Was it something I said?

I’m including today’s post as part of Spoons‘ “Thinking Out Loud” Thursday link-up. Although I guess it’s more like “feeling out loud”? 🙂

Thinking-Out-Loud2

 


 

It was a chilly November night, one of our first really cold nights of this winter season, and with an hour to spare before meeting my book club I had ducked into the nearby Pizza Man to get dinner. Not in the mood to simply sit with my own thoughts as I inhaled a pasta dish at the dimly lit bar, I whipped out my iPhone to pass the time with some tried-and-true Facebook distraction.

 

As I scrolled mindlessly through the News Feed, the faces and names I saw weren’t just floating on by in a sea of information overload as usual. This time, they were sparking memories. Memories of laughter – hearty laughter. Memories of conversations that lasted hours, words of wisdom in the lines of hungrily-devoured email updates, and the long-forgotten inside jokes that got us through the worst and weirdest moments.

 And now….there was merely an acquaintance who came and went with the scroll of the news feed.

 

Old friends are now all but strangers.

DJ and Kimmy Gibbler, the bestest best friends ever, in a super serious fight
DJ and Kimmy Gibbler, the bestest best friends ever, in a super serious fight

 

As I twirled gooey strands of melted cheese on my fork, I let myself get lost in these memories of friends come and gone. Examining my feelings, it struck me that something was wrong with how I was feeling. I shouldn’t be feeling resentment and bitterness toward these people for….what? Moving along in life? Not being the same person they were 1, 2, 5 years ago?

And that’s when something finally let go inside me. Suddenly, there was that relief that comes with finally being brutally honest with yourself. I realized that all my feelings toward these lost friendships boil down to one simple thing: it just hurts. It’s not them. It’s just sad.

It hurts when someone I used to interact with stops showing interest in my life. It hurts when a girlfriend I used to be close with just stops talking to me. It hurts when someone I’m trying to reach out to keeps flaking on plans or not returning messages or is always too busy.

(I’m going to go into vent mode for just a second, so bear with me)

After I posted about my marathon on Facebook, the picture got over 100 likes and several comments from well-wishers. People I barely knew were offering their congratulations….and yet, a few people I thought were good friends were nowhere to be found. Same thing when I posted about my promotion a few weeks later. I know this sounds like a terribly petty thing to gripe about: oh boo hoo, someone didn’t like my Facebook post! But it hurt my feelings, because these weren’t just any old Facebook posts. Something really big happened in my life, something I worked hard to accomplish and was very proud of, and people I thought were my friends, people who used to engage with me all the time, couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge it. At all. Not even with a mindless click of the “like” button. I just don’t get it. Near-strangers recognized what an accomplishment this was for me, but my own friends couldn’t?

(An aside,  before you say “maybe they didn’t see it”: Yes, there is a slight chance they could have missed it, but I doubt it. I mean, come on. Enough of our mutual friends were engaging with that post that there’s no way it didn’t show up in their newsfeeds.)

 

I can hear the responses already: that’s just how life is, Hanna. Friendships are always changing. You can’t be friends with everyone forever. It’s normal for people to go off in different directions, it just happens. You’ll make new friends in their place.

I can hear them because they are already playing in my own head. Or, if I’m in a less magnanimous state of mind, they sound something like this instead:

Who needs them, anyway? If they don’t want to talk to me, their loss! I’m better off without them, and I’ll show them! They’ll be the one missing me! I’ll just cut them out of my life and never look back!

These were the things running around my head when I sat there twirling cheese on a fork. I was shocked at how bitter and petty I sounded, until it hit me that these feelings were coming from a place of hurt that I hadn’t admitted to myself. For some reason, we humans find it easier to deal with anger than to deal with sadness, hence why people so often channel their hurt through spite and bitterness.

And then, after a good dose of bitterness comes the inevitable: What did I do wrong? Was it something I said?

You comb through your memory, searching for something – anything – you might have off-handedly said or did to send this person running.

But in most cases, there is nothing. No harsh words, no unforgivable actions, no big blowout or misunderstanding. Which is what makes it so hard: how can I be angry when no one is to blame? (cue cheesy 80s music….)

I’ve noticed that people tend to get more one-dimensional as they age out of college and into adulthood. After years of restless youthful exploration, we are left with this yearning to frame a more concrete identity for ourselves – in fact, in many ways the “real world” demands this of us. Limiting ourselves in this way also helps us to find communities of like-minded people and make our already crowded lives less overwhelming.

