course, now that I am nearing the end of grade 12, I can definitely say that I have met people who I proudly think of as lifelong friends. But there is so much more. Friendships can be anything but easy, and there are other relationships that developed throughout the years.
Here is a list of 10 things I have realized about relationships along the way, whether they are relationships between me and my friends, my family or simply my acquaintances.
1. They need a lot of work.
I used to think there would be relationships that just work. I dreamed about those friendships that can last after years, ones where we can just pick up where we left off when we meet years after our separation. Yet as I grew closer to my friends in high school and drifted apart with my friends in elementary school (who I started to have less and less time to talk to because I moved to Canada from Taiwan), I realized that we can't just expect friendships to stay completely the same. Eventually new inside jokes would happen with my new friends, and that's all right too – but those friends who stay are definitely those who have had heart-to-heart conversations with me and with whom I put in an effort day-to day-to maintain a relationship.
2. Always speak up – it is healthy.
That is what my mother always says – to communicate. It is understandable that at times you would probably think "well, I guess [so and so] doesn't bother me that much." But you don't always have to let it slide! Talk about what upsets you. In my final year of high school, it was talking about all the stress I experienced due to university applications and looking for a job that really made me feel better. Trust me, talking about your issues moderately does not make you an annoyance in other people's opinions. Even if you might think your problems are a burden that don't need to be placed on someone else (like when I was wondering if talking about my stress was stressing other people out – weird logic I know) or are mildly offensive (is it okay to tell my sister that I just don't have time to help her with her physics homework?), it is always better to talk things out so problems can be resolved.
3. Not every friend has to be your closest friend.
Like I had mentioned, I was excited to make lifelong friends before going to high school – I wanted to have a blast with a large group of BFFs. As a result, I became invested in maintaining a great friendship with everyone, to the point where I had a notebook keeping track of friends I had made (it got out of hand, as you could see). That's not to say trying your best with everyone is a bad thing, but don't beat yourself up when some people don't seem to be as invested as you are. It's fun to have a large group of friends to hang out with, but not all of them need to be the ones who share deep conversations with you. A few close friends and a handful of acquaintances will be enough, and I can't be more content with the few but close friends I have right now.
4. Relationships can be one-sided.
This is an extension from my last point. Not necessarily everyone is as invested in a relationship as you are, and not everyone may want to maintain a relationship to begin with. For a large portion of my high school career, I volunteered at a caring home, with my main duties being taking residents out for walks or simply providing companionship. I had desperately wanted to become friends with every resident, but it soon became apparent to me that only a few of them seemed interested. The others either were content talking to other residents or simply wanted alone time. Of course, I still tried my best to be a cheerful companion, but I stopped being hung up on feeling hurt when they didn't want to reciprocate my attempt at friendship. It became much easier to interact with them with that thought in my mind.
5. Just because people don't innately like you, it doesn't mean there's no hope.
Ah, our first part time job. Everyone remembers it, and there are definitely things that we don't miss about said job. For me, that would be trying to earn my manager's trust – it was an exhausting and stressful journey. And I felt like the more I tried to impress her and the more I messed up, the less she liked me. Yet as time went on, and as I became more familiar with my job, she started warming up to me. She might not have liked me at first, but that can be changed and the same could apply to many other people.
6. It's okay to give yourself a break.
Texting with my friends gradually became one of my most important pastimes. We talked about everything and anything – from funny videos to story ideas to rants about what goes on in our lives. It is a great way to relieve stress, although it can also become a heavy chore when some friends need to speak to me and ask for advice while I am also going through a rough patch myself. At first I felt as though I was neglecting my responsibilities as a friend by putting off replying to them, but in the end I realized that no one holds it against me and that it's okay to give myself some break too when I need it. It would give you more strength by having some rest.
7. Sometimes you need to let go.
Friends drift apart, whether we want them to or not. It will come to a point where a friendship just takes too much energy to maintain, either because the two of you have become too different or there simply isn't enough time. I learned this the hard way with a lot of my friends in Taiwan, but then again, a few close friends and a handful of acquaintances can be enough. Letting go of relationships is a vital part in our lives too.
8. Rely on someone, but also be independent.
This is perhaps what my parents have taught me the most. It is a beautiful thing to have someone to lean on, but you also have to be able to function when you are on your own. Two years ago my mother arranged a trip that I needed to take on my own with my cousins and siblings without any help from her. She has always been someone I can talk to and rely on, but this exercise on being independent definitely taught me a lot, from how to organize a trip to the perks of being on my own.
9. It will be rewarding.
I have put in so much effort into maintaining the friendships I have with my current friends, and I do not regret any single second of it. Same with my families – our relationships have evolved so much, and I am glad to be where we are right now. I have found who I can trust and count on, and I have grown much more independent as well.
10. You will learn something from every relationship, regardless of the significance.
Whether it is friends, families, tentative friendships between me and the residents at the caring home or the dynamics between me and my manager, I learned something from each and every of the relationships. I grow, no matter how much I care about these people or how long they last. To quote the writers of Girl Meets World, people change people. Maybe we didn't think it was possible to change dramatically through high school, but I have grown and changed because of the people I met. And I cannot be more grateful for this.
Lead Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash