The American Heritage Dictionary (via Wordnik) defines the word friend as follows.
1. noun A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
It goes on from there to define the word at various other levels but I think I am going to stick with the original for what I want to talk about. I do think it worth mentioning one other entry from the good old AHD which is as follows...
7. Word History: A friend is a lover, literally. The relationship between Latin amīcus "friend” and amō "I love” is clear, as is the relationship between Greek philos "friend” and phileō "I love.” In English, though, we have to go back a millennium before we see the verb related to friend. At that time, frēond, the Old English word for "friend,” was simply the present participle of the verb frēon, "to love.” The Germanic root behind this verb is *frī-, which meant "to like, love, be friendly to.” Closely linked to these concepts is that of "peace,” and in fact Germanic made a noun from this root, *frithu-, meaning exactly that. Ultimately descended from this noun are the personal names Frederick, "peaceful ruler,” and Siegfried, ”victory peace.” The root also shows up in the name of the Germanic deity Frigg, the goddess of love, who lives on today in the word Friday, "day of Frigg,” from an ancient translation of Latin Veneris diēs, "day of Venus.”
Damn! That is some interesting stuff! I am, by no means, a lexicographer. (I learned that word from Erin McKean. If you don't know who this wonderful woman is, I recommend meeting her here. She is also the entrepreneur behind Wordnik, a website dedicated to reshaping the dictionary to better fit in the current age. I encourage you all to check it out and offer your support!) But come on! The history and roots of our language are amazing!
Anyway... I guess that, in an effort to break all of that down to basics, friends are people you love.
Alright, I can get on board with that. Let me take a look at how that definition fits into my life.
I have tons of friends! Holy shit! Who knew!??
Seriously though... I have friends from every place I have lived over the years. I am going to set aside the trust thing for now (I have issues, alright?) and just focus on the people I love.
Family? Check! I may not be as close to them as many people are to their families but, whether from years of shared experiences or due to genuine connections I have formed with them throughout my life, I do indeed love most of my family. By the definition we are working with, my family members are my friends.
People I knew growing up? Check again! I will be honest here and say right off the bat that I don't really talk to many people from my childhood. (For the sake of this definition we will call my childhood anything that took place before I turned... Oh... Let's say around 13 or so.) When I really stop to think about it though, yes. Yes, there are still people from my childhood whom I love. Kieth, Jason, Duff... I may not be involved in, or even aware of their lives anymore, but I do still feel love for them. At least enough so that, if I found out they were in town, I would veritably jump at the chance to sit down and visit with them over coffee. Maybe even enough that, given the opportunity, I would happily reaffirm and revisit our friendship in the context of our lives.
So, from what I can tell I have about a hundred friends so far and I am just getting into my teens. Lets take a look at the next phase of my life.
Adolescence? Absolutely. There are a few people from this period of my life whose lives have become so inter-meshed with mine over the years that I dont think I will ever be rid of them! In particular Paul, Bob and Janelle. I see them far too infrequently and talk to them only a little more but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that these people are my friends. There are of course others, but these are the people who, if I ever needed a shoulder to cry on, they would not flinch from me in the least. More importantly, they know that should the need ever arise, I would do the same for them.
Moving right along... Eventually I moved out of high school and into college. I have to admit, I didn't do too well at living this phase of my life and, in retrospect, I can't say that I genuinely formed any bonds there. That isn't to say that the people there weren't worth bonding with. To the contrary, I do actually harbor some sadness that I am unable to name any of the people I knew then as friends. Maybe, (Hopefully?) some of them do consider me a friend and one day I will be able to return that bond when chance and circumstance permit.
::sniffle:: Alright, better get over it and move forward.
I can't think of an effective way to break down the years since school ended so it looks like the remainder of my life gets to get all thrown together.
Adulthood? Ohhh yeah. I have had any number of jobs over the years and at each and every one of them I have formed some kind of lasting love for someone. Some of those friends are people I am still sporadically in touch with. Others I haven't heard from in years but the list in my head of the people I have loved, and continue to love, in my adulthood are too numerous and too varied to even begin to list off. Suffice it to say that if any one of them ever needed my help with something and I were in a position to give them the help they needed, I would do so without batting an eye.
Scarily enough, I still have a couple of life periods (as I reckon these things) to touch on. Don't worry, I will do my best to be brief. (Insert rather long winded aside here. :p)
Tennessee? Oh hell yes. I only lived in Tennessee for about a year (this time around) but I do believe I made some lasting friendships there. I will admit readily that I am not the best at keeping in touch with any of them but I do genuinely try. More importantly, they know that and make an effort to remain in touch with me as well. I have to say in all honesty that, when I was with my friends in Tennessee was the time when I felt closest to a group of people. That group doesn't exist anymore and I still love each and every individual I had there. But when I look back with wonder and nostalgia in my eye, it is most often the group that I miss most.
Which brings us, finally, to the present. The present in this instance consists of the last two and a half years or so. To be more specific, the time I have lived here, in Austin. It has taken me a good deal of time to start developing friends here due mainly to my lack of social ambition. I am consciously working on that these days and, upon examination, I seem to be doing better than I had thought. I have several people with whom I am able to sit and converse on a variety of levels and topics and, as time goes on, some of them do seem to be turning into genuine friends and people I love. Each of them I think (and hope) knows who they are and, I hope, feels the same way toward me.
There is one person, however, from this most recent stage of my life, who deserves special mention. I have found through this time the one person I have been closest to. My roommate Manda and I have been living together since my arrival here and it has been wonderful. For the first time in my life, I have a person who I can genuinely connect with regularly and who I trust to be there as my support and sounding stone whether I need her to be or not. Even more amazingly, she has grown into someone who, even when I want to kill her for it, will tell me the honest and unadulterated truth. Someone for whom I can express both respect and love.
That isn't to say there aren't times when we drive one another insane or to the brink of homicide. The important thing is that we have both grown into our selves in such a way as to be able to accept the idiosyncrasies of one another. We have created a home together hinging on mutual respect and support and we are continuing to grow together now and for the foreseeable future.
If you find yourself without a person like this in your life, I truly hope you are able to meet one someday. Whether they be a friend, lover, sibling, spouse, parent or child, this truest of friends is someone to cherish so be sure that you do so. If you don't cherish them as they so richly deserve, I will find you. I mean it. And you really really don't want me to do that.
And so, in closing, I have friends. I am betting that you do too. I recommend that you take a moment now and then to take stock of that fact and relish it wholeheartedly.
A friend may well be the masterpiece of Nature.
A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.
The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson- four separate quotes from one amazing mind