Some break ups are more brutal than others. Some grief seems never-ending because the departed is still alive, just departed from my life. We swore we’d be friends forever. With linked pinkies and friendship bracelets and late night chats, I felt the warm rush of being special in someone else’s eyes. Not all friendships are meant to last forever. This fact depresses me endlessly. I want people to like me. I collect friends like an overzealous beanie baby fan in the 1990s. I cherish each one of them. Not everyone performs friendship like I do. Friendship is the same word but catches different meanings depending on the person. This essay is for my exes– friends, that is. Because, for as little or long you were in my life, I’m grateful for you. I hope you’re doing well. I really do.
I’ve been weathering friend break ups since grade school– when I accidentally tattled on my friend’s brother and she ended us right there. I crave the chase. I chase people fast and hard. My upbringing introduced love as a finish line I must race toward. I earned and achieved and nice-d my way through life. I hustled for my worth and still do more often than I’d like to admit to. Friendship is an extension of that. I’m genuinely fascinated by people. Everyone carries rich, deep stories that we bury in pleasantries. I want to exhume all the truths you’re carrying beneath your “hellos” and “thank you”s. I don’t want your representative. I want you. I think people recognize me as a safe person. I hope they do. I hope its palpable that I will not weaponize someone else’s vulnerabilities. I hope you know that I will honor the softest parts of everyone without ulterior motive.
Not everyone is meant to stay. I struggle with that. The irony that abandonment follows me isn’t lost on me. I’m always trying to nice my way out of being left. I rationalize other people’s abandonment as my own deficits. Sometimes, I am deficient. I’m not always the best friend. I over-commit. I am everyone’s but belong to no one– everyone’s guest with no home to return to.
Friends consume more emotional real estate for people who know home as an exit sign. My friends were my community, my safe haven, my people. Hallmark has inflated this idea of “choosing your own family” too much. Because not everyone is subjected to the work of having to choose. Some people luck out with supportive families, and there’s less pressure on friendships working out. For others, friendships matter more when they are single. I was single for 25 years. I offered an abundance of time to be available to my friends. And finally, most shamefully, there’s the truth that I thought so little of myself for so long that I needed to encase myself around people to feel worthy, to validate my mattering. I needed people to like me so I never had to like myself.
When so much emotional gravity presses on friendships, the impact of the breakups resound deeper. This is what my friend break ups have sounded like:
- I moved in grade school, and our distance diverged into two different lives.
- We met mid-drown& clung to each other. At some point, I chose to swim, and you blamed me for not sinking with you.
- You’re a Trump supporter now.
- We couldn’t be a couple, and we weren’t really friends either. I said we were when I should have said, “fuck you”. Friend is a cherished title for those who value me, not fuccbois who mistreated me. I was too concerned about his ego, and I coddled it with my friendship.
- You were a slow fade– a dissolution from my favorite face my eyes sought in every crows to just someone I used to share all my secrets with.
- We aren’t friends, but we haunt each other on social media. We’re too nice to unfollow each other, but I can’t envision you regarding my presence as more than a ghost of who we once were.
- You’re bad at being alone. You need to be the apple of someone’s eye. I was your placeholder, your single fan when everyone left the stadium. I never bothered to look if you were in my stands too. You weren’t. And then you weren’t alone, either. In your relationship, I became the imaginary friend you outgrew.
- Your absence only brought relief.
- I wasn’t your friend. I was your free therapist.
- Bad friends can be cool people.
- I saw you as a friend, you saw me as a potential client. I saw a person. You saw dollar signs
- You wanted to be cool. I wanted to be me.
I never held these people accountable for their behaviors because I believed that’s what I deserved. That was a betrayal of my own values. I didn’t step up. Love is in the bravery to express your needs and feelings rather than fleeing. But I wanted people to like me more than I wanted to be loved.
I mourn our no-longer friendship. But I don’t miss the strategy. I don’t miss worrying constantly if I upset you or fussing over how to keep you. The Rorschach Tests of your text messages are a distant memory to me now. I’ve learned that when things are impossibly hard, it’s because the universe doesn’t want them to be possible. It’s trying to pry this connection from my hands, and I’m not letting go.
“You circle shrinks as your cycle continues”— I read that somewhere. While I hope that isn’t true, I’ve stopped saving space in my life for people who might not show up. I am still quitting the campaign for my worth– that I shouldn’t have to recruit you to like me.
Ex friend, I still love you. My heart is still the softest haven for you. It’s just outlined by a fence, and you no longer have the pass code. That doesn’t mean you can’t knock. That doesn’t mean the gate can’t open. It means I have boundaries now. I am forever rooting for you. I’m grateful that we shared a bond at one time. I owe a piece of my growth to you. I hope you’re doing well. I wish you the absolute best. I just learned that I deserve the best, too.