There are few things that can make you feel more single/alone than being alone/single during some kind of natural disaster. Seriously. If you have a significant other, chances are they’re the first person you call in the event of something like a huge-ass hurricane. And then you probably call your mom. And if neither of those people are available, you stock up at the liquor store, hole up in a high place and hope for the best.
And that’s when your friends come in.
Granted, sometimes it’s difficult to know who your friends are. Sometimes you drop all kinds of time and energy on people who, as it turns out (usually at the worst possible times), couldn’t care less about you. And that happens, we all do it to an extent: there are people in our lives we’ve known forever, who we think are our friends but eventually turn out to be less than, and there are also new people, people we’re just getting to know, who actually turn out to be genuine and solid, right there with us through the worst of it without a second thought.
The thing is, there’s no real way to decide who goes where until your life equilibrium is disrupted somehow, a byproduct of any kind of disaster, natural, emotional, physical or whatever. And often, who belongs in what category comes as a surprise, albeit at times a strange, shocking or comforting one.
When I was younger, my mom used to say something that really bothered me: “You can’t always count on your friends, but you can always count on your family.” And I hated that, because I thought friends were everything. I thought friends were the people you went to when family got unbearable; who were always on your level, understood you, and who, even if unable to offer good advice, could at least be comforting. And I would get upset at her for saying that, for basically implying that the friendships I had didn’t carry weight, but it took me some growing up to realize what she really meant: it’s not that you can’t count on your friends, it’s that true friends are family. And family doesn’t have to be blood.
If you ever want to know who your friends are, be vulnerable.
Need something. Need something you can’t repay them for, something basic and human, something people only willingly and unflinchingly give to people they care about. It seems like age-old wisdom, but it’s something we tend to lose track of when things are good: tough times are the ones that show us who we can really count on, and how many people in our lives are just (no pun intended) fair-weather friends.
And sometimes, it’s not the people you’ve known the longest, or the ones you think you know best, who fit that description. Sometimes it’s not even the people you’d expect to fit it. It’s the people that, regardless of time or place or circumstance, are right there with you when shit gets real.