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  • Writer's pictureDamian Kerlin

How important are friends anyway?

In short - hella important!

TV’s Friends Reunion drew in big audiences with its first showing attracting 20% share of the total TV audience with 980,000 viewers and in its first week it consolidated over 5 million. I think it is fair to say, that not only is the show loved by generations alike, the nostalgia and familiarity which accompanied it was reminiscent of missed friendships across the globe due to the pandemic.

What lockdown has taught us now more than ever is that time is not guaranteed and who we choose to spend it with matters. The pandemic brought a level of isolation that I none of us where prepared for, and even had the most introverted craving freedom. Some friendships won’t have survived and that is OK, but those which have, are the ones that matter, and are the ones that lift our spirits and make us believe anything is possible.

Meeting back up with friends again has been incredibly special: every sentence spoken and mouthful of food suddenly feels meaningful. It has also meant the conversations with friends recently have felt deep, raw and truthful. There’s been no small talk, we have been only craving honest conversation and connection. In this strange time where we don’t have any ‘new experiences’, hardly anyone has been abroad or dated or partied, we’ve been updating each other on our emotional state more than anything. ‘How are you’ has changed to ‘how are you really?’ We’ve been updating each other on how we really truly are. For some people, maybe even for the first time.

These friends may be who you met at school. There is something particularly special about the kind of friends you have known forever. Or, they may be friends you have met recently and that instant connection has meant you are one of the same.

It is all of these which are fundamental to the LGBT+ community. It’s cliché to say that friends are the family we choose, but just because it is a cliché, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. This year The Guardian reported the pernicious impact lockdown had on our community’s mental health, in particular younger LGBT+ members who were confined with families who were described as unsupportive or hostile. For many, it meant making the difficult decision to cower back into the closet for their own safety.

Unfortunately, it’s a fairly common tale in the LGBT+ community. Queer people move away from home and build new families of their own. They go to cities, find friends and partners, and form a network. Since many queer individuals are rejected (or just simply tolerated) by their families of origin, this new support network is a place where they can shine and be their authentic selves. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of Pose knows this.

We connect from across a bar, or a table, and our eyes lock and something in our bodies cosmically tell each other that there is something meaningful to be unearthed here. The spread of social media, messages boards and apps, means that even the most rural of us can feel connected by popping up in someone's DMs.

Currently, I am on the train home from London having met up with a friend for the weekend who I haven’t seen in over year. My heart is full. There is something about being part of a group of friends (or meeting up with that one friend) that just gets me without me having to explain anything, and it is these friends, now my (extended) family, that just understand.

There are the days that you will always reminisce on with a certain nostalgia & hopefulness or talk about our past through shared experiences. Things always pick up where they left off. This is those friends. They are the feeling of home and there is nothing and no one, that can ever compare.

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