Why Friendships Are So Important
To Stephanie, friendships are more precious than emeralds. There are multiple reasons why friendships are so important and those reasons are your own and for Stephanie, her friend meant the world to her.
“Come to Colombia,” read the text message. Even though I was on a bustling New York City sidewalk I stopped walking and paid attention to the words on my phone.
They were from my friend Wildflower.
I call her Wildflower because she is delicate yet tenacious, beautiful and wild. She has sprung up from cracks in the pavement and stretches heavenward. I call her Wildflower, and she calls me Luz, Light.
A while back when her world went dark, I held her hand and I pulled her toward the Light. She had since traveled down to South America, and I’d checked in on her nearly every day, hoping, praying, that she was blooming where she had now planted herself.
So when the words, “I’ll buy your plane ticket,” flashed across my phone, I knew I had to go.
This wasn’t about a vacation
Why friendship is good
Wildflower was living the rugged life of a bohemian backpacker, eating fruit she picked off trees and cooking cheap meals in a hostel—not lavishly throwing money around.
I felt her offer was a call for help. I counted the cost: the time and money—her offer was generous, but I could never accept it—essentially meant not taking a trip to see my family, who are spread out over three countries.
It meant not going to visit a friend who’d mentored me. I loved my friend so I lay down my wants for her needs, and I packed my bags.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
“You need to be more selfish,” Wildflower said one sweaty afternoon after I’d arrived in Cartagena.
I think we both recognized the irony in her statement. If I had been selfish, I would not be in Colombia with her at that moment. There was truth in her hyperbole, though. My own light was beginning to dim because I’d exerted so much energy on others.
My physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion was turning into resentment of others.
Because I desired to be dependable at work, loving toward my family spread across three different continents, encouraging toward friends going through rough patches, and cheerful toward tired cashiers, I felt guilty when I couldn’t embody those traits at all times.
Fatigue turned to bitterness, self-pity, and egotism when I wondered why I always had to be the “good” one, the steady one.
My friend reminded me that I come first
My own desire to feel needed had eroded my boundaries to the extent that I no longer was doing works out of love but out of fear and obligation. I wanted to be a loyal friend to others, but I need to be a good friend to myself too.
“In order to please others, we lose our hold on our life’s purpose,” said the Greek philosopher Epictetus.
Where once I had begun a novel, I had put it aside to help others with their writing. Where once I had dreamed of going to the Ice Hotel in the Lapland, I had instead traveled somewhere tropical to see a friend. Once I had loved exploring New York City, I had allowed workaholism to coop me up in my office.
Sadly, I put others ahead of myself, and while this may seem noble and generous, in truth people-pleasing is itself a sneaky form of pride and insecurity. I had sold my dreams, my goals, myself short to be liked. I didn’t need to choose between selfishness or martyrdom—I needed to choose balance.
Though she was going through her own dark time, Wildflower spoke life into my weary soul.
She reminded me of who I am. That I have gifts worth cultivating. That I have a purpose worth pursuing.
Although I should lay down my wants for others’ needs, I should not drop my dreams to serve other people’s whims.
There was something selfish I wanted to do in Colombia, I told her. Good, she replied, and she meant it.
Why is friendship beautiful?
The first “good” jewelry I remember owning—jewelry I still have to this day—were a pair of turquoise earrings brought back for me from Greece, my father’s homeland. As I grew up, I received other pieces of jewelry to mark milestones and achievements.
My most cherished possessions remain cards and photographs, those special little mementos that are intimate and unique, but when I wear the jewelry I’ve received I am reminded of my accomplishments and how blessed I am to have a family that loves me and cheers me on toward my goals.
In a culture that perpetuates ubiquitous engagement ring selfies and Valentine’s Day heart-shaped pendants advertisements, I grew to equate jewelry with reward and love token. Societal norms suggest that jewelry is a gift—not something you buy for yourself.
I’d always purported I didn’t believe in buying jewelry for myself.
At best, I considered it lavish. At worst, I thought it a foolish waste of money and an act of desperation to not believe I’d receive it as a gift. When I traveled, I bought jewelry for family members but not for myself.
Until I went to Colombia.
As a child, I’d lingered over the emerald jewels in department stores, enchanted by these mesmerizing gems. I dreamed of one day having an emerald of my own to wear. Now I was in the country that produced up to 90% of the world’s emerald market. Did I really deserve one though? Shouldn’t I save my money in case of an emergency?
Why friendships matter
Wasn’t I going to bore Wildflower by shopping for myself when I was there to spend time with her?
I had gone to Colombia because I thought Wildflower needed me, but she is stronger than she knows. She revived me when I was in danger of burning out.
In fervent chats over Aguila beer, strenuous hikes to mountain-top coffee farms, and sunset musings as we rocked in hammocks, Wildflower encouraged me to value myself.
With patience and guidance, she helped me pick out a small emerald I could hang on a silver chain around my neck. A symbol to myself.
“Good morning, Sunshine,” Wildflower and I text each other now, for we each shine Light into each other’s lives.
”If you … satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” ~Isaiah 58:10-11
Friendships should be valued like emeralds. This is why friendships are important. Friends bring us out of our own heads and wake us up. They remind us that we’re not alone and that we are valuable. Without friends, we can lose ourselves. For more stories like this one check these posts out:
- A First Job Experience For Introverts
- The Sports Injury That Changed My Life
- I Stopped Looking for A Man to Marry Me
Stephanie Nikolopoulos is a writer and editor. For more information, visit www.StephanieNikolopoulos.com.
Stephanie Nikolopoulos is a writer, editor, speaker, and writing instructor based in New York City. She coauthored, with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and wrote the introduction to a reissue of the travel classic A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird. For more information, visit www.StephanieNikolopoulos.com.
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