“I Am No Stranger to Strangers.”

(Old image featured – 2015)

I am no stranger to strangers.

Every time something shifts in my life, I momentarily forget past occurrences and only look forward. My memory gets foggy, and the concept that “this seems familiar” disappears for half a second.

Thinking back, this is not the first time I’ve heard these words, sunk into these feelings, or received these blows. However, I do know one thing for sure – I’ve finally learned to handle it the way I should.

When it comes to red flags, it may or may not be obvious. For some people I meet, I get this anxious feeling. This particular knot that says,

Be friendly, but do not trust.

And when I feel this, I am sure to be on my guard. Do not get too close, do not reveal too much, and do not let them in.

The second kind of red flag comes in stages. There is a series of yellow flags before the red, and only when the red appears is it too late. When I was younger, I disregarded yellow flags for the sake of giving the benefit of the doubt – something I realized I am more than notorious for giving blindly.

I can recall a memory from when I was 14.

I was visiting a church with a friend who I now call stranger. I sat, feeling out of place when a girl walks in. She walked with confidence, and she had a presence that I admired. She was much older, much more mature than us.

I don’t like her. She’s full of herself. The underside of her hair is blue, and it’s tacky. No one likes her.

As my friend said this, I took her words and applied it over the girl’s image. Yet even as I did, the other young girls my age flocked her and showered her with compliments. In the midst of her mini gathering of fans, she turned to me.

Oh, you’re new! What’s your name? Are you coming here regularly now? I haven’t been here in a while, so I’m sorry if I didn’t recognize you.

I wanted to think she had on a facade for the sake of making a good first impression, but to this day, I really don’t think she was. We talked about her hair, and later she introduced me to her friend with whom I kept in contact with for some time.

From that small experience, I should have known better that your friends’ impressions of people become your own impressions. But what if that wasn’t a real friend? Would that make their impressions invalid?

I am no stranger to strangers.

Once at 10, once at 14, and again once more at 22.

There is no age limit for lessons to be learned. Fate will make you experience the same situations over and over again – same circumstances, different people – same feeling, different words said – until you finally learn which way is the right way.

So what have I learned?

Those who have high standards for whom they trust but who are not trustworthy are not to be regarded, and their impressions of me will not change my impression of myself.

Memories, once invalid, lose all sentimental value. When you originate the initial problem to its start date, all fond and happy moments lose meaning. Now, they are merely occurrences experienced with a stranger. Do not give them weight.

The friend who is meant to stay in your life will never leave. True friends have a purpose in your life, and regardless of the amount of time spent, there is more to be done. They are the non-romantic soulmates who will keep aiding along your spiritual growth. You may not always agree with each other, but you always find your way back. Being annoyed with each other is a natural thing, but if you let that annoyance tear you two apart, then it’s time to say goodbye.

I will not try to save a sinking ship that keeps sabotaging itself whether its intentional or not. The life savers on that ship have been thrown to me, but I will not bend. A sabotaged ship can save no one.

There is a reason why I say I trust my friends blindly.

Do what you want, I am not your keeper.

Make your mistakes because it is your life to live.

I will turn a blind eye to the malice others see because I befriend your character – your being – not your actions.

I trust you with my eyes shut because the moment a line is crossed, I can open my eyes, see you for the person I let you be, and turn away. That blind trust is gone, and you are a stranger once more.

There is no magical place where all lost friendships go. They dissipate into thin air, and life goes on. I let it go, and I won’t hold on.

It isn’t worth saving.

Temporary friends add filter to your vision that you must remove once they depart.

The genuine friends are the ones who keep your sight clear.

Friends Today, Gone Tomorrow

There’s a certain stigma that changes as time goes on regarding who you’re friends with.

The friends you make in college are your friends for life.

Upon hearing something like this, you find your freshman year niche. This is your “posse.” This is the group of friends who you talk to everyday. If you meet up with one, eventually you’re all meeting up. No one is out of the loop: you go to parties together, the gossip you hear is the gossip they hear, and this is where you belong.

The friends you make in your freshman year are not the friends you’ll have in senior year.

Suddenly, things have changed. A year has gone by, and you’ve spoken to one maybe last week, the other you haven’t seen since last year, and the other happily has a boyfriend, one that you only know of through the transparency of social media. Next thing you know, your parents are asking:

“How is he doing? Have his grades gotten better?”

And honestly, the only thing you can think to say instead of lying might sound something like this:

“I wouldn’t know.”

It’s difficult to say, but the pieces of advice we hear about the friends we make is probably why Millennials are so terrified of losing their friends. They are told that now is the time when you make your life-long friends, but when those supposed life-long connections start to weather down until you can’t even remember the last time you have spoken to someone in person, that’s when the fear sets in.

Maybe it’s wrong to say things like that – things that put a time and a place to a time-subjective part of a life. I made new friends this past weekend. I made new friends last year. It really is inevitable to feel afraid to lose someone.

I learned this the hard way, but friends will and should always be at the top of your priority. I distinctly remember being told by a (now) stranger:

“I should be at the top of your priorities.

First is your parents,

Then me,

Then your friends.”

And for a moment, I thought about it. I took the next hour of silence without a reply to let his sentiment sink in because deep down, whether I verbally admitted it or not… That could not be any more untrue.

For starters, family always comes first, but family is on a completely different priority list. That list shouldn’t even include your lovers, your friends, or any other obligation. Family is family. Granted, a good portion of the world has completely forgotten the rest of the statement “Blood is thicker than water,” but still.

Most importantly, let me be clear about this.

Romance is subjective.

Romance fades.

Romantic feelings subside until you’re left being strangers once more. There are two paths for relationships:  either you get married or you break up, and that is a cold bitter truth, but it is – in fact – the truth.

But friendship is not static. I could go an entire year without talking to my best friend from tenth grade, but when I call upon her with tears because of whatever problem I have, she is there to listen, and it’s almost as if that time apart didn’t even exist.

I can make mistakes, and she’ll still be there. If I make a mistake with a lover, he could be gone tomorrow. This all brings me back to what I meant to say:

The fear of losing a friend is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that the loss itself is inevitable.

Have faith in the real ties that bind.

Tell your friends I said hello.