“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
― C.S. Lewis,
Every once in a while I find myself going through old pictures, remembering the time this or that happened and at first I get a laugh out of it but it always takes on a darker life in my mind. Those pictures almost always have someone in them that I no longer have in them. Today is one of those days, I’m sad to say. I never even really know how it happens until after I’m already feeling myself become upset. Today it was the birthday notification of someone I’m only ‘facebook friends’ with. I’m not even sure why I allowed that to happen in the first place, maybe I just wanted to know that she was okay and that the door was still open, even if I know I don’t want her to walk through that door back into my life. Maybe I’m just torturing myself. She’s now best friends with someone I grew up with, someone who was considered my very best friend for more than ten years. Someone I told everything to. Funny thing is, both girls were that to me at some point. Once the old best friend met the new best friend (and both were still my best friends) things started to change. I found that the old best friend was talking horribly about me behind my back to my new best friend. I have a zero tolerance policy, so that ended that. New best friend never really talked horribly about me, it was her actions that hurt but unfortunately those actions were always easy for me to forgive because I would always hold a decent amount of guilt about my own actions and it was easy enough to say “most of that was my fault anyway.” Not anymore. Now neither of them are my friends, and they spend all of their time together. Of all the friends I made in grade school up through high school, I have one very good friend. Almost every single one of them ended up betraying me, and those who didn’t just fell off the planet so to speak. And after that, I’ve only made a hand full of good friends that I can still call good friends.
“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
― E.B. White,
But what is it about this type of relationship that makes it so hard to handle when things go wrong? It’s different from person to person, but in my case I’ve found that most of them just can’t understand where I’m coming from. Lets take this last friendship as an example. I’m growing, mentally and physically. My body is starting to crave health, and Earth. I want veggies over steak most of the time, I want to walk in nature rather than sit down and watch TV. I want to read and write instead of play video games, and I no longer enjoy window shopping unless it’s to do something with my grandmother. (It’s mostly talking rather than shopping anyway.) My friendships start failing once I progress to a new rung on the growth ladder. I’m leaving them behind. And in a lot of ways, that scares them. They can’t follow, or are unwilling to follow, and they do something to show how scared they are. They create drama, find a new friend, just stop talking to me, ect. There’s nothing I can do to stop it because I’m not going to give up on my self growth, and they aren’t going to put up with their crazy friend that they no longer have anything in common with.
The biggest lesson that I have learned since high school is that it’s okay to lose friends. You don’t have to have 300 friends, in fact you can’t actually have that many real friends. Where I sit today, I can count my good friends on one hand, and I’m okay with that. And they don’t even need to ask who they are, they know. So how do you know if your friends are real friends?
My first clue that I had a real friend was when she got a new boyfriend and started forgetting about me. I got upset, not understanding that this was expected. This was her first boyfriend, and she had been there through my first boyfriend. We didn’t talk (because I refused to) until she got into a car accident and I found out a month later through her mother. I called her up and yelled at her about how much of an asshole she was for not telling me, and asked her if she was okay. She’s fine she tells me, and she’s sorry also. We went back to normal, honestly and completely. That was our first and only fight in just about fifteen years. We knew we were both being silly and we knew we both loved each other.
The second clue was when one of my friends moved away. I never thought I could have a long distance relationship. She had been my roommate for a while and I’d grown to feel like she was a sister to me, so her moving was like losing a part of my family. I cried the night she left after I came home from work, which she had dropped me off at. I sat in her room, staring at all of the books she had left me (both avid readers here) and cried with my bottle of wine in hand. Today? We actually have an appointment to skype at some point. We write letters and send packages when we have the money for things, and we tell each other everything still. I’ve no doubt in my mind that I’ll see her again someday, and I know for a fact that it’ll be as if we weren’t apart at all.
My third clue was when I had forgotten to keep up on the relationship with a friend (due to a very hectic work life), and instead of becoming insecure and upset, she just gently reached out to me asking me to go see a movie with her. I accepted, it was a Guillermo Del Toro movie, which happens to be one of my favorite types of movies. We both enjoyed it, and I realized that night that it was possible to have friends who lived their lives and allowed you to live your life while understanding that we won’t be in constant contact. The amount of love is still there, and I owe her a book that I didn’t end up having the money to get her. She’d never hold it against me though.
I’d say that it’s going to be hard to recognize your good friends from the not so good ones, but it’s an important thing to be able to do. It saves you from chasing the ones that never really wanted much to do with you, they were just bored or craved drama. It’ll save you the heartache when you’re a few years down the road and looking back at old pictures. This morning was the first time I looked at old pictures and instead of feeling my heart break over again, I felt relief that I was no longer caught up in the web of bad friends. Friendship really is forever, but it takes a true friend to create that bond. No matter how much you put into it, if they are not true friends, it will not last.
My only suggestion is this. Be one hundred percent true to yourself. If you don’t like something, you have to speak up and say so. If you’re feeling a way about something someone else has done, you have to tell them, and if they are true to your friendship, things will turn out alright. No relationship is perfect. There will be arguments or debates, and weeks to months of no talking. But the one thing you must always remember is that during these times, they will not try to hurt you by calling you names, talking behind your back, sharing your secrets or playing on your insecurities. They will still show respect and love or they will walk away before hurting you. These are your true friends, those that will grow with you and understand you.
“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend”
― Albert Camus