These few days I have been wondering how I will define a close friend. Because I wouldn’t say that spending a lot of time with someone makes me feel close to the other person, but then that will most likely rule out others whom I don’t even spend time with. So, if I have close friends, what makes them my close friends? Oh yes, talking about this, I get quite uncomfortable answering questions like, ‘Are you close to so-and-so?’ Two usual scenarios. 1, No, but I can understand why that person asked (usually because they see us hanging out much) and yet I can’t explain why the answer is no. 2, Definitely, but I shy, really, honestly.
And just now while I was in the shower, I think I’ve found one way to understand how a close friend is defined in my… heart? Yeah, mind has got to try and understand my heart sometimes, so this is one such attempts.
I remember a friend, who seems more introverted than I am, telling me about the hamster ball concept. She said that she is like a hamster that stays in a hamster ball which has a very guarded entrance – meaning that she doesn’t allow just anyone in. And I so happened to be one who had the privilege of entering, and had her tell me about me being in her hamster ball. I felt privileged, but at the same time, I didn’t quite understand this concept. I thought it’s probably something that a very introverted person has, and I didn’t think that I have one as well.
But it seems like I do have one. I discovered mine while in the shower just now. The persona that most people see, is the one who opens the hamster ball, steps outside while my hand closes the door behind me. Out there, I raise my tone a little, joke about myself, learn to laugh at things people enjoy laughing at, learn what engages people, learn to tell stories in a way that excites them, learn to look like I’m totally thrilled by their exciting stories. It’s true that I had to learn all these things in my growing years – I was once that kid in the corner who went into self-isolation because I didn’t find the things people talk and laugh about interesting. (Oh by the way, this is not about turning hypocritical. I maintain my values even though I may change the way I present myself. As much as possible, I try to not be any nicer or any nastier than what my values say when I’m with peopele. To me, utilising a persona is about rising up to the occasion to meet the needs of it. It’s like, giving a presentation requires me to speak in a tone that doesn’t put people to sleep, stand and move in a way that doesn’t distract people and excite them to follow me on this journey of uncovering what I believe.)
And I get tired after a while of being in my “engaging mode”. Sometimes the crash is so bad that I will feel really down, and I will call for an official time-out from those I need to account to. This will be the time that I return to my hamster ball, while leaving people out.
Yet, at the same time, there is this tiny-until-I-can-use-one-hand-to-count group of people that I not only don’t mind them entering, but in fact want them to enter in here. We can sit here and not do anything, we can talk about everything, or we can even go out, whatever and I’ll be happy. These people energise me.
These are friends whom I share my hamster ball with. These are those that I don’t have to raise a tone to engage; I can talk in my monotonous voice and trust that they won’t be bored by me. These are those that I don’t have to learn to do stuff to impress them, but simply be myself. There are things that I don’t always tell people, like for various reasons such as not wanting to stumble people, or that I simply don’t find a need to explain so much about myself. Yeah, a lot of times people assume things about me and I let them because it takes effort to explain. I don’t know if they will really listen anyway and sometimes it just doesn’t bother me that they don’t really understand certain things about me.
But with these friends that I share my hamster ball with, I find the need to explain I guess. One of the things I tell them about is why I do what I do. Sometimes, there’s a real inspiration behind what I do. Other times, I do things despite the questions and considerations in my head. These are those that get to hear those questions, my dilemmas and all. I trust that they know where I’m coming from and hence will not condemn me when they hear these things. I trust that they will think over these questions with me, with empathy. And if there’s a better way to think about it, they will show me how. Or if they understand where I am trapped, they will ponder over it with me while we remind each other of what is important here. Such trust allows me to tell them the raw (i.e. almost unfiltered) thoughts in my head.
Friends whom I would like to have in my hamster ball even when I need a break from the rest of the world… I guess this is how I personally define my close friends.
Close proximity, and hmm yeah, there’s a higher possibility of these hurting me. I mean, you are already in my hamster ball, where else can I run to if you are to bring a knife along? And to be honest, I am pretty scared of that happening even as a new friendship approaches this stage of closeness. Many ‘what if’s start come to my head, and I’ll be like okay should I step back? I admit I have trust issues.
Which, is why to love is to be vulnerable (Lewis, 1971), isn’t it? And there, I find something new again as I search this quote up to credit C. S. Lewis for it. Thought I had read it well the previous time, but I guess I had not seen what comes before that.
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Interesting. Because, friendship has always been something that I will invest my life in. When it hurts it really does though. To love isn’t always natural, but there are times that require deliberation and making a conscious decision. To love.