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What My Sister Taught Me About Friendship

Lily explores the ways in which her relationship with her sister has positively shaped the foundations of her friendships

For as long as I can remember, as far back as my mind will allow, my sister has been the most comforting presence in my life. The time that elapsed before she was born (approximately two years, three months, and 21 days) seems so insignificant, so lacking in formal memories, that I just consider her to have been there since the very beginning. I’m sure that our parents knew we would be this way - naming us Lily and Rose as if we’d arrived as a pair.

Despite the bickering in our childhood (to this day, not one person in my extended family believes me when I tell them that Rose used to be evil), I don’t think I was ever in doubt about how much she loved me. We grew up, as all siblings do, the fighting subsided, and in its place remained a bond that we’d been fostering - effortlessly - since forever. It is those moments of growing and learning with each other that I credit for teaching me about friendship in its most basic form: to love, trust, and be there for someone when it matters the most.

Give it to me straight

For me, one of the most important attributes of any friendship is honesty. Despite the comfort that comes with people telling us what we need to hear, when

it really comes down to it, honesty is the only thing that can set us free. Some of the hardest truths I’ve had to accept have come from the mouths of my closest friends, and even if I didn’t understand it at the time, I have always felt a delayed sense of gratitude towards the people who don’t sugarcoat the finer details.

With my sister, honesty has never been a question. I know that when I need her advice she will listen, wholly, to the entire story, before offering me an opinion formed on the basis of what she knows about life, and what she knows about me. She is a sounding board for all of my thoughts; an unapologetic advisor when I need her most. Being my sister, she can tell me when I’m being an idiot, she can validate my right to feel hurt, and she can feel for me, as well as with me.

As such, she has hardened me in the face of other friendships. The friends I hold closest at 24 are the ones that I can have those tough conversations with, and the ones who tell me the truth when I’m secretly hoping they might lie. They are the friends I can laugh with, cry with, spar with, and find the greatest comfort in each other’s company - because our friendships are shaped in such a way that allows us to do so.

Fighting and fixing

We all know what it’s like to fight with our siblings one minute and be laughing with them the next - and there’s a rule here that still feels so relevant in my friendships today. The worst kind of arguments are with the people you really love; the arguments I often regret as soon as they’ve happened. When you know someone inside and out, you are armed with the peculiar ability to hit them where it hurts. You can step away from a situation and know exactly how they are feeling after the blows have been dealt, and from this awareness the desire to reconcile is almost instant. My sister taught me that there is no merit in leaving things unresolved, and that the only way to get over anything is to acknowledge and talk about the problem, even if it feels uncomfortable to do so. In order to make anything better, we have to listen to each other.

There is a sheepishness born from a sudden outburst of anger, regardless of the reason. With our siblings we are able to find both the validity and comedy in any spell of rage - and it’s this unique perspective that helps us overcome problems that feel unfixable. Even when Rose and I argue, and even if I think she’s being ridiculous or vice versa, I know she always hears me, and I always hear her.

Love is (sometimes) simple

Love approaches us from every angle. It is in the books, the films, the music, the politics of every day. Everything we learn about love is different; there is no unanimous understanding of the term, and I think that’s why we spend our lives exploring it. There must be a finite number of things that we can claim, with absolute certainty, that we think about every single day. I think love is one of those things.

The wonderful part of having a sister - and I know I’m lucky to feel this - is that the love we have for each other is ultimately the driver behind everything we do. I know that every decision, every kind gesture, every fight, every fit of laughter, is rooted in us wanting the best for each other. When you experience the ability to trust someone in the way that a sibling trusts a sibling, it sets a precedent for all other relationships you encounter in your life. I can tell a selfish motive from a selfless one, and I can recognise fierce loyalty almost instantly.

Love is, and always will be, confusing, but when I find the friendships that emulate the same kind of love shared between Rose and I - it suddenly makes everything seem so clear.

The fourth wall

I was embarrassingly late to the game with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. I only watched the show in its entirety for the first time a few months ago, and aside from the rave reviews delivered by almost everyone I've ever met, and the words ‘hot priest’ ringing in my ears, I went into it relatively blind. It’s fair to say that by the end of season 2 I agreed with everything good I had ever heard about the show. It was hilarious, complex, and emotionally intelligent in a way that I’d never seen captured in comedy before. And of course, aside from the gut-wrenching love story that plays out on screen, it’s really about sisterhood. It’s about the love that exists between Claire and Fleabag; a love that is woven from childhood, familiarity, and shared grief; a love so strong that it would constitute running through an airport for each other.

Like Claire and Fleabag, my sister set the standard for me. She taught me the value of true friendship and all of the gratifying things that come with it. She taught me patience and virtue, how to trust, and how to love.

She is my head, my heart, and my very best friend.

Lily Spencer

There’s nothing that makes me feel more than a well-told story. Words have been my medium since I can remember; whether it’s film, family, life, or just my feelings, you’ll likely find me writing about it. Otherwise, my hobbies consist of people watching, dining with friends, extensive jam sessions with my flatmates, and complaining about everyone I love living south of the river.


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