I’d like to reply to your post with something that I wrote in my notebook on April 5, 2011. It’s in Chinese but I will add comments after.

最近忽然發覺,原來自己很渴望有朋友,很盼望有陪伴。所以,當認識到能聊上幾句的同事,就特別高興。有些人或許會把同學,同事,和朋友的界線劃得很清,但若能跟某人談上幾句,感覺不錯,我就會很快稱之為朋友。是不是我太天真?

在我成長得一個個階段,我有過幾種不同對朋友的看法。最大的改變或許就是船長提起的 FRIEND vs. ACQUAINTANCE。當時,這個分辨朋友和<泛泛之交>的方法對我有很大的影響。也許,我認為從泛泛之交到朋友,需要一段時間。

而現在呢?不知道是不是因為來到歐洲後要重新來過,經常會感到寂寞,所以每一個和別人做朋友的機會我都會抓緊。在當中,我要學習如何去真正關心這些朋友,好讓這段關係不會停留在(或回復到)泛泛之交的地步。萬萬不可抱著 ATTENTION SEEKING 的心態!

Remember how I asked whether you think you define “friend”, “classmate”, and “colleague” clearly? I wrote this after I thought about it more and more. I think it was strangely appropriate to response to your thoughts with this.

First let me tell you a story. The “Captain” that I mentioned in the above entry – he was a very good friend of mine before university. Then he started dating my best friend slash roommate in first year, and everything went downhill from there. I think I was jealous of her or something (no, I didn’t like Captain, I had felt that our friendship was more than regular friends but less than that of boyfriend/girlfriend because I didn’t have any feelings for him, if that makes any sense – it was intricate) but him and I just drifted apart. I became apathetic and talked to him less and less, and as a result he did the same. We ended up holding the stupidest grudge against each other (for literally NO reason) for 4 years, my entire 4 years of university. The entire time I felt super guilty and CONFUSED. Like, what the hell even happened? Then at the end of 2009 he took the initiative to talk to me again and now we are good friends again. This is the EXTREMELY SHORT ABRIDGED version of the story and there are complicated twists and turns throughout the whole thing that I can tell you in detail if you’re for some reason interested 😛

To quote my favourite book (also Captain’s favourite), The Little Prince: “You become responsible for what you tame.” The word “tame” in this context means to create ties. Once you establish ties of (true) friendship with someone, he/she isn’t just a random person anymore or as mentioned, an “acquaintance”. I think it becomes something very special and if you want to maintain the relationship, you have to nourish it and feel a sense of responsibility for it. You don’t just throw it away carelessly and immaturely, like I did with Captain.

For me, I place friendship on a very high priority. Sometimes I think it’s even above family, and I’m not sure whether that is a good thing. I’ve realized the importance of friendship and NURTURING friendship especially through the Captain incident. As I wrote in the Chinese blob, it takes time and effort to advance a level from “acquaintance” to “friend”, or to KEEP a friend from “re-becoming” an acquaintance. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

In terms of whether people befriend others for selfish reasons or not, I think people in general make friends with good intentions. Of course, that again comes back to the distinction between friend/classmate/colleague/whatnot, and every different stage of a relationship requires different input levels of effort. Also there is the issue of trust – do you really think you can become true friends with a colleague? It’s hard to say. I would LIKE to say yes, but I can’t be sure. For example, there are some people in my lab who I would refer to as friends, but who am I to say that they won’t one day turn around and gossip behind my back? It’s all a matter of trust and sometimes you have to play the guessing game.

By now you are probably tired of reading but this is indeed a very interesting and important topic and I would like to discuss it with you more in-depth sometime.

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