Growing up, keeping friendships always seemed to be the biggest challenge for me. It wasn’t like I was a bully. If anything I got picked on by the mean girls more often than most. It was just like I didn’t ever mesh well enough with the people I tried to be friends with. There was always a loose end somewhere that eventually caught on to something and unraveled until it no longer existed. Poof. Another friendship gone.
My parents used to say that my friends came and went as quickly as the seasons changed and they could hardly keep up with who was who. I could never seem to figure out what was wrong with me and why the people I invested so much of myself and time into just never stuck around for very long.
Looking back, I remember trying to find something in these people and friendships and I almost always came out empty handed. People constantly change, which means that the people around them do too. But why did my changes have to be so aggressive? Why did I feel so obligated to give so much of myself to these half strangers knowing with my track record that the odds of them making it into my prom pictures were as low as a royal flush.
I am thankful for all of the friends who came and even more so for those who have gone. But I am especially grateful for those who claimed to be the best out of the bunch and left me hanging. Because without you, I would have never realized that true friendship, although takes extensive work… should never put you down or set you back.
Then there’s that iffy grey area where friendships can live and you never really know how much to rely on them, which inevitably creates the space to be let down. And if this space exists at all, it’s best to either walk away or go in with the lowest of expectations. Because my biggest problem with friendships has been that I’ve always expected far too much of people. And as much as we try to ignore the clear and simple truth- people, as humans are innately selfish. And being friends is completely different than being family. Because families feel a greater sense of obligation to be connected for life while friends change almost as easily as it is for it to rain one day and the sun to shine the next.
I’ve had friends show up to my grandfather’s shiva and then dodge my every attempt for a lunch date. A friend who wanted to take me with her to meet her dad in jail and then not invite me to her birthday party. Friends who say they want to catch up but never seem to find the time to call. And more than one friend who would say one thing to my face and the opposite behind my back.
And then I’ve had friends like Val, who would drop everything to pick me up because I had one too many drinks, or would immediately drop what she was doing when I needed help in a completely different state. The only friend that shows support and love for me no matter how much she has going on in her own life. A friendship as meaningful as this one is a rarity in my life, but there are a handful of people that have come close to this relationship but none I put in the same category. The ones who always come back, when they know they should. The ones who never let me forget about our shared history because it’s far too precious to let go of. The ones who know how to make me laugh and make my shitty day better. The ones that no matter what, still treat me with the best intentions possible. The ones who understand my undying love for pizza and burritos. The ones who know just what to say to make me smile. The friends who just seem to fit so seemlessley into all the nooks and crannies of my life.
As expected, over the passing years both the people I associated myself with and who I was when I was friends with those people has significantly evolved. Some people made me better, while others held me back and made me worse. It’s so interesting for me to reflect back on these friendships and experiences because they have shaped my thoughts and feelings associated with what it means to be a friend, and have allowed me to recognize how much harder it is to be a good friend and person. There are very few old “friends” I still think about sometimes and am left wondering what I did to push them so far away. I blamed myself for our lost relationship and assumed I did something to make it end. But I know now that people just simply change. Even best friends don’t last through all the heartache of the world and only the true best stay when it’s most inconvenient.
Those worth leaving behind won’t work for it. They won’t congratulate you when you succeed. Heck, they won’t even call to know if you did, they might just read about it on social media or through the grape vine but the real ones will hear from you. Those who aren’t worth it will make you feel like you’re the reason why your friendship is struggling, they won’t try to understand or make it better. They are the people I can now recognize from the rest and accept as a life lesson, and never look back… or do but without an ounce of disdain.
I used to be so bitter and sad when the people I worked to always love and support… so easily up and left me. But now I’ve come to realize that the only ones you need, don’t take that much work. It just works because of the mutual understanding of each other’s best interests. And that, my friends… is something that took years of failed friendships to realize.
I always expected too much.
At 24, I have accepted the sad stories of my lost friendships, recognizing that I may never know why the “best” of them decided to leave for good and being realistic that there may very well be more to come. But I trust my judgment now more than ever, and hopefully these feelings only continue to grow stronger. I am so much more capable of making good decisions on who I should spend my time with, realizing more and more how truly valuable time is. And I won’t go wasting any of mine on people who don’t care.
Friendships aren’t easy and the good ones are truly rare, but the best of friends will always show you that they care. They are the ones who know when you need them there, through the bad and better memories that are intended to be shared.
I wonder if Hallmark is hiring.