I suppose it’s the cliche, as you grow older you begin to realise who your true friends are. But it’s true. I can now count the number of ‘real friends’ on one hand – and I’m much more selective about who I let into my ‘inner circle’ in my head. By nature, I’m a very kind, forgiving and generous person. I’m by no means the perfect friend, but if I care about someone, I’ll help them no matter what. One of the qualities I pride myself on the most is that I’m loyal.
But around the age of 18, I had a few realisations that just because you treat people with love and kindness, it doesn’t always mean that they will reciprocate.
You’ll always have that flaky friend, the one that lets you down at the last minute. The one that is a little too honest and can leave you feeling a bit deflated. The one that seems to bring your mood down. The one that bitches about their ‘best friends‘ so much that you start to wonder what they say about you behind closed doors.
Then there’s the ones that are always there to provide a witty comment when you need a laugh. The ones where your conversation is entirely made up of memes and silly videos. The ones who never fail to make you smile. The ones who always know the right thing to say.
There are a million types of friend, but my favourite kind is the ones where you can pick up where you left off even if it’s been months (or years) between seeing them. The low maintenance kind who you know will always be there if you need them, but you don’t live in each others pockets. The ones who you can spend a week with on holiday and still not get sick of them.
And so to celebrate, my amazing, wonderful friends – I wanted to pinpoint a few things I’ve learned from them each over the years. Because surrounding yourself with positive, inspiring people, brings you up too!
You can be a totally independent girl boss and pave your own way in life.
As you’ll probably know if you read my Miami post, Em is a blogger friend who I’ve known since the beginnings of this website. But she’s also a friend in real life too because I’ve confided in her some of my worries, woes and life stories, and she has to me.
Em inspires me in so many ways, because she’s had a tough time so far and for some hideous reason life seems to keep throwing her curve balls, yet she uses these reasons to motivate and drive her forward in her passions. She’s a girl whose made it entirely on her own and she continues to be incredibly successful in her endeavours.
She is one of the most hard-working humans I know, she fits a million things into one day and yet she always has the time to offer me advice if I need it. She stands up for what she believes in and fundraises for causes close to her heart.
Her focused and positive outlook on life has often given me the little push I’ve needed to go forth with my own passions and aspirations – and that is certainly one incredible quality that I value in a friend. She is consistently outstanding me with her new ventures and beautiful content and I think if there was anyone to embody the term ‘Girl Boss’, it would undoubtably be her.
I love that nothing and no-one stops her in setting out to achieve what she had in mind, her brain is constantly whirring with new ideas and she is on the ball, 24-7. She’s pretty much an all-round perfect creature (I mean, have you seen her figure!) and yet she continues to remain extremely down to earth.
She’s also the BEST travel partner because she’s so organised and does so much research that you can’t NOT have a good time with the itinerary she’s envisioned. As someone who tends to wing most things (aside from my A Level English essays, I’m not really a planner) and then arrive back from somewhere regretting not finding hidden gems, it’s nice to explore with someone who will ensure that you don’t miss out on a location’s best bits!
The most beautiful discovery that true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.
Dominic has been my best friend since I was about three, when our initial meeting was situated in a rather unsavoury looking sandpit. He was eating the sand. I was fed up about arguing with the girls over whose Barbie had the prettiest dress, so I waddled over to the sand and tried to make witty conversation, as every three year old does. We became firm friends.
Since then, our friendship has been littered with hilarious and dramatic moments. Both my childhood and teenage years feature him heavily in my most cherished memories since luckily, we moved up with one another in the same schools and sixth form. We had other interests, other friends and other experiences, but we always gravitated back towards one another. We grew up, left school but we kept in touch. In fact, he was the only person from school I kept in touch with.
We chose different paths in life, for me it involved studying for a Journalism degree before eventually graduating to pursue my blogging endeavours full time. For him, three years at Cambridge and a date next month to be ordained into the Church of God and made a Deacon. And yet, growing separately in this way never really tested our friendship, it never made it grow apart.
