I had a birthday recently. Let me just say I am not the world’s most enthusiastic birthday celebrant and the older I get, the less enthusiastic I become. Friends asking “So, what are you doing for your birthday?” are inevitably met with “Nothing.”
It’s not that I’m unhappy to have a birthday. As Larry Lorenzoni pointed out, “Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.”
I’ve just always felt mildly embarrassed to invite people to celebrate my birthday with me. It seems somehow selfish and self-aggrandising. Birthdays were never lavish affairs growing up and I’ve toned them down since then. (Although, I do remember my 11th birthday when I and my friends were taken to the circus. We had whistlepops.)
This year, some of my friends decided a non-celebratory birthday was unacceptable so they kidnapped me and gave me a birthday celebration anyway. It made me wonder what I’ve done in my life to deserve them.
Do we get the friends we deserve? Is there a Friendship Karma? A Buddy Balance Sheet? Do the friends you get measure up to the friend you are? If there is a balance sheet, I think I’m in the red. I’ve been blessed with friends far in excess of what I deserve.
Some friends have come into my life when I’ve needed them and exited when I no longer did. Some have come into my life and stayed. Even the Poor Choice friends of my youth have served a purpose, showing me the lifestyle I didn’t want and pushing me towards new friends who made me feel safe instead of scared.
I’ve certainly tried to be a good friend but at times I’ve failed, as I suspect we all do at some point in our lives. Lack of contact, being unavailable and, worst of all, hurtful words spoken out of thoughtlessness have all been committed by me. Perhaps it’s the errors we make that show us which of our friends are the stayers. I feel an eternal debt to those friends who have forgiven and forgotten the mistakes I’ve made and stuck by me.
I can’t imagine a world without friendship. While your family is meant to love you, friends choose to love you. They choose to spend time with you. And they are often the ones who know the Real You, especially the Lifelong Friend. Lifelong friends have seen you at your best and at your worst, they’ve shared your growing up, your life-changes, your highlights and your lowlights. That doesn’t mean that lifelong friends only arrive in childhood. Sometimes they appear later in life but come to know you so well it’s as if they have been a part of your life forever.
I wrote this song for my friend Carolyn for her birthday a couple of years ago. The words are equally applicable to so many of my friends. Friends I continue to do my best to deserve.