Third grade can be a difficult phase. Especially for kids like me who found making friends to be a daunting task.
I grew up in a building full of old people, having to spend most of my time indoors reading books or watching the television. And being the only child of a working couple didn’t help either.
Moreover, I studied in a convent school where clans of Catholic kids who were friends since kindergarten refused to include ‘outsiders’ (like me) to be a part of their group. To top it all, I was an introvert.
Hey, I wasn’t shy alright! I attempted to mingle with my classmates and thrust myself into one clan or the other; but once I realized that none of the third graders I’d spoken to had read Alice in wonderland or the secret seven, I didn’t know how else to make conversation.
I couldn’t care less about what to wear for the annual Christmas party in school like the others did and I was always the last one in class to know of the latest piece of gossip.
I could never understand why everyone hated writing essays in the literature class and why most of my classmates preferred sitting on the last benches.
You’d think I was one of the toppers or the teachers’ pet, but I wasn’t one of those either. I was stuck somewhere in the middle trying to make sense of the world in my own pace.
Well, this continued through most of my school life and even though I’d managed to make friends, they weren’t really “Friends.”
As I grew older I wondered if this is how things would always be. Me trying to make superficial conversations with acquaintances, passing them off as friends. With no one to trust my secrets with, without being judged. With no one to talk about things that really mattered to me.
I had learnt to be my own source of happiness for so long that somewhere along the line I began to think that I didn’t really need friends.
Boy! I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. The right people were yet to find their way into my life. And one day I finally chanced upon them.
But they didn’t resemble anything I thought my friends would look like.
They didn’t like the books that I did. They liked to party. They loved to dress up (I hated to!). They believed in sharing emotions (which I thought was absurd back then). They were loud and obnoxious. And I thought they had a terrible sense in music. However, we came to befriend each other’s oddities and fall in love with our differences.
I didn’t know how much I needed them until I met them. And today, if I could go back in time and talk to my school girl self, this is what I’d say:
Dear Little Girl,
Someday, you will find people who would understand exactly what you’re trying to say. They will know what shade of blue you’re imagining while you speak of a blue ribbon. They will know how much you feel for the children affected by the war in Syria or how much you worry about climate change.
They will know your likes and dislikes.They will know that you’d never want to watch horror movies at night and that Salman Khan movies are a big no-no!
They will always be honest with you. They will tell you, you look like shit in the dress you’re wearing or that you’re looking great with the new haircut. They will argue with you and tell you you’re wrong when you are. But they will stand by you when they know you’re right and the whole world thinks you’re not.
They will pay attention to the details. They will notice and appreciate things about you, most people won’t. They will know that you’re hiding something from them without you having to say a word.
They will protect you from the glare of the world. They will know about your deepest darkest secrets and take them to their grave. They will know of your worst fears and help you overcome them. They will hold you when you cry and let you douse their shoulders with tears. They will listen patiently when you rant your heart out and lighten your burdens.
At the same time they will also help you stand on your own feet and make sure that you’re strong enough to curve the problems life throws at you. They will push you to do better and grow each day. They will point out your flaws and help you mend them.
One way to tell for sure if they’re there to stay, is their ability to prioritise you. Your friends will always be there for you when you need them, no questions asked.
You will have an active role to play in this relationship too. You will be expected to be vulnerably honest, I know that’s scary, but trust me, it’s also liberating. For the first time in life your happiness will depend on others, and happiness will come to you when you least expect it. You will learn to share: things, experiences, success and your failures. You will always have someone to talk to at the end of a hard day.
But remember, for each person who fits this description, there will be ten others who won’t. So sit tight till you find the right ones and be ready to make memories to last for a lifetime. For when they do arrive, you’ll know it in your heart.
Your 23 year old self.
Cover picture credit- Haranish Mehta.