It’s friendship day, so naturally, our news feeds are flooded with mushy love letters to friends and witty listicles about the ‘XX’ kinds of friends we all make in our lifetimes. Without a doubt, we will have all felt the urge to clutch our besties and hug them till their bones tingle, when we read about people in their twilight years talking about how their friends, not love interests and spouses, turned out to be the most enduring relationships of their lives.
It’s not for nothing that one of the most iconic lines, uttered among one of TV’s most iconic foursome was, “Maybe we can be each other’s soul mates. And then we can let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with.” Charlotte, from Sex And The City, was the orator of these golden words, for the uninitiated. Best friends are the siblings we get to pick, the partners we share our most cherished vacations, the black holes for our filthiest secrets, the enablers for our most deviant desires, and the witnesses to our weakest, most shameful moments.
And they all have one thing in common: they show up.
The best, most precious and indispensable contenders in the list of friends that quietly but surely atrophies as the years pile onto the hips are the ones who show up. They’re not necessarily the ones you have the most fun with, or the ones who make you feel young, wild, and reckless, or the ones who take you to the hottest parties, or the ones who know the most exciting people, or those that give you your intellectual kicks. They may not be the people you share your obsession for 18th century English poetry with, or those who will yell themselves hoarse for the same football team. But they are the ones who will show up, when it truly matters, and when it’s not easy to show up.
As a toddler, they’re the ones who will insist on being your partner on the seesaw when no one else would, even though they’re no match for your khaate peete ghar ka proportions.
In school, they’re the ones who will spend lunch break in the sick room with you because it’s your first period and your uterus wants to murder you. The one who held your hand, even as you crushed her bones with your deathlike vice, risking permanent damage to her delicate fingers.
In college, they’re the ones who will quietly hear your mom’s withering lecture on how their company is spoiling their impressionable, innocent lamb, even though said lamb was out partying with the latest crush, while they made notes for the two of you.
At work, they’re the ones who will postpone long-awaited dates to spend hours and nights teaching you how to navigate the complicated worlds of powerpoint and excel, so you don’t look like a fool in front of your boss. Without glaring at you for always being too hungover to turn up for those early morning computer class you both signed up for.
Through the many hurts and heartbreaks, and the winding roads that life takes, they’re the ones who show up. The ones who will keep ringing the doorbell and threaten to beat down the door until you sulkily open up and allow yourself human contact when you’ve wallowed in your misery for long enough, and it’s time to rejoin the land of the living.
They’re the ones who will show up to babysit, hold your hand through divorce hearings and doctor’s visits, and fly cross-country to be there for a funeral, not just wedding celebrations and bachelorettes.
Nothing about showing up is inherent, it is intentional, and requires years of time, effort, patience, and many sacrifices — big and small. It’s tough to muster up excitement to spend the weekend babysitting a friend’s sick child so they can have some quiet time with their partner when you’ve had a gruelling week yourself. It’s not easy scheduling a phone call every day to check in on an unravelling friend. It’s just a phone call, your conscience prickles. It shouldn’t be this hard, you know. But it just is, because it’s one more exhausting item on an ever-growing to-do list. And that’s okay. Showing up was never meant to be easy, even if it seemed so simple.
The best ones are the ones who show up — again and again and again. When it’s tough and tiring, boring and painful, irritating and unwelcome. It’s not that they never fail. But when you go through life’s ledger, do you see more green or red?
It’s great to be the friend who cracks the funniest jokes, throws the best parties, and can generally charm the pants off anyone they meet. But being the friend that shows up is priceless. So, if you haven’t shown up in a while, friendship day is as good as any to start again.