To mark the start of the new year, The Pride recently polled our readers about one thing they most wanted to focus on in 2021.
Instead of improving their finances, furthering their careers or focusing on their studies, the majority of the respondents said that they would prioritise relationships with friends and family. Other options included serving the community and improving their personal abilities and mental well-being.
And come to think of it, it’s not really a surprise, is it?
The past year that flew by so quickly certainly taught us about the beauty of human connection – where we realised that being united as a people was the key to overcoming the pandemic.
The poll got me reflecting about the kinds of relationships I share with different people in my life.
Do relationships last forever? Sadly, not all do.
People come and go and in different phases of our lives. Those close to us may drift away after a while, sometimes with a bang, but just as often with a whimper.
We all have them: Those best friends in school or CCA mates with whom you used to hang or an ex-colleague who used to be your lunch kaki – all of whom have drifted away as we moved on in life.
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I used to have a close friend within my inner circle of buddies from secondary school. We kept in contact even after we started work. Sadly, she has since stopped contacting any of us – even to the point of avoiding us.
We do not know the exact reason except that she was struggling with life and probably dealing with some adulting issues when she started ignoring us. But it has been three years since we last connected and a part of me still wonders what went wrong.
That got me thinking about the relationships we choose to keep in our lives.
Relationships takes effort to foster and maintain
Even the ties that cannot be broken – the bonds we share with our parents, siblings and relatives – require effort to maintain.
After getting married two months ago, I moved out to live with my husband. Dinner with my parents has become a twice weekly affair. As the saying goes, “absence makes the heart fonder” – now that I don’t see my parents and siblings every day, I suddenly realise that I have grown to cherish the time spent with them even more.
It was only after I moved out that it dawned on me what kind of relationship I wish to build with every member of my family.
With my mum, I want to get serious about learning how to cook from her since I now prepare the meals for my own starter family!! With my recently-retired dad, I hope to spend time with him and introduce new things to bring that sense of excitement and joy to his daily life. And with my siblings, I’m even more invested in what’s happening in their lives.
It is when the people whom you see every day suddenly aren’t there any more that you realise that you might have been taking them for granted.
People come into our life for a reason
Building on family ties is one thing. Now imagine meeting a stranger who leaves an impression on you. Perhaps they share the same interest as you. Perhaps that like-mindedness leads to more frequent communication and perhaps that bond you share with this stranger ends up being even deeper than the ones we share with kin.
A husband. A wife. A life partner. That bond is closer than most.
Yet even so, that relationship takes effort and initiative to maintain.
A wedding is not a marriage. Life with a significant other is not all bells and bouquets. A partner in life can easily turn into a stranger if we do not recognise and make sense of the bond that we share and the shared goals that we choose to work towards together.
Then there are others who come into our lives but for a moment.
We do not have to connect with everyone who crosses our path, but it is good to put more thought into why they entered our lives in the first place.
Everything happens for a reason, and that is the same for those people who come into our lives for a season. These interactions give greater meaning to living and our reason for being in this world.
A good run-in becomes a moment of kindness. A great encounter becomes a cherished memory. A bad confrontation becomes a lesson to learn. A terrible event becomes a life experience.
It is all about perspective. Take for example, if a nasty person is giving you a hard time, see it as a chance to evaluate your own weaknesses: Ask yourself why it is such a challenge to interact with them.
Through all these, we grow as individuals. Now take a moment to consider: What people have come into your life and left you irrevocably changed?
What really matters in every relationship
Must we always be in contact to be close? Nowadays, with technology, it’s easy to reach out with a text or a video call. But can interacting via a screen have the same personal touch?
I recall a friend telling me: “We don’t always meet or talk on a daily basis, but whenever we meet, it always feels like no time has passed.”
What keeps a group of people together? Take a religious group for example, their similar values, beliefs and goals help maintain the bond between the members.
But what if the group got together by happenstance? A school clique, a hobbies group, a social club – what happens when the thing that holds them together fades away?
I sometimes question myself if I have neglected my friends whom I used to hang out with in our school days. We are all grown up now and are busy leading our lives. So how can we work around this?
To me, the intention matters. That intention will give you the heart to remember someone and want to stay in contact with them. It can reconnect you with an estranged family member or a long-lost friend. What matters is wanting and taking that action to reconnect, so treasure every encounter that you have.
I believe that if someone who used to be a friend can become a stranger, with effort, the reverse can also be true. We get to choose which is the case. It’s up to us!