A few weeks ago I had a phone conversation with a friend I have known since I was very young. We both grew up in the same street in a small village, went to the same school, had similar interests in terms of taste in music, hobbies etc.
As we grew up and entered adolescence the circle of friends had grown into a much larger group of people and stronger bonds were formed and some were lessened or lost altogether.
From adolescence we entered the scary world of being young adults trying to find our own place in the world and the childhood group of friends slowly started to dissemble.
I pursued an education in engineering and mechanical design, convinced by various people that this would be the right thing to do, while my friend pursued an apprenticeship to become an electrician.
Neither of us were ever to utilise that education though.
He went into the army and was posted in the former Yugoslavia and I emigrated to the UK.
After his time in the former Yugoslavia, he came back a changed person.
A person that most of our teenage group of friends wanted to distance themselves from, I suspect through a lack of understanding of his changed behaviour.
At times, I too felt that maybe I needed to distance myself further but that was purely because I felt I had to in order to remain accepted into the group of friends who had decided that he should no longer be a part of that group. But one question that kept creeping back was why did we see or perceive him differently? Why was he no longer worthy of being part of that group?
I have no concept whatsoever of what being in a war zone may do to the human psyche and thankfully I probably never will. But I forgot the fact that he had lived and functioned in a place of war and destruction, seeing things that I will never see. Things that he’d have to somehow deal with, with no understanding from the people closest to him.
I am grateful for the fact that I did not conform to the demands of the group and I am even more grateful for the fact that I can still call him a friend today.
The friendship has grown beyond my wildest imagination. I can have frank and honest conversations with him without the fear of being judged about topics I assumed he would have discarded as being complete nonsense. I am not referring specifically to the conversation I have had with him tonight but the conversations I have had with him for the past number of years.
Had I conformed to the voices of the masses I am pretty sure this post would never had seen the light of day but even more importantly this friendship would have been a forgotten memory.
I am humbled and proud that he still refers to me as a friend.