Don’t put friendship on hold


ANOTHER year has flown by. Yes, flown by, as in whooosh … where did all the time go?

It was the third day of Chinese New Year in 2015 when a group of us ex-classmates decided to have a reunion dinner after 38 years … yes, whooosh again!

There were about 10 of us. One of our teachers also turned up. There was much excitement and I felt that even after such a long time, the bond of childhood friendship had remained intact.

I don’t know about the others, but amid the chatter and laughter during the dinner, I had more than a tinge of regret. Why did we wait so long to do this?

These people were my buddies in school. We studied and played (truant sometimes) together. We used to have so much fun. I remember us copying homework from each other before school started, the meals we had together during break time, the PE punishment of running round the school field five times, and of course, the “friendly” fights after the final bell.

Why did we let the friendship go? The easiest excuse would be that we grew up. We went our own way, some furthered their studies, others entered the working world, and in the process, left Penang for greener pastures in other states or overseas. Some got married, started a family, while others got married to their jobs and we left the past in a dark corner of our minds.

Me? I had two marriages … a wife and my job. I made new friends along the way. Those buddies in school became a jaded memory until just two years ago when an ex-classmate decided to undertake the tedious task of getting us back together. He has done a wonderful job and more than 100 of us have reconnected with much thanks to the advanced technology these days.

As I keep ageing, I realise even more how valuable friendships are. Friends are almost if not equally as important as family … something which cannot be taken for granted.

In the early 1990s, one of my closest friends was Lim. He was my office colleague and both of us would work long hours to make ends meet. But that did not stop us from having a good time whenever we could. We had other close friends too but the two of us developed a special bond. We had the same interests, we would talk serious stuff for hours and then share jokes and would laugh till no end.

Lim was a diabetic but that never stopped him from enjoying life. He used to tell me: “We work hard, we play hard. Otherwise it’s all a waste of time.”

After three years, I quit and went to work elsewhere. And again, I plead guilty. I let the friendship slip. While I still used to talk about him fondly, we stopped meeting after a while. Although I kept telling myself I would look him up “soon”, I never did. He passed away a few years ago.

There have been other similar situations, but you get my point.

All this seems to be a guilt trip for me. I am not denying it but it is also an awareness trip and a lesson learnt.

I don’t want the same to happen again. It may not be my friends. It could be me who goes first. Either way, it is not right if we put the friendship “on hold”.

With that in mind, I have been trying to reach out to friends I have not met or even spoken to in ages.

There has been some success as I managed to meet up with three of them separately over the last two months of last year. The sad part is, I don’t know when, if ever, we will meet up again.

I am now making it a point to get in touch with as many “long-lost” friends as I can.

Life has an unusual way of bringing us to our senses. After more than three decades of working to be so-called successful in life, I decided to call it a day. The free time I have had these past four months made me realise that being financially adequate is not everything. Too much time has been lost in the quest for financial success.

While it cannot be denied that money is an absolute necessity for most of us, so is having strong bonds with fellow humans.

There will be no more procrastination and no more excuses. It’s time to make good. Many a time we have cast friendship aside because we were “too busy”. The truth is it takes only a couple of minutes to make that phone call or send an SMS to reconnect.

Even with this realisation I speak of, I tend to procrastinate sometimes. It is sure tough being a normal human being.

Now, where’s my handphone? I have to call my long-time buddy Din. He went for a bypass nearly three months ago and I have yet to visit him.

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