I have a complicated history with the idea of ‘friends’, and I’ve recently been revisiting this entire notion. Friends were not always easy to come by. I was a shy kid. Not one to voice my opinions, a good two-shoes rule follower and a lost soul, not ever sure where I fit in. I was a lonely kid and most certainly never the popular kid.
I remember in middle school I once had to look up what the definition of a ‘friend’ was, because I truly didn’t understand. I remember looking up articles on how to make friends, how to look more friendly. I remember pretending to be busy, rushing to my locker at lunch, so that I wouldn’t have to admittedly sit alone. At some point, I began to prize every friend and every friend became a ‘trophy’ to me – someone I needed to show off, evidence that I was likeable and sociable, evidence of my own worth.
Fast forward to university. I made friends I was proud of. Ones I, myself, admired. I really devoted myself to these friendships, and voluntarily so. I really wanted these friendships to work out. And I’ve considered these people my closest friends. My core. The people who define me.
But in the past little while, there have been a few instances that have really forced me to take a step back and reevaluate. Was I so obsessed with maintaining these relationships that I was blindly missing the signs that these friendships weren’t good for me anymore? What constitutes a healthy relationship? What constitutes a strong friendship? During this reflection, I realized that if I were to rank my friendships objectively, the ones I value most would not be in the same order as the ones that are the healthiest. Don’t get me wrong. I am blessed to be surrounded by the people I am in my life, and there are a handful I would not be able to live without. But I’m in a phase where I’m starting to question the value of some of the ‘friendships’ I cherish most. I’ve hung onto these relationships for a long time, but perhaps too long.
I’ve often been told there’s a time and place for everything, and the more I think about it, the more I think that statement applies to friendships too. People come and go in our lives. Sometimes there are expiry dates on friendships, which may frankly not be anyone’s fault. It may just be a natural time for an ending.
For the longest time I resisted this idea. I mean, I put in all this effort to keep them alive, right? How could a friendship ever die? I wanted this friendship to work out so I was going to put in the effort. But as a good friend said, it takes two to tango. If the other person is out, they’re out. There’s not anything in the world you could do to change that. And forcing it is neither healthy nor effective.
Even as I just turned 25, my understanding of friendships has been transformed. The idea of ‘friendship’ went from something I couldn’t put into words, something I didn’t know how to describe – to a trophy, evidence of my self worth – and finally, to a tango. I’m sure this definition will be ever changing with each new experience, but for now, I’m trusting the process and practicing letting go. I’m sure it’s for the better.