I AM currently working as a temporary teacher in my former alma mater after finishing Form Six. I was assigned to teach in the lower forms, and I got the chance to get close to J, who is in Form One this year. We have actually known each other for a few years, but we were never really friends.

At first, I just went about my duties as a teacher and only communicated with J when I needed to speak to him about school work. Soon, we started to speak casually, spent more time together and got to know each other better, but without ever going over the teacher-student boundary.

However, it is becoming hard for me to ignore his presence whenever he enters the staff room. I force myself to act “formally” like how a teacher would with his students, even though what I really want to do is just joke around with J like buddies.

I told J this and he said he understood why we should be formal with each other in school.

To me, J is like a brother and I really enjoy his company. There is something about him that makes me feel special and happy. Seeing J in school is making me upset these days because I want to talk to him like how we normally do, but I can’t.

My friends tell me to mix around with people my own age or a little older than me as they can impart more mature advice. I don’t mind hanging out with my peers but it is with J that I am happiest.

I do have other close friends who care about me. But J means a lot to me and I know that I’m going to miss him when I leave for university in September. I don’t have a crush on him and neither is this a romantic thing.

Will we still be friends when we can no longer spend time witheach other? How can our friendship develop without having emotional dependency on each other? Sometimes I am jealous when he achieves something I can’t. How do I get rid of this jealousy and feel proud for him instead? — Need Help

Facing the challenges

Even though you’re not much older than him, maintaining a student-teacher relationship in school is essential. Good on you for discussing this with J and sticking to it. A real friendship can still be developed, and spending time after class helps.

A friendship will last despite the challenges it faces – so despite your professionalism and looming departure for further studies, both of you will find ways to hang out with each other. And when you do leave, it’s up to both of you to keep in touch and keep the friendship meaningful.

Rather than worry about the outcome, just face it head on. What you both go through will test your friendship. The answers you seek will be based on what happens, not from being anxious about uncertainty.

Jealousy shouldn’t be a part of the equation though. You should feel happy whenever J excels – if you feel diminished, then that’s your ego talking. You will achieve your own successes; there’s no need to feel that J is better than you.

Friendship isn’t a competition. Next time he achieves something, congratulate him. Listen to how happy it makes him feel, and put his feelings first. Let your concerns about being better than him go, and take delight in his success. You’d want him to be proud of your achievements too right?

It’d be strange if you told J about something good that happened to you only to have him thinking about himself first, rather than celebrating with you.

Friendship requires time together, but not so much emotional dependency. In fact, the best friendships have a core of understanding and forgiveness. So if you do lose touch or drift away, you will reconnect easily once you do meet up again. You’ll have fun catching up with each other.

Don’t worry about the distance. Go and have fun. Keep in touch, plan to meet. If the friendship’s worth it, both of you will put in the effort. If not, then let go. There are plenty of friendships out there for you to make. — Rusyan

Silver lining

As much as you yearn to be close to J, it seems that your responsibilities as a teacher come first and that is something you are quite aware of. We should all have the freedom to choose who we want to be friends with, but we are only as good as the reliability of our word and our principles. Forcing yourself to behave like a teacher around J must be difficult for you, but it is the right thing to do in your situation.

The bright side is that your teaching assignment is temporary, and soon enough your friendship with J won’t be restricted by your respective roles at school.

Some anxiety and sadness is to be expected as your departure for university looms ahead, but you are absolutely right that strong friendships withstand the test of time. They also persevere through trials of difficulty. It’s not like you can stop going to university or that J can come with you, so you simply have to make the best out of what you have. University is a whole new world and you should take full advantage of all the opportunities you will have, but don’t forget to keep in touch with and remain interested in old friends.

Many of your issues with J – especially the jealousy – seem to stem from your need to have control over the relationship. I think you might find that if you let go of this need and simply enjoy the friendship for what it is, your jealousy, emotional dependency and anxiety over his hyperactivity will solve themselves quite naturally.

Perhaps you feel that you are the one who needs to nurture this relationship as you are the older one, but remember that J is quite mature for his age and seems willing to play his part in the friendship too. Let him do that, and let this be a two-way communication between the both of you. That’s what real and good friendships need to thrive. ­— Su Ann

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