I’ve had to cut out a lot of people from my life in the past two years. One of them was my childhood best friend.
We were basically joined at the hip since we were very young children. We did everything together. We spent countless nights talking and watching films, laughing at our own inside jokes. It was very much us against the world. There was no question whether or not we were going to be friends forever.
I was just about to write ‘then it all changed.’ It didn’t. I just understood that our friendship wasn’t very healthy.
Every time we saw each other, which was more and more rarely after I left to study in the UK, there was always a section of the evening where she would start talking about something that I had done that had upset or gnawed at her since. I called this part of the evening ‘the bit.’ I first thought it was a new thing but then I realised she had been doing this since we were children. It just became magnified as we saw each other more rarely.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like a mate to tell me if I had fucked up in some way. But there was always something. And as we grew older and older, the occasions when I had done or said something upsetting became more distant. I honestly couldn’t even remember what she was talking about. It was so long ago.
And most of the time it wasn’t anything that major even, like once she had felt patronised when I had told my dad to slow down when all three of us had been walking together. As long as I could remember she had been telling me to slow down because she couldn’t take as long steps as I could. What I had considered a considerate gesture, she had taken as an insult so grave that she had to return to it more than a year later.
As time went by, I started to get sick of it. I wanted to have one evening where we could just have fun and I wasn’t called out for something that happened fucking ages ago and which I couldn’t even remember properly. I’d also like to point out that I didn’t return the favour. I see no point in digging out old stuff. It’s water under the bridge.
I stopped getting in touch with her whenever I was in Finland. I was just too sick of the thought of being blamed for something yet again.
The breaking point of our relationship was when I moved into the UK. Granted, I didn’t tell her because I had got a job where I was under a contract that forbid me from telling anyone other than immediate family before starting date but she just didn’t see it. She thought she was entitled the same privilege as my parents.
She got really angry about it, and joined forces with another old friend of mine. Granted, I had lied to both of them during the two weeks I had spent in Finland between my journalism training ending and my new job starting that I couldn’t meet up. The reason had been that I was fucking exhausted. They compared notes as to what I had told each like a pair of horrible old women while bombing me with abusive texts.
It was really distressing and incredibly upsetting. I had just started this whole new chapter in my life and I had had enough to think about without involving anyone else into it. Also I couldn’t understand how me moving had been that much of a shock. I had been in the UK for the past three years in uni already.
I did apologise, something which I now regret. I shouldn’t have because even though I could understand some of it, the situation wasn’t my fault. I was under a legally binding contract not to talk about my new job.
And even if I wasn’t, I didn’t deserve these two people, who were the two most important figures of my childhood, to gang up on me like we were still in high school. I told them both about how I was struggling more and more with things to the extent that I wanted to die at times. They both ignored it.
The matter got smoothed over eventually but I had quietly made my decision. I couldn’t call people who showed me so little compassion as my friends.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to step away from it. Female friendships can be really intense, especially when you’re teenagers. At one point, I had experienced a fierce sense of loyalty and belonging with both of them. Still, I had to think about what was best for me because neither of these people were clearly going to pay it a second thought.
With the first one, who got roped into the great text fest 2016, things died down quite naturally. We’ve spoken on a general level a couple of times since, both on my initiation. As I got more and more ill, the weight of having to uphold this friendship just disappeared into the abyss of more pressing and frankly, more important things.
How about the other one, who I had known since we were toddlers?
She got in touch with me three times. Two out of three were of her wanting to ‘clear the air’ i.e. talk about how I had yet again insulted her in some way. The third time was between two requests to clear the air when she reached out about a completely unrelated matter.
Her behaviour was now a polar opposite. She acted like she used to when we were close. I almost softened but then I realised she was only doing this because she wanted to vent. It was as if she could decide to treat me as she pleased depending on her needs at that moment. Even though I had insulted her (once again) oh so very deeply, she was able to find it in her heart to put that aside to vent at me about an unrelated matter.
I called her out on it. She denied there was anything wrong with her behaviour.
Our goodbyes were very unceremonious. I just deleted her off Facebook. Cold, I know. I was at my worst depression stage at the time and it was a spur of a moment kind of thing. About half an hour later I received a wall of text from her calling me every name under the sun.
It didn’t get to me though. I realised I had said goodbye to her in my heart a long time ago.
Cutting out a lifelong friend should probably be a bigger thing than it has been to me. Not only did I lose her but in practise two of my closest childhood friends. Still I haven’t cried a single tear because of it.
I have never quite understood what triggered my friend’s behaviour. In hindsight, she had been doing that since we were kids. Blaming me for things I couldn’t even remember. As long as I would apologise, it would be fine.
I understood it really didn’t have that much to do with me at the end of the day. She controlled all of it. She would rise and lower the tide like Poseidon, raising a storm at a whim and mellowing down whenever she pleased. My only role was to keep the ship from sinking. This should’ve happened a long time ago.
Sadly, some things are just not worth saving.
From what I understand, my two childhood friends, who didn’t really have anything to do with one another growing up, are now bosom buddies. I’m glad they’ve found one another.
From this entire episode I’ve understood a few home truths:
The fact that you’ve known each other for a long time doesn’t meant that the relationship is healthy.
The fact that you’ve known each other for a long time shouldn’t be the only reason you’re still together.
People grow apart.
It’s better to be alone than with a person who doesn’t respect me.
It’s not selfish to put your own well-being first. It’s an incredibly important part of self-care and unfortunately nobody else on this planet is going to do that for you. You can’t function as anything, friend or otherwise, if you exhaust yourself in the process.
I deserve to be with people who treat me with kindness.
So do you.