I was thinking to start this off chronologically but then I decided to start it from the heart. So…….I am not sure what informed my idea of friendship. Be it books like Sweet Valley High, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or movies like Now and Then, Beaches, The Ya Ya Sisterhood (I could go on, and on. Ps. If you haven’t seen these please do!), they seemed to all showcase a friendship that was unconditional and fully accepting. Take Beaches for example, the ladies grow up together around the age of 10 and they continue as friends through celebrity, hitting hard patches in between and then through divorce, and eventually through terminal illness, leaving one to take care of the child left behind. To forever tell her who her mother was because she was the one that knew her well, if not best.
For me stories like that, were mesmerizing! They became a “Must Have” in life for it to be as glamorous, adventurous or down right irreverent; you needed a good girlfriend to traverse life with. A good girlfriend seemed to be the fundamental. I had to have one. It was at the top of my wish list for what seems like forever-- I’m talking childhood forever. So like most things I make a goal; I went off to add to my life story.
This did not prove to be simple and over the years I have/have had great friends but have also agonized tremendously at the hand of friendship. Like any relationship, friendships that are to be like the ones above take work. I was willing to work. Work from both parties, I think this is where I got lost and did their work too. When I look back on some of the crazy friendships that I have had I wonder what kept me being a friend. Like the girl who in high school made up all these lies to our friends, that she later said she did because she didn’t think I deserved to be more popular than her. Or the friend in college who projected her sexual confusion on to me instead of being honest with herself about her struggle with her own sexual decisions and sexuality. Or the one that I stood up for and tried to understand the most ended up being the friend that cost me the most. She, at the time,was undiagnosed bipolar and I never knew what would trigger either extreme sadness or violent rage. At the time I just thought she needed a good friend, someone to stick with her and love her unconditionally. But then I realized that wasn’t the case. She needed help, but didn’t think she had a problem. For the longest time I thought it was me. I thought I provoked her somehow. Normal “Honest Friend” conversations or getting dressed for the club, would escalate quickly either into rage or extreme sadness. It was tough. I’m still feeling trauma from the experience.
It was soo hard to believe in friendship after ones like these. Coming into the post college world I was hopeful but cautious that I could continue to add to my garden of friends. Since I’ve lived in several locations and not always in close proximity to my closest friends I was always open at times thirsty to foster new “every day friendship” bonds that could be lasting. The last and most recent friends that I made must have been some sort of exercise in self-hate. It started off fine then it just went south. One girl felt like I didn’t treat her …and I quote “like a first class friend”. One would invite me places and literally just not show up! This happened twice before I just stopped even leaving my house. Instead I’d call an hour after I was supposed to be there and ask if she was coming and she’d say no I’m at home. I’d say cool. Later I learned, that made her feel good. Lastly there was the girl that seemed really sweet and awesome but was very narrow minded and wanted things and people a particular way and if you didn’t fit that, well adios to you! She did not have time for your human inconsistencies that lacked the shallow depth of her understanding of people.
This is a summary of my agony. Not the light that I have experienced in friendship. I highlight these tough relationships because they were the ones that not only help me see and better understand the true friendships in my life, but they also showed me myself. They showed me my lack of consideration over myself and mental wellbeing. They showed me how much of myself I was willing to sacrifice for a friendship that wasn’t equal. They showed me just how much abuse I was willing to take for acceptance in the form of friendship. How low these friendships made me feel. How filled with self-doubt I’d become;but mostly they showed me clearer the friend that I’d been wanting. That full acceptance, of me, and all my perfect imperfections needed to start with me, and so did the unconditional love. These relationships showed me the void I wanted, desired, worked hard at filling, was my own friendship. What I missed in all those stories was that these characters valued themselves first or if not have a coming to age experience like my own and went from there.
Like any good coming of age experience this has made me a better friend and a better person. I’m content now with the friendships that are in my life. How they are shaped, what formed/reformed them, what sustains them, and in some cases what has changed them. I enforce personal boundaries now; that was so hard for me before. But I do it now because I see it as honor and love for myself, even with the people that I hold dear. I stand up for myself, making no apologies, and I don’t hesitate to say goodbye to one sided friendships or avoid the ones that don’t want friendship as much as a resource, and like Maya Angelou says (and my mother has been saying for years) I believe people the first time when they show me who they really are. It took a lot of pain and good counsel to get to this place, but it’s made all the difference in me still believing in friendship and being better and not bitter.
XO unbelievably human me,
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