There was a time when I was so naïve that I really believed all my friends would stay my friends forever. Despite some hating me initially, I used to end up making a lot of friends. And with every new friend who came into my life, there would be a new happy picture of “Friends forever” in my mind; so much so that by the time I was 24 or so I was amazed by the number of friends I had in my life. But little did I realize I was misusing the word “friend”.

I was too stupid to know that calling someone your friend is a huge compliment you are giving them, because a friend is someone you should be able to trust with all your heart, love with all your might and hold on to in your life, come what may. Probably, the older and maybe more mature you get, you enter an age of enlightenment where this is one of the biggest truths of life revealed to you – the truth that all your friends are not really your friends; some of them are just some people from your past.

Close to 30, I sat down one day and thought about all the people who were once friends of mine. I thought of a few of them who had a bitter falling out with me – for reasons petty sometimes. In the effort to reevaluate my actions, or lack of actions in keeping them in my life, I understood that if they were really friends to me, or if I was really a friend to them, we wouldn’t have had a bitter falling out in the first place. If they were really my friends, ego and pride wouldn’t have succeeded in splitting us. So do I regret losing such people? The answer is a happy “No”.

I then thought of a few others who I, for a long time, had stayed friends with, the reason for which is totally unknown to me. Somewhere within me from the time I met them, I knew they were so full of judgments and hypocrisy that I couldn’t live with. But there was one “gang” that we were all a part of in our younger years that acknowledging this truth was not easy. If not for myself, but for the sake of the “gang”, we had to be close, if not best friends. I wouldn’t lie – I’ve had some really good times with these people. They have made me laugh a lot as well. But then we grew up. I came to a point where I could no longer tolerate hypocritical and judgmental jerks. And sadly enough, these people grew up to be just that – preaching something and doing the opposite, belittling others just because they were different. What I used to think was “childish stubbornness”, had evolved into full-on selfishness. They had become people who couldn’t think of anyone but themselves, who couldn’t make anyone else, not even their loved ones happy, but themselves. They had become people I just couldn’t relate to. They had become people I just didn’t want to be friends with, not for the gang, not for anyone.

There were some other friends who used to be a very important part of my life. But then over the years I realized I was putting in a tremendous amount of effort desperately to make sure that the friendship didn’t end. I didn’t want the “Friends forever” picture to be torn. I sadly realized I was living a lie. I might have been important to them at some point in our lives; but I wasn’t anymore. I was just a part of their past, not their present or their future. Somehow, they just didn’t care the way I wanted them to care or the way I thought I cared for them. That opened my eyes to what I was doing myself. I was just creating a lie for myself to live in. Maybe I didn’t care anymore either. That kind of eased the pain.

Now I know that I shouldn’t refer to everyone as my friend – it’s an insult to the word. Some were schoolmates, some were college mates, some were colleagues, and very few are friends. There is no huge circle that I am a part of anymore. There aren’t even too many faces that come to my mind when I hear the word “friend”. And it’s not like the faces that come to my mind are always of those who I talk to every day. But I am happy that there are some faces, some people that matter, some people I love with all their imperfections and who love me for who I am, some people who I am proud to have in my life, some people who will never hide me from the world’s eye, some people who will always be there. It’s like life and experience, have filtered all the people I have known, irrespective of the number of years I’ve known them for, and presented to me a small group of people who are to be trusted, loved, treasured and held on to forever. Those few are called “my friends”.