That doesn’t mean we all don’t have different interests and passions, of course. But I think most of us – myself included – tend to absorb ourselves in one or two way more than the others. I have been “that girl” in your Facebook feed who babbles on about running and posts workouts all the time (to my credit, I have really made an effort to be better about this and have been limiting my social media posting a lot lately). For another friend of mine, it’s his passion for rescue dogs, and he posts frequently about that. Several other friends, once they got engaged, began talking about wedding planning nonstop. Still others, it’s sports. Or their kids or their new house or their career or their political views….you get the idea.

There’s nothing wrong with letting go of many passions in favor of a select few, but this has the unintentional effect of making friends who don’t share those interests feel alienated and annoyed. Of course we should always try to make room for our other friends, but if we’re being honest, it is harder to connect with them and harder to want to connect with them. So, even though I still have a lot in common with those old friends, I guess I can understand that they don’t feel they can relate to me anymore. It’s sad, but…I’ve also felt the same way.

And I also know that all of this starts with the girl in the mirror. After all, I could have taken the time I spent writing this post and shot some of those old friends an email. But I didn’t.

 

So, to all the friends I’ve loved before: I’m not writing this post to lash out at you, or to ask for your friendship back (although I wouldn’t refuse it, of course). I’m writing because a friendship is a beautiful thing, and watching it perish just hurts. I wanted to both explore those feelings and be honest about them.

I still miss you sometimes, even though it must seem like we’ve both forgotten each other’s existence by now. It’s a shame that what we had couldn’t last. But I understand that you had to go. Life came to pull us in different directions and, with no regrets, we went along. It may have been for the best, but you know what? I’m sure there are at least a few things along my journey that I would trade for just one more of our great conversations or inside jokes.

I won’t be bitter toward you old friends, not anymore. You don’t deserve it. It’s just, well, you know me. I’m an ol’ sentimental fool and it’s hard to let go sometimes.

But, you know something? It’s moments like these that also remind me to be grateful of what I do have. For all the people who have drifted away, life has brought me many incredible people who haven’t. I’m sure more of them will eventually drift away as well, but at any point in my life, I can take stock and find a diverse inventory of many friends – some old, some new – who are still here. The presence of just one of you is enough to fill the void that many left behind, and I feel a need to hug you all a little tighter now.

(The pasta was just okay, by the way. Entirely too much cheese. :-/ )

Tell me about a time you lost a friendship. What – if anything – was the reason? How did you move forward?

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15 thoughts on “Was it something I said?

  1. In high school I was best friends with a girl and then I started dating a guy and she got extremely jealous. Like made up rumors that I was pregnant jealous (so high school I know haha) Things are civil between us now but there is no way we would ever be as close as we were again. You just wish them the best and move along!

    1. WOW! Isn’t it amazing how cruel we can be in high school? I don’t blame you for not being close with her after that, yikes!

  2. Reflective, interesting, insightful and oh so true. Even though I grew up in a non-electronic generation, I have done my best to stay current. I have a Facebook account and a Twitter account – even a smart phone. But there are many days/times that I have experienced the very same feelings that you describe. At the same time, I am often touched by a distant friend, someone I have not been close with, who reaches out in a time of need. Or who just takes the time to share a kind word on one of my posts for no reason. Those moments provide some unexpected upside to the disappointments you describe – at least for me.

    1. Great comment, Prof. Miller – thank you!! You raise a good point. I alluded to it briefly, but writing this post has really made me more mindful of the fact that it goes both ways. Sometimes I have to be the one to make the first move. I’m definitely making more of an effort now to reach out to old friends every now and then. Like you mention, you never know when it will make someone’s day, and it always makes mine!

  3. You published this post at just the right time for me.

    My best friend from high school was also my best friend in college and throughout grad school. Once she got a job post-grad she moved away and her interests changed a lot, likely for the reasons you mentioned here. She became focused on specific interests that she can share with her friends and colleagues she sees everyday and of course I have done the same thing. The things we used to have in common just don’t see to be as important to either of us anymore. She became vegan, I became a runner. She works in student affairs, I work in marketing. There isn’t a ton of overlap in the things we focus on most anymore, so we’ve been talking less and less over the last two or so years.

