Columns, Opinion

WILSHERE: A little help from my friends

It took little beyond looking out into the vastness of the Loch Ness to recognize how peacefully happy I was. The serenity was only disrupted by the laughter of my friends, waking the monster itself, I’m sure. After taking my last solitary glances of the Loch, I turned to see my friends were a few paces ahead, heading back to our bus. I rushed to make it over to them and attempted to enter the conversation when I could. A few perfectly-timed jokes later, I had exited my trance and returned to the present, covering the air with laughter. Although my serenity had escaped me, my happiness did not.

When you’re driving down the winding roads of the Scottish Highlands, through forests and mountain valleys, past enormous rivers and tiny towns, there’s little to do besides stare out into the vast landscape and reflect. One might argue you could also sing-scream The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” as our caravan did, but that’s a different time. Face pressed against the glass in hopes to not miss an inch of the landscape, I had a minuscule epiphany bursting like an explosion in my heart. It wasn’t a grand epiphany, like the one I attempted to have in the Vatican, but it came to me: I love these women. I felt both a soft smile and a few tears emerge. Better, I am in love with these women.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to live a vagabond lifestyle and to travel almost every weekend with the people I love. We’ve conquered castles and climbed church steps, meandered art museums and indulged in vast amounts of gelato. Something that never changes as the destinations do is my love for them. And it’s a stupid kind of love. The one where you don’t just laugh at their jokes; you fall over either in embarrassment or lack of breath. You notice you love them when you’re bickering over restaurants to eat at like a married couple or when they’re all asleep on the train no longer causing trouble to those surrounding them. You love them when they’re sad and when they can’t see the way they’ve treated themselves. You love them and wonder how they can be so selfish and selfless all at the same, and you wonder how you can be as well, rarely calling home for lack of time but remembering to pick up postcards. Traveling is both the most individual and universal experience one can partake in. Alone, surrounded by many. But that’s not it, is it? Surrounded by few, surrounded by many. If you’re as lucky as I have been, those few are more than enough.

We are sometimes too focused on “the one” or the huge romantic love we’re always being sold on through movies and Valentine’s Day cards. The one we’re always told we’re incomplete without, we should spend our whole lives, waiting, or searching, or planning or whatever verb suits the urgency of the day trying to obtain it. The focus is often too heavily placed on this type of love, so much so that love for friends is seemingly invalidated. This should not be the case.

Love manifests itself in many forms, sometimes the simplest of which is the love one feels for their friends. It’s a love unexamined, unquestioned and sometimes overlooked. It’s a love that takes little more than some movie nights and a few vent sessions to harbor. When traveling, I don’t feel alone because I’m not toting “the love of my life.” I am traveling with some of the loves of my life, those who push me to be the best version of myself and push me out of my comfort zone.

This is all to say this: appreciate the friends in your life and the love you feel for them because it is a love that’s not any less than a romantic love. Don’t take any moment for granted. Know what happiness looks like as it paints itself across your friend’s faces. Memorize the sound of the laughter on their tongues, escaping through the corners of their smiles. Know love, love, love and little else. Close your eyes and capture the wonder that takes residence in their eyes. Recognize that this love is enough, and allow yourself to feel it.

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