It was never my goal to be a good friend.
It was never my goal to have friends.
But here I am, 32 years old and just now learning about friendship and honesty and sharing. I'm learning how to love people who might still hurt your feelings sometimes but how you can't just throw them away because people matter and everyone is doing their very best.
That's what I choose to believe, anyway.
By the time I was 17 and graduating high school, I had moved almost 20 times. This means that I was basically making friends and leaving them for every single year of my childhood and youth.
My young parents dealt with addictions and depression and money problems so not a thought was given to the fact that they were moving me to new countries or cities and it's 1992 or 1997 and we don't have the internet or even a computer to stay in touch. Writing letters when you are 7 years old is a very unreliable way to maintain friendships.
I somehow cultivated an inner voice at a young age that insisted I probably didn't need friends anyway. I started keeping to myself. I found solace in books because no matter how many people I left, my books would magically always get packed and follow me to the next apartment or trailer or relative's attic where I would get a mattress on the floor until we moved again 6 months later.
After a few years, I just stopped trying to make friends. It was a fruitless effort because I knew I would leave them and the pain was too great for my young, disregarded heart.
My twenties were largely spent knowing lots of people but trusting none of them.
I made friends easily enough, but keeping people around and letting them in was a different story. I was defensive and confused. I trusted people I shouldn't have and was quick to anger with the ones I should have been kinder to. I was always watching my back and I'd cut people out of my life the second they did anything that upset me or hurt my feelings.
Over the years, I went from not being able to make friends, to not wanting to make friends, to not understanding why people would even want to be my friend.
At 28, I moved to London, England. It seemed the nomadic seeds my parents had planted in me as a kid had taken root.
Those early London months were what I would consider my crash course in how to make friends. I moved into a hostel filled with people my own age and made new friends easily. We bonded over late nights and adventures in a city that was brand new to all of us. But then just as I was feeling like I was getting the hang of this friendship thing, my new friends would leave and move on to the next stop on the map.
Around the same time, I started a new job and met a new group of people and I thought the whole process was going to start all over again. New house, new job, new friends, starting over from scratch.
And yet, it was different this time.
I will be the first to tell you that for all my belief in God and the universe, I certainly don't understand the inner workings of fate or being in the right place at the right time. But on my first day at work, a bubbly girl came up to me and started a conversation. She was genuine and excitable and looked me in the eye when we talked. At the end of our shift at work, she hugged me.
Each day was more of the same. I was new but I was connecting with people and I had nothing to lose except for all the kindness they were showing me. So I tried.
I put all my half learned skills to use and I opened up. I shared. I pursued. I was tired of being lonely. I was tired of assuming people didn't care. I decided to take people at face value.
Two years on and there is a group of people who have stuck by my side. They champion all the things I believe in. They support me staying in bed on the hardest days. They are soft with my love-bruised heart. They tell me to take my time. That things will get better, but until they do, it's okay to just drink coffee and write and hang out with my cat.
I wish I had learned about friendship years ago. I wish I hadn't cut people out. I wish I hadn't spent so many years feeling lost.
I've received so much from this wild, grace giving tribe that I now get to be a part of. This group of supportive souls who hail from small cities in Portugal and tiny towns in England, and all the best parts of Italy. The ones from the hills of Alberta and the city of lights in France.
After 32 years of learning about friendship, I feel like I've finally figured out the biggest life hack there is: allow yourself to be loved. Free fall and see what happens. Someone will catch you. Pay attention to that person and imitate what they do. Give all their goodness right back to them.
It's never too late to learn.
Brittany writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.