So… I grew up pretty desperate to have friends. I didn’t realize this at the time, but wow. Any friend who would take me, I was pretty happy and excited. Being homeschooled sucked in that regard- nobody in school really bothered to invest in you as a friendship, so I was invisible. Even when I was there, I was always so lethargic I don’t know how I made it through looking back now. And I realized that some people who vaguely knew I had some sort of illness didn’t want any part of me there. That feeling stayed with me for years, and entering college, I thought freshman year that I had gained some tremendous confidence… but it was fake confidence.
At my core, my confidence was riddled with holes of insecurity, so the foundation was crumbling still, but I didn’t know. I thought with the fresh start at a new place, I could keep my illness as hidden and buried as deep as possible for as long as I could, and in situations where I had to end up bringing it up, I felt like a torn individual holding my breath, backed up against the wall by their pending judgment. So… it wasn’t true self acceptance. Yet. People thought I was cool, really nice, and even attractive (LOL). Some people even thought I had dated a lot because I seemed so confident?! Haaaaaha.
And the time came when I met new friends who were nice to me. Who seemed to accept me. I gave all of me, and more into building those relationships… it was exhausting. I was in a new place, I needed friends to eat meals with, to just hang out with, study with. I was content to find just one or two solid friends, but hunting was hard when most people were hyped up to party and go nuts, especially the first year. I wanted to fit in, so I tried.
But I felt burnt out a lot, giving a listening ear even when I was stressed out about my own issues. I had a ton of music pieces to learn, yet I had this one friend, the first solid friend I found, who often needed my help. When I first mentioned it to my mom, she warned me not to give away too much help so freely. Especially my efforts and time. I didn’t understand what she really meant at the time, and got annoyed. I felt my mom was too jaded with the world and pessimistic. My friend needed me, so I wanted to prove that I was valuable and worth it. I didn’t know how to say no, I need to focus on myself right now. I never said no.
By the third year, I started to get fed up more and more as I noticed this consistent trend where the friendship was a one way street. She found a boyfriend soon, I was always the leftover one. She only made time for me if she needed something or if her boyfriend was busy doing something else. She would out of the blue ask me to grab coffee, and I would excitedly say yes. But then she would somehow whip out her chinese homework and sweetly ask me what the answers were one by one. She would ask to study together, then ask me to see my Works Cited page. She would barge into my room 10 minutes before class started to ask me to use my printer for our senior project class, making me late because I walk slower, multiple times. The one time my printer actually was malfunctioning and I told her, she got mad at me.
She would say she’s hungry, if I could make ramen for us, and that she would do the dishes. This was the final straw, and the moment I truly burnt out. Throughout many other examples such as this, I kept trying to convince myself that it was just a phase where she was going through something difficult and really needed me there for her. I woke up the next day and realized she had not done the dishes, so I grudgingly rolled up my sleeves and did them. It was this moment where she came out her room and needed to vent about something serious- it was in the morning, and I was not in the mindset to listen, I was tired of our entire friendship to be honest. I tried to say something helpful, but knew it was useless. She actually stared at me, then went back into her room and slammed it. Yes. Slammed it.
A few nights later, we ran into each other in the art building and decided to talk it out. I wanted to explain to her for the second time ever that I felt this was a one way friendship a lot of the time. She got angry with me that I was upset about the dishes not being washed when her problem was more important- I agreed. But I realized that it was not about the dishes. It was the entire friendship that was wearing me down. She said she felt it was pretty equal, but that she was sorry. It was always so easy for her to apologize. After a while, it felt a bit like it had lost its meaning.
I wanted to care about her and be there for her, but I was finding it extremely difficult to juggle on top of everything I was going through on my own. There were a few moments where she listened to my problems or something, but each time, she would count it. She would bring it up the next time I tried to explain how I felt and recount how she had done this one thing for me. I never kept track. It rendered me speechless how she always remembered anything she had done for me and wanted public credit for it (she would ask me if my professor knew she had helped me with an assignment one time… I got a B- on it anyway).
After that talk, a part of me completely burnt out. During this friendship, it made me paranoid about my other friendships- did I perhaps treat my best friend at home this way? I tried to look back on our serious talks- all of them had been me ranting or being upset to her, almost never the other way around. I called her up one night, crying because I was so upset. I asked her if it felt very one way to her, that it was always me who needed her help. Even at this, she excelled at comforting me. She told me, if she ever brought up feeling that way to me, how would I respond? I said, I would feel so awful. And she said she knows that if the time ever came when she needed me, she knew she could rely on me to be there in return. That was probably one of the most comforting responses I’d ever heard in my life. She told me that while it was important to be there for that friend in school, I was going through a lot of bullshit in my own life. Was that friend ever truly there for me back? The answer was not really.
And this was the moment where I wondered… did I hold on enough? Did I give up on her in a time where she needed someone to hold onto? Was it selfish of me to let go? I knew that if I was going through a rough time, I would be so sad if a friend faded away from me. But what I didn’t realize was that was already kind of the case.
Looking back at times, I wondered if perhaps I was too harsh regarding her. If she wasn’t really that bad, but I was too sensitive and had made it up in my head.
Recently, I realized I went straight the opposite of who I was. I became the jaded person who tried to care less about relationships with people, especially new ones. To expect disappointment as an eventual outcome.
The truth is somewhere in between. There will be disappointment for some of the people you meet in your life. But not all of them.
You should still keep moving forward. Still try your best in regards to how you treat people, but also understand reasonably that it’s not likely they will all have your best interests at heart or reciprocate.
My senior year, at our small college I felt that I had met everyone I was likely to become friends and was very close to accepting the fact that I’d be a loner and graduate with no friends. My therapist at the time encouraged me to keep trying to get to know other people outside of my prior friend group, in which all ties to each other were burnt bridges. Despite feeling close to certain that there was nobody left and that was probably something perpetually wrong with me that drove people away eventually, I found a really good group of friends that remain strong three years later. We don’t see each other often, but I know none of them would backstab me or treat me like I was treated.
I should still treasure the friends I have now the way I did, but not to prove my worth as a friend. Just because I genuinely care and I know both their worth and mine. I do not deserve to just stick on to anyone who will take me, I deserve more than that. I can bear to choose who to invest what energy I have in. At least on my part, I’d like to continue being remembered as the dependable friend.