Growing up in Karachi I never had to make a conscious effort to make friends. All my friendships were organic and formed as a result of living in a certain environment with a large sample of like-minded people from similar backgrounds. All friendships blossomed without me knowing and putting any extra effort to form them. The truth is when you go to the same school, college, university with people your age and similar backgrounds (same country, same main language, same social and ethical norms) then it is but natural to automatically find a few like minded ones that become your tribe…How? When? Pata bhi nahin chalta!
And then there are those cousins, the friends from birth! I come from a tight-knit, emotionally expressive, loud laughs kind of a family and had not 1, not 2 but a whole bunch of cousins roughly the same age (read at least 4 in the same year) sharing the journey of growing up together. And to make it more ideal, we all lived fairly close by and had roughly the same mindset and interests, The result: long sunny days full of adventures, silly mischief, movies, picnics and the long awaited holidays’ all night plans.
My point is, for the first 24 years of my life, I was blessed to have some real, meaningful and naturally formed bonds with friends, the kind of friends who made me laugh till my belly hurt, who shared the same degree of goofy craziness, who would spend hours philosophically discussing something absolutely childish and mundane! The kind of friendships that last a lifetime, unhindered by geographical boundaries, beyond years! I still connect with those friends unlike any friends I have made thereafter (except a few..and they know who they are).
As to what happened after those 24 years, I moved to London! A fast-paced happening city with every thing fun you can imagine on offer! But ironically no real friends to share that with (I have my partner and we both love doing things together but we, both, also realise the need of quality ‘me’ time spent with close friends).
And, hence, started the struggle of consciously making an effort to ‘MAKE FRIENDS’. Finding Pakistanis is London is very easy BUT but finding like minded Pakistanis was nothing less than finding a pearl bearing oyster in the ocean! Initially, it was a case of meeting people either me or my husband knew from before but with the addition of everyone’s spouses, which made it all the more tricky because you might know a certain someone with the potential of him/her becoming a really good friend but if their other half didn’t get along or was a bit uneasy (read competitive or plain right jealous) with your better half then it meant a really good start as friends but almost always ended up in being just acquaintances. Then came the stage where you would meet new people through these people and the number of acquaintances grew but real, meaningful friendships..not much! Sometimes you would be happy to have such good friends but the next thing you know they were distant…often for no reason fathomable and sometimes due to that toxic person who brought divide and rule (and gossip) in play!
To be honest I found this whole thing quite hard, more so because I was the kind of person who always had a good big enough circle of friends and my life revolved around plans with them. So, the whole idea of ‘looking for a friend’ and not finding many like minded people who wouldn’t judge me for what I was, with whom I could let my guards down, who wouldn’t subconsciously compare lifestyles and career (or no career) choices, and were not bitchy and hypocrites (e.g. Christmas tree in the house => Al Haram, but engaging in dodgy tax evasion techniques => Al Halal), it was not something I enjoyed a bit but still had to make an effort as, you know, man being a social animal and all that!
I can say after all the efforts, I managed to form and reinforce a connection with 4-5 friends (3 of whom I knew from before) but the irony is they all are a good drive away so we end up not meeting for months. To be honest, this whole process was hard and emotionally draining.
Now that I am in my mid 30s, I have mostly stopped socialising and going out just for the sake of it – just to prove I have a very busy social life on social media! More now than ever before as going out, with or without family, is a big effort that requires a certain degree of planning which can be exhausting so I can’t be bothered anymore to go through the trouble of meeting up with people who are otherwise nice but not my type and coming back feeling anything but relaxed and energised. Am totally cool with staying at home and chill-axing but to satisfy the human interaction need in me, the need of a support system and to escape the rut of daily mum life, I still make plans with the few good friends I have and on rare occasions still say yes to meeting new people through social media groups and a few of these meetups have been a success. So, not all is lost. In my experience, adult friendships are hard work, adulthood without the familiarity of the past can get depressing and there’s not much you can do to replace the void but can only make it look smaller and that to me is just fine…