I’ve watched him grow into an intelligent, kind and compassionate person that he is today. Wherever we’ve both been in the world, either gallivanting round the globe or starting University, he’s always been there for me. From graciously being my date to prom aged 16, to always inspiring me to succeed. There is no friend more loyal, more kind or more wonderful than he. Friendships like that should be treasured, because even if you don’t speak everyday, or see each other regularly, you know they’re a warm, kind constant that will always be there.
In November last year, Dominic and his partner had a beautiful civil ceremony in our hometown. I adore his husband Daniel just as much as I do him – and seeing them both so happy together has bestowed the same warm positivity upon me. He very kindly asked me to be his groomsmaid (best man/bridesmaid combined, don’t cha know!?) and despite initially FREAKING OUT at having to make an almost ten minute long speech after dinner, it gave me a chance to reflect on how special our friendship really is. And even more so, on how special friendship in general, really is.
Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable.
We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love.
This is going to sound terribly soppy and OTT, but when in relationships previous to my current one, I thought I’d been in love. I thought I’d experienced unapologetic, real, raw and true love. I thought I’d bared my soul to someone simply because we were officially an item – and yet, I hadn’t.
It was only when I met David almost two years ago that I started to realise what true love consists of and what it takes to be in love. Because being in love isn’t unicorns and puppy dogs and candyfloss. It isn’t honeymoon periods and grand romantic gestures and over the top dates to fancy restaurants. Of course, it’s part of love and David manages to pull off a number of beautifully romantic surprises but it isn’t exclusively what love is about.
Love is about opening up unapologetically and not being afraid to show your true self. It’s about laughing into the early hours over something that probably wouldn’t be funny if you weren’t on exactly the same wavelength. It’s about disagreeing, arguing and then making each other laugh. It’s not about having someone fix you, or make you complete, but adore you for who you are. To notice every detail that makes you unique and build you up with confidence so you can conquer the world exactly as you are.
I’ll never forget one of our first dates, we’d just had a lovely meal at a restaurant and were sitting in his car down the road from my house, as I tried to put off him dropping me off. David had eaten something a bit dodgy and his stomach was making gurgling noises louder than he could rev his engine. He didn’t get embarrassed, he laughed it off with me and we eventually got onto the topic of digestive health, which admittedly, would probably scare most guys off. I don’t know why, but this gave me the confidence to open up about my IBS, which at the time, affected me greatly and was a large part of my life. I’d always been hideously embarrassed about it. I thought it made me less ‘lady-like’. I thought it was a flaw that some poor soul was eventually going to have to accept.
As it turned out, David had already read my blog and he knew all about my IBS story. The perils of having a blog, eh? He opened his arms, said that I could always talk to him about it and that it was something I should never be embarrassed or ashamed about. And it’s like a weight was lifted. He didn’t think I was weird, or undesirable, or different. And that realisation has given me so much confidence.
His words of wisdom continue to inspire and drive me, and while I do believe I’ve always had self-confidence, David encourages me to believe in myself. To not be ashamed to have faith in my passions and push for what I want. To ask for things, to communicate and to never underestimate myself. When I say I can’t, he says I can. And over time, it’s stuck. I can. He can. We can.
And in terms of our weirdness, our mutual weirdness, he’s also taught me that it’s okay to be entirely myself. That you don’t have to filter who you are because of who you’re around. David is one of the most open and brutally honest people I think I’ve ever met. Sometimes this can have hilarious consequences but the majority of the time, it’s so undeniably refreshing. We’re a team, a weird and wacky and unconventional one, but one that looks out for one another, communicates and wants the best for the other. One that understands the importance of being friends, as well as romantic partners.
The only way to be, is truly and unapologetically yourself – and to stand up for what you believe in and who you love.
I remember being ten years old and in floods of tears every night after school. Two girls, supposed friends, were bullying me relentlessly everyday. Back then, I didn’t know it was called bullying.
I thought I’d done something wrong and was therefore suffering the consequences, but my mum wasn’t having it. She couldn’t bear to see me like this and she reassured me that I shouldn’t change to satisfy these girls and I should continue to be myself.
She also went to the school and tackled the issue head on. I was moved classes, I made new friends and it soon became a distant memory.
