This year, I have a big birthday. I’ve invited a few people that I really care about to spend some time with me, but I feel a sense of anxiety – and guilt – about it. As it approaches I am pondering a little bit about friends. Or, to be specific, losing friends. I have a few really amazing people in my life, but far fewer than were around ten years ago, and I’ve been giving that a bit of thought.
I suppose the anxiety comes from a place where I wonder if those people realise how much they mean to me. What if they don’t? What if I’ve not nurtured that friendship enough and I haven’t told those people regularly enough that I love them and they’re awesome and I wish I could hang around with them all the time?
The guilt comes from a deeper, maybe more difficult place for me. Some friends I have left to drift and I curse myself for letting that happen. Some friends though I have less ‘lost’ and more…pushed away. Rejected, maybe, which makes my skin crawl – the idea that I, someone who was rejected a lot as a child, has the tenacity to reject others. I really struggle with that one. But if I stand back and really think about it, the people that I pushed away I did with good reason and it was certainly intentional. People that made me feel worse about myself, or seemed to treat me with disdain. Someone who I was incredibly close with once tiredly described me as being like her ‘child’ coming to her (i guess, the ‘parent’) with my troubles. This is the person who didn’t tell me to run for the hills when I told her tearily I’d been hit by a partner. She silently looked at me and said nothing. This is the person who snapped at me, never made the time for me, and seemed somewhat reluctant to support me. I had a week long whirlwind romance with someone. We both knew that’s what it was, we both had a whale of a time, and we were both a bit sad when it was over and they went back to their side of the world. They were wonderful. She met them once, just in passing. Once they were out of earshot, she looked at me – appalled – and snapped that they were “far too young” for me. They were three years younger, and I was in my mid-twenties, and she made it out like I’d been fooling around with a teenager. I get it, she didn’t approve, but it was weird. I didn’t need her to approve yet she felt the need to criticise my choices.
Those are the kinds of people I don’t want around me. I kick myself thinking how much time I wasted letting that person project their feelings of superiority onto me, the way they behaved towards me belittled me and confused me. But still, I can’t help have that nagging feeling of guilt – that feeling that I have actively chosen to erase her from my life. And yes, it was the right thing to do, but I can’t stop myself wondering if there were things I could have done to fix the relationship before I had to detach myself so completely. I remember that crushing feeling as I hovered my finger over the Facebook unfriend button. Was I sure? No. I wasn’t. Because part of me hoped that it would fix itself and she would realise how she made me feel – I mean, I’m not sure how she’d expect to know as I hadn’t told her – but the other part was curious to keep that link. I wanted to know what she was doing, where she was going. Was she happy, miserable? What was going on with her?
The healthiest thing I did was to unfriend. It kind of opened something for me – I’m much more protective of who I keep around me. I have fewer friends but I love those friends. I feel partly sad that I’ve gone from having so many people around me to having so few, but I’ve grown so much more self-aware and I’ve accepted that quality over quantity is definitely the first step to a happier life.
My advice? If someone makes you feel bad, don’t wait. Just rip off the band aid and eject them. Keep the people around you that make your heart happy and keep your head strong. Lose those friends that don’t deserve you.