Recently my bookclub read The Sea of Island Women by Lisa See. Great book, throughly enjoyed the novel. The story is of two best friends Mi Ja and Young-sook ; and their friendship through the travails of Jeju Island. Their relationship was strained and eventually destroyed by war, deaths, family alliances, distance and unforgiveness.
While I enjoyed and was empowered by the tales of women who were divers (Hanyeos) and community leaders, educated by the Jeju Uprising/ Massacre including the role played the US and excited by the display of culture; the theme that engaged me was the fragility of friendship.
Mi Ja and Young-sook had such a beautiful and warm friendship, an enviable sisterhood filled with adventure, support, love and comfort. I couldn’t help but think about my friendships over the years, the similarities and the differences. During the Jeju massacre, Mi-Ja was supposedly in a position to save Young-Sook’s husband and child but didn’t resulting in their brutal murder (Young-Sook watched it all). Young-Sook lived with pain, betrayal and sadness because she expected more from Mi-Ja. As the friendship dissolved, Mi-Ja moved away and Young-Sook continued living a lonely life.
Guess what? Young-Sook’s daughter fell in love with Mi-Ja’s son and they got married. Their love was not enough to soften Young-Sook’s heart. Not only did she not attend the wedding, she refused to visit them and opted out of meeting her grandchild. Over time, her daughter died but her Great-Grand-Daughter shows up and reveals to Young-Sook so much about her family, her best friend (Mi Ja) and everything in between. Young-Sook finally understands but guess what (again)? It’s too late. Mi Ja is dead.
As a young girl, it was exciting for me to call someone my Best Friend pledging love and allegiance forever. Truth is, life happens and that BFF may not be forever. Some folks have been blessed with BFFs from birth, others have been hurt by friends they loved dearly and some like me are in between and learning how to manage the fragility of friendship.
So let me share what I have learnt about friendship:
- Manage expectations : I think it’s important to know and understand friends and capabilities. Don’t be overtly reliant on a friend because of their resources or access. They may have their own challenges and as much as they would love to assist you, it may not be possible.
- Forgiveness is Key : No one is perfect, you have to accommodate your friend’s weaknesses. If a friend hurts you and apologises, give the friendship another chance. Wait!!!!! It depends on what the friend did. In some cases, accept the apology but its okay to let the friendship go.
- Be Real: Honesty is key, lying to a friend is unacceptable and trust issues destroy friendships. Don’t gossip about the person, if there is an issue – be upfront and real. It is not always easy, because some issues may be really personal and you are not sure how to approach it.
- It’s possible to walk away drama free : If someone is toxic, it’s best to quietly step away. I have never been confrontational, If I realise we are on different pages, I will quietly walk away.
- Some Friends! Some Acquaintances! : Not everyone you hang out with is a friend. I once complained about a friend to another friend and the reply was “I didn’t know you were friends” (Whhhhhhaaaaatttt???). I reviewed the friendship and realised we were actually not friends. I knew nothing about her.
- Be the friend you desire : Like a Bicycle needs two wheels to function , a friendship is best when both parties are equally committed. Friendships should be mutually beneficial.
- Social Media Friends may not necessarily be real friends: Yeah, we like and comment on each others pictures but do we really know each other? Are we really friends
- Respect: Respect boundaries, Respect choices, Respect religion. It is important to respect friends, supporting and cheering them on along the way. Try not to be judgemental and have an open mind and an open heart.
- A friend of a friend may not necessarily be a friend. How about an enemy of a friend? Hmmmm…it really depends. If you had a misunderstanding with my friend, I will try to broker peace but if you hurt her deeply-I’m sorry, loyalty in friendship is key, I can’t hang with you.
- Add value and position yourself to receive value. Friends should support, encourage and facilitate growth for each other. Friends should share opportunities, promote businesses and give career advice to each other. Friendship should be worthwhile alongside enjoyable.
Mi-Ja’s great grand-daughter shared with Young-Sook, Mi Ja’s sorrows and regrets, her abusive relationship that restricted her in helping her and all that happened behind the scenes that if Young-Sook had a forgiving heart, maybe she would have reconciled with Mi Ja.
Every woman needs her girlfriends, mine are irreplaceable. I have had friends that hurt me deeply and maybe at times, I was not an award-winning friend. However, we learn as we grow. I love my friends dearly and appreciate them greatly.
P.S. If you were hoping for more about Mi Ja and Young-sook’s friendship, buy the book. LOL! Also follow @booksanddessertbookclub on Instagram for reviews.