But all the way through my life, as I’m sure any girl (or guy) will testify, you do come across problems and issues where you question your identity, whether you’re liked and whether you should stand up for something you believe in or just go with the status quo for ease.
My mum instilled in me a vehement force always to stand up for what I love, who I love and what I believe in. Of course, not in an aggressive manner or one that would offend others, but just not being afraid to not give in, if it didn’t adhere to my own values. I was taught to appreciate and respect others values, even if they didn’t align with my own, but not to feel pressured to change who I was.
This may have lost me a few ‘friends’ along the way, because I wasn’t one to fit in or go along with the plan if I didn’t like it, however in the long run, it’s done me a whole lot of favours. Like the time my friends decided it would be fun to tell their parents they were staying at each others, and yet in reality, they’d be doing an ‘all nighter’ in the local park with the group of boys from our school.
Thirteen-year-old me couldn’t think of anything worse than spending all night under a slide, wrapped up in a coat. So I upped and left. It was never about being a goody goody, it was just never feeling the pressure to conform if it wasn’t for me.
I’ve always upheld similar opinions when it comes to drugs and binge drinking. It just never appeared on my radar of things I wanted to do, ever, so I didn’t. And I didn’t feel like any less of a person just because I wasn’t the same as everyone else.
This is just one of the many things my mum has taught me, but I’ve actually written an entire post dedicated to the many others here, in case you fancied a little read.
Positivity shines the brightest and superheroes don’t always wear capes.
I met Dean on a press trip a few years ago and we were drawn to one another’s eyebrow raising and giggles at the place we were visiting. I’m pretty sure Magaluf was never on either of our ‘must visit lists’ but we ended up having the most fabulous time and completely dispersing our previous misconceptions of the place as a destination to exclusively party as a teenager.
Probably one of my favourite nights of my life was spent there, dining on the beach and then dancing the night away in a random bar on the strip. Dean and I had consumed more alcohol than I wish to remember, but this soon gave a spark of energy to our dancing feet, which sprung into action as Beyonce boomed from the speakers. The night whizzed by in a blur of me spinning around, invariably toppling over and Dean trying to catch me in among fits of laughter. One fuzzy memory includes us teaching a large group of older men how to moonwalk. Unsuccessfully.
Admittedly, neither of us really enjoyed the hangover that greeted us the following morning, but still – to this day – I remember that night very fondly. And it certainly cemented mine and Dean’s friendship. We kept in touch and I saw Dean at a few events following our trip, including one of my own blogger events, which he kindly came along to support me for. I truly valued his support and watching his platforms grow as he launched a blog and later, a magazine.
But then something extremely upsetting happened. In June of last year, Dean was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma – a rare soft tissue cancer. At just 20-years-old and having just completed his first term of University, this understandably was a huge blow. In fact, I wouldn’t even know what words would adequately describe this feeling. But Dean, being Dean – handled it incredibly. His positivity and fight to beat cancer never faltered, yet he bared every emotion, every detail of his journey online, giving us a real, poignant insight into what living with cancer is truly like.
He campaigned for same-sex fertility discrimination, as he exposed a legal loophole governing fertility treatment after death. Despite his ongoing treatment potentially resulting in infertility, his partner could not been allowed access to his sperm to use with a surrogate, despite a heterosexual couple being allowed to do this. Alongside undergoing chemo, Dean set in motion a chain of events that eventually forced Britain’s governing body for fertility treatments to issue a formal apology and a review on the clarification of same-sex couples rights.
His drive to spread positivity, raise awareness, campaign for what’s right and (unbelievably) launch a brand new print magazine, amazed and touched me. His positivity radiates and in times of feeling low, I simply look to his achievements and his ethos to bring back warmth and love into my own life. I am incredibly proud to know Dean, to be his friend and to have witnessed all that he has achieved, created and instills in others. He fights with all he has and never lets anything defeat him.
After months of chemo, Proton therapy treatment – which he had to travel halfway across the world to receive – and a major operation, he was dealt another tragic blow. His cancer has spread. Understandably, Dean is upset. But he powers on and continues to let his family and friends know that he still has so much fight left in him. And I know he has.
