With Friends Like These, Who Needs Trophies?

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Nerissa Naidoo
Member since April 30, 2016
  • 4 Posts
  • Age 24

Image by Nerissa Naidoo

Image by Nerissa Naidoo

The worst day of my life happens at least once a week. This time, it was on a Thursday, it was on a stage, and there was an audience.

Our law school’s annual moot court final is the most anticipated event on the academic calendar after graduation – except there’s far fewer photos and far more tears. After a rigorous competition between final-year students throughout the year, four are selected to go at it over constitutional principles, case law and Latin on one rainy September evening. It’s a hallmark of your success in the four years of your degree, and the highest privilege to be a finalist.

With my poor luck, this year, I was one of them. My friends said I should be overwhelmed with pride, but I was only overwhelmed with terror and that morning’s breakfast cereal. The preceding weeks followed the same pattern: I’d been holed up in the library trying to formulate an argument, while arguing with myself for making bad decisions, and my friends were holed up with me, promising me that I would be okay even though none of them could possibly guarantee it.

I suffer from a condition known as poor self-belief: it’s chronic, virtually incurable, and isn’t covered by health insurance. It isn’t a loud declaration that I can’t do something, but rather an adamant whisper that I can’t do anything. It makes even the most ordinary tasks seem like the dominion of better men, and there are days when any advancement in my life is obstructed by the thought that I am neither better nor a man. To me, the idea that I’m a fairly competent person is as radical as it is scary. Yet, I’m surrounded by people who wield that very same idea around with a reckless abandon - and it is as jarring as it is glorious. My friends are the funniest, smartest people I know, and they believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself. And it reminds me that if these incredible people are convinced that, at most, I can conquer the world, then I can, at least, get out of bed.

We often post status updates about our friends being our ‘pack/tribe/other collective noun’, or we flaunt #squad selfies on every available platform. But friendship isn’t between us and the rest of the world – it’s more intimate, and still more profound, than any trending topic. Friendship is helping someone out when they’re knee-deep in assignments, and friendship is sharing a pointless, it-was-funny-at-the-time story when they’re sad. Friendship is asking if they’ve eaten for the fiftieth time even though the answer hasn’t changed, and friendship is giving them advice you know they won’t take anyway.

Friendship is watching their favourite Korean drama because their eyes light up when they talk about it, and friendship is laughing at their jokes despite being on the receiving end of them. Friendship is getting emotional at the thought of their future wedding that may never happen, and friendship is encouraging and celebrating their ridiculous dreams. Friendship is talking for hours even though you both have a test to study for, and friendship is sitting with them in silence when quiet is necessary but loneliness isn’t. And, sometimes, friendship is just the simple, wholesome act of telling another human being: “You know, this life thing may be dull, but it’s always a little brighter when you’re around.”

It’s easy for us to reduce friendship to a common feature of life, but I have to believe that good friends are its substance. These are the people who have no obligation to you whatsoever, but consider you a chief obligation anyway. Harry Potter wouldn’t have survived the first five chapters without Ron and Hermione, and it isn’t called The Avenger. Similarly, my friends have carried me through the most stressful months of my life, a moot competition, random dizzy spells, and even this internship. They’ve posed for candid photos, vetted my post ideas, and supported any attempt I made at drafting a blog outline despite admitting they don’t know what a blog outline is. If every insecurity of mine is a murmur, my friends are thunder – they change the course of my life every single day.

So, if your friends are anything like mine, say thank you to them with flowers, cake, a thoughtful note or their crush’s phone number – whichever is the best way you know how.

If you are my friends, this post is the best way I know how.

The worst day of my life happens at least once a week. This time, it didn’t. On that Thursday, I was on a stage, and I lost. But I was okay; the judges’ opinions on my legal argument or my slightly scuffed shoes didn’t matter, because the people who did matter thought I was pretty cool anyway. They are the hallmark of my success in the four years of my degree, and it is the highest privilege to be their friend. I wasn’t okay because, as they’d like to think, they have a sixth sense about these things. I was okay because with them by my side, I could only ever be.

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