This is the longest period of time I have been single in over 10 years. While those relationships taught me many things about myself and about life, recently I have realized there is just as much (if not more) to learn from being on my own. One of those lessons has been the value of having platonic friends.
When I came out as a lesbian at age 18, I lost a lot of friends. When confronted with an uncomfortable truth about me, it seemed that these so-called “friends” would rather find someone less complicated to spend time with.
One reaction in particular has stuck with me. I asked a friend to meet me at a trendy vegetarian restaurant downtown. Knowing her fairly well at this point, I could somewhat anticipate her feelings on the topic and was therefore dreading the conversation. The passing years have faded many of the details - did I wait until our tofu burgers had arrived before bringing it up? - but my friend’s reaction remains crystal clear. Tears running down her face, she exclaimed “But you’re a good person!”. She never spoke to me again.
These conversations were often incredibly painful. However, there was a silver lining to this process, which was that I could be sure that the friends who did stick by me were genuinely supportive.
Over the years, I have put those friends (and some newer ones) through the wringer. They have seen me through health issues, indecisiveness about my career, and a move to Taipei (only 12000 km from home - drop by for a visit any time!). Perhaps most importantly, my friends have been there through some seriously questionable decisions about my love life. How is it possible to give someone good advice, and then still be supportive when they mess it all up anyway? I swear I should nominate some of these people for sainthood.
Though I chose to move to Taipei partly because it seemed LGBT+ friendly, I still worried about making friends and coming out here. It turns out there was no need to fret. A few weeks after I arrived, a new friend invited me to the Taipei LGBTQIA+ weekly meetup. Over the 2 years since that night, I’ve met some of my best friends at that meetup. Friends to whom no topic is off limits, who don’t judge, and who have been equally supportive whether I needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to celebrate with.
I’ve learned the hard way (as I suppose we all must at some point) that romantic relationships come and go. As Dan Savage said, “Every relationship you are in will fail, until one doesn’t.” While I certainly haven’t given up on that aspect of my life, the latest twists and turns have made me appreciate other types of relationships too.
Sometimes it can seem like the world is crashing down around our ears. In those moments, our friends are there to keep us going. Soon enough, the sun will be shining again.