Friendship, it’s a funny old thing.
As a naive teenager, I sincerely thought that the friends I had in school would be the friends I had for life. Like many teenage girls, I had numerous “best friends”, with the length of our devoted friendship lasting anything from a few weeks to a few years, until some petty argument got in the way and things fizzled. Throughout this time, however, I had some long-lasting, consistent friendships that have followed me from primary school right through to university. We were set for life, with an unbreakable bond that can only be created by over a decade of friendship.
Or so I thought, anyway.
I realised last year (or maybe the year before that, who knows) that one of these friendships had come to an end. There was no blowout argument, no big betrayal and no emotional parting of the ways – it just stopped. To be honest, it was probably a long time coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
Mourning a friendship is weird. If you had asked me six or so years ago if I thought we would have been friends now I would have said yes, undoubtedly so. I used to think that we’d be friends forever. We’d watch each other grow up, and be there for it all.
It’s been a whirlwind of emotions, really. Kind of like going through a breakup, or mourning the loss of a loved one. There’s been everything from anger to desperation, wondering why I wasn’t good enough or what I did wrong. When I first realised that our friendship had come to its end I was bitterly disappointed that they didn’t seem to care. All of those years, and not a word. This was then replaced by anger, anger at the fact we had both allowed this friendship to disintegrate into nothing, and swiftly followed by sadness. I miss those moments we once had. The jokes we shared and that seemingly unbreakable bond we held for those pivotal years of my childhood.
Of course, I’m not blameless in this situation. Maybe I could have tried harder, fought more for the friendship we once had. But, maybe, after years of trying, I was tired of fighting for something that only I appeared to care about.
In hindsight, I don’t know if it’s the kind of thing I could ever really consider a friendship. It was never an equal partnership and I don’t know if there was ever really any respect there. I look back and I notice all of the cracks that appeared long before things came to their natural conclusion. Obviously, I can only see things from my point of view, but hindsight makes it glaringly obvious that this friend wasn’t really there for me when I needed them most.
They weren’t there when I spent months in and out of the hospital. They weren’t there when I moved away for university and spent two years being absolutely miserable. They weren’t there when I finally came to the painful decision to drop out and move home. They weren’t there when I had yet another surgery, or when my hair fell out, or when I had a breakdown and ended up back in counselling. I didn’t hear from them when I was in a car accident, or when my boyfriend moved away, or any of those other times when I needed my friends most.
It wasn’t even just the bad times. There was nothing when I got into college, when I started my own business or when I found out I was going to university either. Just nothing.
When I look back now I am painfully aware of the ways in which this friendship shaped me. I spent a lot of my life trying to be good enough when really nothing ever could be, and for the longest time that broke me. I see just how much of my self-doubt has stemmed from that one friendship and the way the world viewed it.
Most of all, I look back at who I was then in comparison to who I am now and I feel a swell of pride at how far I’ve come. I see the difference in myself and my own self-belief. I see the things I’ve achieved and the skills I’ve learned. My life is different now, and that’s okay.
Growing apart as you grow older is not a rare occurrence, in fact quite the opposite. People change, they move and they grow – but that doesn’t make it any easier to move on. It’s been around a year since I had the epiphany in which I realised things were over, and it’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve felt comfortable enough to admit that. In a way, I guess, it’s partly because I feel like I’ve failed.
Now, having entered what I like to think of as the “acceptance” stage, I feel lighter. I’m no longer racked with guilt about the things I should have done or the things I should have said, instead I’m focusing on appreciating the people who have been there. Honestly, it’s still upsetting that I’ve had to say goodbye to this friendship, but I think it’s past saving now. I miss the people we used to be, but they’re gone now.
It’s difficult saying goodbye to friendships that shaped me in such pivotal ways, but it’s time to move on and look to the people I’ll meet in the future, instead of those I used to know. If there’s one thing the end of this friendship taught me, it’s that I have some other brilliant people in my life.
I have people who I can turn to when I need them most. People who check in on me without being prompted, and who actually make the effort. I’m so lucky to have a handful of very close friends who I know I can rely on, and I’m forever grateful to them for sticking with me for all of these years.
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