    The only day I posted an update on Facebook that said “me and my best friend” and it was just a picture of me and my cat (lol) and she commented, “I guess I’ve been replaced!” That both surprised me and made me think … if someone asked me who my best friend is today, would I answer with my vegan friend’s name as I have done for the last 12 years, or would I say someone else?

    It’s certainly disappointing when you first realize a friendship has just simply fizzled out. Very sad!

    1. You describe exactly what I’m going through with a few old college friends who inspired this post. I think you make a very good point when you say that the things we used to have in common just aren’t as important anymore, which I think is the case with my old friends – instead of current shared interests, all we really have in common are old memories and experiences, and sadly those only go so far.

      1. Exactly! When my friend and I do catch up she’s either just telling me about people and things that aren’t of interest to me (and vice versa I’m sure), or we’re just re-hashing things that we’ve talked about a million times before… people we used to know, things we used to do. It’s fun to reminisce but sadly I don’t think a friendship can stay super strong when that’s all you’ve really got to talk about.

  4. I totally understand why you were upset when people you considered your friends didn’t interact with your Facebook posts. Like, why can’t you just click like? I have a weird relationship with Facebook – I rarely post anything about myself, and when I do, I feel like I’m part of the narcissistic humble brag problem that our generation projects.

    I have definitely lost friends over the years for various reasons: growing apart, some kind of breach of trust or betrayal, or a miscommunication gone wrong. I think it’s natural and a part of life, and I totally agree with you that people become more one-dimensional. I had never really thought about it before, but you make a good point.

    1. Yes! Glad you get it. I always feel like I’m being trivial talking about FB engagement, but these things do matter.

      I also feel like I’m part of the humble brag problem, and I’m really trying to be better about it. I try to limit how much I post about myself on Facebook, and try to focus more on sharing cool articles or stories, or funny anecdotes that people can relate to.

  5. This is a great post 🙂 It actually motivated me to pull out an old draft and work on it for a near future post lol Since I am very old, I have moved jobs a few times and I find it’s very hard to keep up with what you have going on current, plus the old friends.It seems because you aren’t sharing the same similar experience, like at work, anymore, it just changes what you have to bond over. Sometimes it seems a few people will really stay supportive, but a lot of times it’s like you’ve become invisible to them. This used to get to me when I was younger but not so much now. I’ve also had to cut off a friend because the interaction was causing too much drain, yes it’s sad,but overall it makes for a better quality of life.

    1. Thanks Karen! Always glad when I can be a motivator!

      What you’ve said resonates with what I hear a lot, from other friends and commenters and my own experiences. It seems like we all go through this and I just wanted to take a minute to point out that, yes, it’s inevitable…but it also kind of stinks! It’s weird when you go from sharing everything with someone to being strangers.

      I do have a few old friends from growing up that I’ve managed to stay close with. We have little in common life-wise and we don’t get to talk as much but when we do it’s like no time has passed. I know those friendships are few and far between though! 🙂

  6. I feel like I am reading something I could have written myself! This is a topic I wanted to blog about, but I felt like I couldn’t, just in the *off* chance that the person I was writing about read my blog. I don’t think she reads my blog, as she always makes excuses not to hang out with me. I haven’t seen her in over 2 years. Now, granted, for most of that time, she lived halfway across the country. But several months ago she moved back to my area and has been so flaky and noncommittal when directly inviting her to do things. It hurts because we were SO CLOSE and I feel like even if we both changed, surely she should have the time/energy/heart to meet for lunch since I haven’t seen her forever! But I can’t make her do it, so I just kind of am in a sad place right now when it comes to that friendship.

    1. I’ve had friendships like that too, so I know how hard and hurtful that is. It’s even harder in the social media age, when I they post all about the other people they hang out with even though they are always just too busy for my friendship. Like how come you can answer their texts and make plans with them but it’s like pulling teeth when I try to get your attention?

      I know how frustrating and hurtful it is to always be the one making the effort. Eventually I had to finally take the hint and just give up. I’m a good person, and I can tell you are too!, and we are worthy of friends who want to hang out with us. So if a friend can’t even be bothered to do that, well, it’s cliched but maybe they just aren’t worth it.

      1. You have motivated me to make one more effort! We’re meeting for lunch on Dec. 30th and she seems excited about it! I will let you know if the lunch actually takes place or if plans “fall through”.

      2. Awesome! I am the friendship saver!! LOL. Best of luck, let me know how it goes! Maybe you’ll meet up and it will be like no time has passed 🙂

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