Ever wondered what are the different stages that lead to someone turning from a stranger into your friend?
Stranger: You see someone, you know someone through someone else, you hear about someone. You form opinions and you form impressions. You don’t want to confirm either of those, as you don’t care, right? You meet strangers everyday, you encounter strangers everywhere. Some you remember, most you forget. You have never spoken, you have never chatted. You know each other as entities, you know each other as individuals. You don’t even know the name.
Acquaintance: You start recongnising a face or few faces. You acknowledge someone’s presence. There is eye contact, there is a pause in the swift glancing phase that is reserved for strangers. You are introduced or after seeing someone at the same place, having common friends, real or online, you reach out to make contact. There is that hesitation, there is that formality. You are reserved, you wonder how much you should open up. You are anxious, yet you are pleasantly nervous. A new person, a new experience, a new character. A new colour added to the already vivid palette. An exciting phase, a fascinating turn. A time of discoveries, a period of revelations. You either stop or you go ahead. There is no middle path, there is no “friendly acquaintance”. If you find the comfort zone, you give it the green signal.
Friend: What makes a friend, well, a friend? If you would believe all the sappy Archie’s and Hallmarks cards and other products, it’s the differences, it’s the similarities. If you ask me, I don’t know. Each friend of mine is so totally different from another, I surprise myself by their sheer presence around me. But this isn’t about me. How does an acquaintance become a friend? Just by being around? Is that really being a friend? Sometimes, yes. You get used to someone’s constant presence that you don’t think about or realise when that person becomes a friend. At other times, it isn’t so simple. There are people for whom it matters. It matters who comes close and who doesn’t. There are people who will not let the wall down unless they are sure it is worth it. There are people who will still maintain distance, who will still draw boundaries, who will still put on their masks and who will still pretend. There are such people.
Acquaintance: Why am I back to it? Because this is about the circle. The circle of friendship. And a circle has to come back to where it started from. You make so many friends. You make friends as a kid, well as a kid that’s all you know. Other than to make faces. Make faces and make friends. Make friends and make decisions, that is when you are all grown up. Decisions which help you personally, decisions that help you professionally. Decisions that you would still stand by, not because you believe in them, but because your ego tells you so. Decisions, that, you come to realise, are isolating you. You have too much on your hands now. You opted for them, but that doesn’t change anything, it still is too much. You decide to unload. Yet another decision. You unload, and how. You keep a few, a few that you choose for reasons of your own. Not because they “complete you”, not because they have “got your back”. Just because you wouldn’t know what to do without them and that scares you. The not so lucky rest? You blame it on the changing lives, the changing priorities, the changing lifestyle, the changing choices. You blame it on everything but yourself. From friends to acquaintances.
Strangers: As opposed to the stranger to acquaintance phase, which can be ridiculously long, this is the fastest amongst all. The moment you decide to dethrone the chosen few, it’s all downhill from there. You can blame distance, physical or emotional. You are right when you blame the distance. Have you ever tried enlarging a hole in a cloth? This is exactly how it works. It does not matter how the hole got there in the first place. It can be an accident or it can be intentional, subconciously intentional. All that matter is that there is a hole. A hole which lures you, entices you to enlarge it. And you do it, you give in. Every time, little by little, till it is so big that it gapes at you, obvious that it is now irreparable. That is when you know, that is your cue. You don’t regret it and given a choice you would do it all over again but for now, you know it’s time to move on.