Not everyone you meet will be your friend, even when it feels like it. And not everyone you like will become a friend.
Treasure the word. Use it only when you mean it. Because friends — the friends that I mean — are irreplaceable. They don’t come easy. So when you call them so, mean it. Know what it means.
Know that it means you were lucky enough to have found a partner that will share your memories for a long time, a face you will see in pictures of your first concert or in the dorm room that housed your sleepless nights or in every selfie of that random road trip to the countryside. The only person in the crowd who will giggle to secret jokes only you share. Know that you have found the best secret keeper, no matter how dark or messy or insensible they get.
Know that you have someone that will mend broken hearts and fix sour smiles over and over again; they will never give up on you, even when you have. They will commemorate your glitches and celebrate you way before any of your accomplishments are even accomplished. Know that you have found the one person who will not only cheer you on but help you dance like no one’s watching in the city streets.
Know that you have found a person who will recognize your brokenness and stay regardless of what version of yourself you heal into. Know that while doing so, they won’t be afraid to mock your silliness and mirror your quirky habits and laugh at your leftover bitterness so that you can too. Know that this is rare—too rare to lose, too rare to not keep.
Know that the friends that you keep aren’t necessarily the ones you have known the longest or shared flats with; sometimes they don’t even live in the same continent. The friends you keep are the uninterrupted, the intangible. The ones that let you change and grow up and grow apart and then back together, knowing you owe them no explanation. The ones that aren’t scared of change, that aren’t scared of the distance or time difference, that aren’t scared of the new people who join halfway through and leave before the end of time, because the friends you keep know that you will always come back. They let time steal you away for a bit every now and then, they keep room for the change about to take over for a while, and they don’t condition your return. Those friends know that the story you tell will sometimes skip a chapter or two, and sometimes it won’t, and they know that it is okay.
The friends you keep will let you hide for a while—they know that they matter to you even when you don’t say it, because they know the care you foster is not only unstandardized, it is infinite. Those friends rarely even acknowledge your mistakes—that is, if they even call it that—because the ones you keep would rather let you be unrestricted, flawed or not. The friends you keep will sometimes fight, they will sometimes yell out with bitterness hanging in the air, but no matter how loud it gets, the friends you keep stay—they don’t leave. The friends that stay are your army. They are the only constant in your ever-changing life. Steady or not, the friends you keep are just where you left them, always, always there.
The misconception about friendship is that it has rules, that consequently, it may be punished and may even terminated. But if you need to know one thing, know that the friends you keep are the ones that exist as easily as they happen. They don’t — can’t — just leave. Because their Friendship is inherent; it is not a decision, it is not a choice. It just is. It’s a part of you and who you are and who you become.
Don’t call just anyone a friend, because not everyone can be.