The transition that no one talks about
There is an invisible, hardly spoken-about line that you cross as you turn 21 years old. Your mother’s unwavering stance on not entering into a relationship softens like hot wax dripping from a candle. Soon enough, she begins to curiously peel into your “love life”, asking you vague and slightly invasive questions about “girls”. I have indeed crossed this mysterious line.
This line is a rite of passage, one that many of my friends have treaded across too — a few with eyes gleaming with the promise of true love, others with hints of apprehension. Slowly but surely, like the picking of saga seeds, your friends start falling into the arms of people which you might only know by name or that Facebook profile picture. The inevitable follows: your best friend gets attached.
Conversations naturally centre around the new girl or guy — what they did on their first date, the things she likes most about him, what her parents are like, etc. Your usual airtime wanes as there are just so many things to share about entering a new relationship. Talking to your best friend may seem like you’re holding a spoilt compass: it tends to a certain direction, no matter how you tilt it. This is the moment when you realise that things are different, and that things will be different from henceforth.
Welcome to the transition no one ever talks about.
Recently, two best friends of mine got into a relationship with each other. The three of us have known one another for five years now, and we all attend the same university, meaning that we spend quite a bit time together. We used to play tennis regularly and spent the hours after compensating our bodies with pratas and mee goreng. Conversations over a table sprawled with food were always a spiritual activity to me as my heart has always left the kopitiam full and well.
I’ll be the first to admit: there was a sudden shift in dynamics after they set foot into the courtship phase. Much like the awkwardness that comes from playing the third wheel, there is a liminal period where you adjust to life with less of your best friend(s). I believe that many people tend to assume that you would naturally be happy for him/her, but there is a tinge of bitterness that could come with the sweetness. This bitterness emerges from a phase of unfamiliarity, like the creeping of night.
These are 4 big lessons I’ve learnt in the period of tiding over this transition:
1. Practise Acceptance
There was a need to make space for them, which meant that I had to intentionally ask them if they were planning to do something just between themselves. I knew that there would be things I would be kept out of, and I ought to be fine with it.
Undergirding this acknowledgement of new demarcations of personal space was an acceptance that things were never going back to how it was. I realised that there was no use in trying to fit what was in the past into the present, as it will only serve to strain the friendship. We could always lapse into thinking, “It used to be like this… why can’t things stay the same?”, yet these valiant attempts at reclaiming the past will only leave you more exasperated. In Ecclesiastes 7:10, it sagely opines: “Don’t long for the “good old days.” This not wise.” A beauty grows from practising acceptance; a peace wafts into your core when you are able to unclench your fists and breathe out.
2. The Things We Forget
As the intervals of time spent with my best friends widened, I began to appreciate the brevity of being able to do life together. Stolen moments spent in the void deck jamming to Ed Sheeran on a cool night, chop-chop lunches amidst a vortex of students in the canteen, forcing our bodies to stay awake at a stayover after an arduous week. It is only when something in our lives feels amiss — hence insisting on being noticed, like the grabbing of our collars — that we become fully conscious of what we have taken for granted.
Even though you now spend (significantly) less time with your best friend, due to clashing schedules and endless responsibilities, may you come to know that your friendship isn’t any less than before.
3. The Potential of Change
Sometimes this trying time of accommodation and change could reveal an unhealthy dependence on particular friendships or teach us other compelling lessons. When I was sixteen year old, I rambled through a difficult stage in my life when God invited me to rely more heavily on Him rather than my company of friends. This entire process felt like a swim upstream, but in it, I found a freedom in living for my Father rather than for man’s approval.
I have come to see change as one of God’s most useful tools, as it shows us what we have become, most of the time in the less stellar ways. Let us number our days so that we shall gain the wisdom to not hold onto what is comfortable, but onto what moulds our character in His likeness (Psalm 90:12). Maybe through this time of confusion and change, your Father is beseeching you to embark on this journey of complete dependence on Him.
4. Two Persons, Two Callings
I have came across many friends who trip into envy during this transitory phase. They might appear fine on the outside, but deep down they covet a similar companion of their own. Our flesh can pit us against our best friends when we start comparing ourselves with them. Your best friend’s life could even be what you have envisioned for your life. In this crooked moment, we tend to forget that the course of our lives are not the same, that we are all standing on distinct pathways and pursuing personalised destinies. 1 Corinthians 15:41 illuminates that the “sun has one kind of glory”, with the moon and stars having their own kind — like the different glories for different entities, no two lives can be twisted to fit the same mould. Single or not, may you not despise your own journey.
As you emerge from this transition, may you be cognisant of God’s constant work in your life. Every change hails a breathtaking possibility for fresh insight into living a God-honouring life. Instead of clinging onto something that’s not yours, may you cling onto Romans 12:15 today — be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.