Finding Sanctuary in Male Friendship With Ameed

February 22, 2024
Tariq Lawal (he/they) is a writer, poet, creative, entrepreneur and change-maker. He has a deep passion for contemporary art, popular culture, poetry, fiction, graphic design and anything creative media. He is also an advocate for social and environmental justice. He is a LearningPlanet Youth Fellow, an Orius Fellow, a publications officer for Global Mental Health Outreach and a creative designer for GirlUp Nigeria. He also volunteers as a graphic designer for a lot of youth-led organizations. He likes to listen to Lana Del Rey’s music on repeat.
This story took place in Nigeria

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I don’t think I am grateful enough for having a friend like Ameed who has always been there for me, who has made my world feel complete. 

I met Ameed in the summer of 2018 at a skill acquisition center, and I am still glad I did. We attended the same school for years, but we never spoke to each other because while I was a day student, he was a boarder but serendipity crossed our paths. We were surface-level friends at first, but as time went on, we became closer at the center. He was the first friend I was truly comfortable with, and for the first time in my entire life, I felt vulnerable to share a bit about my life with him. Most of the friends I had at that time were mostly surface-level friends that I just hung out with. 

Fortunately for both of us, we ended up in the same classroom in our first year of senior secondary school. We hung out every day, and we had so many conversations about life, and he made me feel less alone every single day. Senior secondary school was a bit rough because I was struggling with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and mild depression because of my ADHD. Going to school every single day felt like torture, but it was nice to have Ameed to relieve me of my own pain whenever I go to school. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic in our second year of senior secondary school, I didn’t see Ameed much due to the quarantine. It was actually a very tough time for me that I even had to use my phone as a coping mechanism. All my time was spent scrolling on social media apps, and going from app to app till the day went by. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we returned back to school, and my mental health was worse than it was before I left school in my first year. I have never felt comfortable sharing how I truly felt with anyone, but on a certain day in our final year of secondary school, Ameed and I sat down to discuss life, what the future holds for us, and how to just navigate the ups and downs of being human in the imperfect world we exist in.

I have never had a deep conversation like that in my life. Like I said, I mostly had surface-level friends so most of our conversations were about superficial things that added no value to our lives. But the conversation I had with Ameed changed my life, and it also gave me something to live for. Ameed shared his experiences with bullying when he was a boarder and how that affected his self-esteem. He also shared past traumatic experiences, and it was so nice to have someone trust me and share a bit of their life I never knew about with me. I also got comfortable and shared a bit about my own experiences as someone who grew up feeling very different. It was such a nice conversation, and through that conversation, I realized the importance of speaking up when we struggle and why we need to continue to raise awareness about mental health.

As males in a patriarchal society, we are expected to be strong all the time and bottle up our problems. I am so glad I had Ameed who was comfortable sharing it all with me. Honestly, if he was my little boy, I would do whatever I could do to protect him from those traumatic experiences he faced as a boarder. Ameed was not judgmental when I shared my experiences. In fact, he didn’t understand what it meant to have ADHD, but he was very willing to learn. He didn’t get it, but he didn’t invalidate it the same way other important people in my life did. 

Every day, I wake up, I am very glad that I have people like Ameed in my life. Not many guys have male friends like Ameed who really want to sit down and unpack their stuff with them. So I don’t take Ameed for granted. He is my best friend, and I love him forever. Yeah, sometimes, I don’t do well at being his best friend because I am dealing with my own stuff, but he is always there for me as a best friend, and I always appreciate him for that. Whenever we hang out, it just feels like I live in a utopia where everything is totally perfect, and I have absolutely no problems. This world is already difficult to exist in, but he makes things a lot better. 

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