Friends and saints

Last night our little kaksio held its first party - a housewarming party of course. Friends, some from Zambia and some that I’ve made here in Helsinki, and their children made our apartment the most lively its been in the month and a half we’ve lived here.

A day later, sitting comfortably in our now thoroughly warmed house I’m thinking about how one of the deepest fears about relocating is the thought that it may be impossible to make friends.

As an adult making friends, finding people whose company you appreciate, is even more difficult when not employed, or in my case, when in an occupation in which you engage with many people but only fleetingly. As adult migrants we arrive at a time in life when school and university networks have already been formed, when children have been had and pastimes and hobbies relegated to activities that we indulge in once a week if we’re lucky. The problem is not just how to meet people but how to get to know them.

Moreover, as we grow older we redefine the meaning of friendship. I sometimes watch my nieces and nephews interact with their friends with a certain intensity and rigid expectations that I’m glad to have outgrown.

“Best friends forever” and “a true friend will always be there,” are mantras and constantly repeated. A friend is not just a friend but “a real friend.” That real friend will never lie, will defend you against the rest of the world, and stand beside you before thine enemy. Friendship is a contract that, if broken, leads to tears, heartbreak and accusations.

The distinction between friendship and sainthood is almost blurred.

Twenty years later, definitions are clearer, expectations of friends are much simpler. We learn about personalities, ambitions, priorities and sadly that Father Time and Mother Nature take some people away and bring forth new ones.

In short, it’s comforting to know that those deepest fears, the ones about not having friends, haven’t come true.

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