Because while he is only human, in my eyes, he’s superhuman.
Kindness is so important and some problems seem so HUGE at the time, but they’re all relative and they will pass.
Now Zara is my ten-year-old sister and so you could argue she’s just a sibling rather than a friend, however being 13 years older than her – I feel more like an ‘Auntie’ figure and we’ve never had that traditional sister bickering. For someone so young, she is so very wise and she reminds me very much of myself when I was her age, only trading in her iPad for an Enid Blyton book.
She is very mature for a ten-year-old however she still has the typical problems with friends at school, for which she tells me about in great detail. She is the kindest creature in the world and looks after anyone and everyone if they’re feeling down. Probably the most heart warming thing to see was when she looked after a classmate on sports day, who couldn’t quite carry out the activities like everyone else and as a result, was becoming increasingly upset. All her peers were laughing at this girl or ignoring her altogether and yet my sister, Zara, cheered this one girl on like her life depended on it. She made an effort to high five her when she finished an obstacle course. She patted her on the back and told her how well she was doing. She gave her a hug when she looked upset and she encouraged her to carry on! Watching this happen made me well up and I realised just how important positive acts of kindness can be. Zara felt good that she’d helped this girl and her classmate was so happy to receive such positive encouragement!
Similarly, when she has issues and discrepancies with other classmates (we’ve all experienced ‘being left out of the group’ and being made fun of), she tells me about them and it reminds me of my time at school, where I had similar issues. I was a very sensitive person and took it to heart, a lot. I thought my world was ending because one person didn’t like me. Does this affect me now? Nope. Did it matter a few weeks down the line of when the problem was occurring? Not really.
Some worries are time sensitive and really aren’t worth the energy of worrying about. Obviously when you’re younger, they seem like the most devastating thing to happen in our little bubble worlds, but as the years pass, you realise their true meaning.
Don’t take life too seriously and know when to laugh at yourself.
Danielle is probably the only person I’ve stayed in touch with from University.
We met at the end of our first year as we were on the same journalism course and pretty much from the get go, we became firm friends.
Pushed together by our love of travel and worrying, we were a vivacious and yet slightly anxious team. I say the latter because both Danielle and I were seasoned worriers, who took every horror story published in the news at face value and added it to our list of concerns.
For example, there was the time we went to Crete together for a holiday and on the plane journey home, we spotted that there were two men acting rather suspiciously at the back of the plane.
One of us spotted it first and alerted the other – and for the next hour, we together worked ourselves into a complete state at what could possibly be happening.
One man would enter the toilet, for the other man to lean against the door on his back, pushing so hard I thought that the door was going to cave in.
Then the second man would eventually stop leaning on the door and sneak into the toilet. Then they would swap and the whole process would start again.
Meanwhile, they would shiftily look at the cabin and when they spotted an air hostess, they would both retreat back into the toilet. At one stage, they were in there for a full fifteen minutes. Yup, we timed them.
All kinds of possibilities of what could be happening entered our heads. Were we going to drop out of the sky at any given moment. Were they plotting something. And why on EARTH wasn’t anyone else looking remotely concerned?
In the end we were both in such a state (and our necks were sore from all the turning round and craning our necks over seats to catch the latest update) that we had to just look at one another and laugh. Eventually, as it turns out – these men had severe food poisoning and were taking it in turns to destroy the toilet, but not in the way we initially thought.
We discovered this when Danielle asked to use the loo on the way off the plane and the air hostess explained what had happened.
Following this, I now remember not to take life quite so seriously and when I’m around Danielle, I feel uplifted and in my most positive mood. By nature, she’s a very friendly, hilarious and kind person – and she also knows when to laugh at herself too.
She’s taught me to see the funny side of things and we always find something to giggle at when we’re together.
Plus, we’re both clumsy (me probably more so) and while this is usually slightly embarrassing when I’m around other people, I know with her, it’s just another thing we can roar with laughter at.
What have your friends taught you – or what qualities do you love about them?