I've learned a lot in my 26 years on this Earth. Not as much as I will have in a year from now, a month from now, even a day from now. But, enough. Enough to know how short our time is here by the death that surrounds us simultaneously with life. Enough to know much further one can get with a smile over a frown. Enough to know what the truth can really bring over any lies. I may not know the true depth for each of these, but I know enough.
One of the more important lessons I've ever learned is the beauty of friendship. If there is any relationship that anyone should fall back on, it's friendship. I didn't always believe this, and I don't think many people get to see this until much later. School is filled with teenagers, children, of circumstance. You don't always get to choose the place where you learn. This means that it takes a bit longer for some lessons to be learned. Sometimes, others learn a bit too quickly. And others still, never learn.
I think I learned a bit early, but it took me some time to accept the lesson. A victim of circumstance along with everyone else, I chose the best friends I could. Growing up is always awkward, and it was filled with me creating a close-knit group to protect myself from the terrible teenage girls taunting my every move. I was strong, never letting it show how horrible their remarks and mean spirited pranks truly were. I stood tall in the midst of their hearts filled with the need to tear down another in order to keep their own estranged emotions feeling confident that they aren't as fucked up as the next. People use the term of water over a smooth stone, but they forget that, as time continues, the stone does get smaller. I used to hate that term because I believed that was happening to me. I was in a sea of people, and only my hot headed, passionate nature kept me afloat.
The most interesting thing about friends are they they choose to be around you. Family, they don't have a choice. Your brother, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles... they're what you've got. You have to deal with their idiosyncrasies, even if it's just that naggling feeling of knowing that, no matter what, that is your blood. These are the people who you love no matter what, despite any hatred or ill-will between you.
Friends, however, are your chosen family.
My parents brought me up well. They taught me to always see the good in others, to see their potential, to know that being a friend means bringing out your best and theirs. And I took this to a golden rule. I was always so thankful for these wonderful, good people including me in their lives. I used to get so irritated that people would wonder why I'd hang out with certain people and crowds. Couldn't they see the beauty and wonder I was seeing?
As experience always eventually teaches, I see now what I couldn't see back then. It wasn't that these people weren't filled with a love, or a talent, or something special that allowed them to take on the world to make it a better place. It was that they weren't using it. This part of themselves was untapped, whether it was because they refused to accept it, didn't realize they had it, or just plain didn't think they were good enough. Looking at the past, I'm saddened. I was lucky. As sensitive as I am, the support I've managed to have allowed me to tap what I didn't think I could do for the better. These other people weren't as lucky.
It brings me to the saying of, 'You are who you associate with', or, as Jim Rohn says, "You are the average of the five people you most hang out with." I spoke with my friend Mandikat about this several times as we gushed of how lucky we are to have found such good friends in each other. The phrase at first glance for me was that people assumed that you were exactly like those you were seen with. I objectified to this observation while growing up. I hated that just because I could have a good conversation with someone who happened to skip class consistently and fail classes, they'd automatically assume that I was the same. It irritated me to a point of defiance, wanting to prove that opposites could indeed be friends. After all, I never caved to the offers of drugs. I never skipped class, kept up my good grades...
But, even with my parents' disapproval, I knew that I wouldn't really be hanging with these people. When I was around them, I didn't feel as if I were at my best, and I didn't like that feeling. And I felt as if I were trying really hard to show them their best, but they weren't interested either. Or, they'd be interested for a time, but then forget that need.
The discussions with Mandikat brought us to realize the difference of meaning. 'You are who you associate with' wasn't just a saying that people perceive you to be a certain way. It quite literally meant that we become more and more of whomever we spend the most time with. You spend more time with people who are negative nitpicks, always keeping you down, not only do you begin to believe this yourself, but you also begin to start to do the same thing. This is why people become their parents. This is why people can't seem to achieve their dreams. Why they can't seem to be happy. Because when you surround yourself with positive people, ones filled with an energy of success and love and caring, you begin to believe that way, too. And you slowly become this same way.
Imagine. A group of friends who only build awesome upon awesome, creating a world that, when associated with others doing the same, can only continue to get better.
I've come to realize that I have this. The people I am surrounded with on a constant basis, my five people, are a community of support. Anything I don't think I can do, they have enough belief to carry me. Whenever I am in want of doing something, they clamor at the opportunity to do the same. And, what's even better, I do the same.
The sad part is that I see others who haven't reached that point yet. They are still bound to their areas. Sometimes, I think it's because they don't know anything else. They haven't had that touch to realize there is more to offer. Sometime, it's that they don't believe they're worth it. The people they surround themselves with confirm this every day, and they're in a spiral that is rather difficult to get out of. I usually see that it is a comfort for them. It's scary to get what you want, to receive a warm touch when you're used to cold. I've been there before, so I get it. But there is also a sense of laziness to this. It's easier to stay in your position than taste what the world has to offer. It's easier to stay with what that one knows and deal with your cards dealt than take the chance to exchange for a whole new hand.
That is my greatest fear. To stay placid. Placid in friends, environment, and life. And that the decisions I've made to better my own life, such as melting away from the people who didn't make me a better individual, instead making me bitter and sad, are considered cruel. I did, honestly, give up on creating a positive energy in the relationship. I abandoned that hope. People have to want to change. They have to want to succeed. And you can't do that being surrounded by those who can't fathom anything beyond their clouded world.
But I see my happiness now. I see the laughter and caring. I see where I've been led, which is down a path where crazy antics of laser tag, nights of watching anime, and creating art in every form possible is considered not just a good time, but home. Where learning is every day, encouraged. It's as if every day is a blessing. And the days that aren't, they become a realization of one because these people aren't here to see your demise.
The best of this is that you know that you are a better person for having been around these people. Confidence rises, you become more sure of your steps, and you don't have to be as aware of your actions. Because you're constantly at home. And the best, the absolute best, the part that makes you trust this entire process is the knowledge that being around these people mean that you are being the best you can be.
I'm going places. I'm accomplishing things. And I'm living life. I can only hope that people look at me in the same light as I see the people I've surrounded myself with.