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Really Valuable Lessons…can really suck

When I was 14, I learned a really valuable lesson.

And it really sucked.

The lesson I learned is that not all of your friends are actually friends.  It took me about a year to figure this out, but I did, and at the same time, I learned that sometimes you just have to cut your losses.  There are some people who you just can’t be friends with, or rather, that you shouldn’t be close friends with.  You shouldn’t work hard to nurture intimate friendships with people who behave in ways that are against to your best interests, with people who damage you.  These are not friends.  I believe.

As an adult, this isn’t as hard for me.  I’m not able to spend a lot of quality time with the best people in my life, much less be worried about people who don’t really care about me or who work against me.  It’s a non-issue.  But when I was young, my life revolved around my friendships.  I had no work or major home obligations, no bills to pay or any other such trifling distractions.  My job was learning how to be me.  And that was enough to deal with.  Believe me.

We grew up in apartments, so there were always kids around.  T lived a few buildings down from me, and she was my best friend.  And in the basic ways, she really was my friend – we got along, we had fun together, we spent time in each other’s homes and with each other’s families.  But there was something not quite right, if you know what I mean.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the friendship just felt off-kilter.  Looking back, it’s easier to pinpoint: I felt superfluous.  She was my friend, but I was an accessory – something that’s not really that important, but it makes you feel good when you wear it.  In hindsight, I could see that I was the support staff.  Part of it is my fault, because I’m just that person – I want to help people, to make them feel better, to tell them how to fix it, to support them.  And that’s okay, to an extent. But I can’t maintain that level of emotional support if the other person wants your sympathy, but doesn’t want to fix anything.  It’s too draining.  In fact, nothing is actually broken – I’m trying to fix what is in truth an illusion.  It’s all self-created for the sole purpose of having drama.  T needed drama and attention.  I believe.

T didn’t give me a compliment without it having a backhand to it.  She might say something like, “Those pants are so cute.  They really draw attention away from your big hips.”  Don’t get me wrong, if a friend said that to me now, I’d say, “Wow, thanks!!  That’s why I bought them.”  And I’d mean it.  But I’m not 13 or 14 years old anymore.  I’m still plenty insecure, but not so much with my friends.  I mean, it’s too late anyway – they already know all the worst things about me.  Being hippy is the least of my problems.  Besides, any friend of mine is a friend who would mean it as a genuine compliment.  And she might say hips, but she’d leave off ‘big’.  The ‘big’ is implied, not stated.  She’d probably also be asking me where she could get some for herself.  T was not giving me a genuine compliment.  Believe me.

Realizing that this was not a healthy relationship was not the hard part.  It took me forever to figure it out, that’s true.  But the really hard part was accepting it.  I knew it to be true long before I accepted its truth. Being that superfluous friend was easier than accepting that I was superfluous.  That I was unessential.  I could have been anyone, as far as T was concerned.  Anyone could have filled my friendship shoes.  But once I did fully understand this, and wrap my mind around the fact that it was her defect and not mine, I was able to let the friendship go.  Even willing.  Pulling away from T and putting my energies into developing other friendships was the right thing to do.  I believe.

I’m not the kind of person who has the big blow up that ends a friendship once and for all…wait…no…I’ve done that, too.  But it wasn’t my fault :).  I guess it’s inevitable that you have at least one of those, if you’re a girl, and you’re ever a teenager.  But I never purposely chose to end a friendship that way.  I did choose, however, to nurture myself and not a toxic relationship.  So, we were still friendly, but we weren’t really friends.  The last time I saw T, she called me out of the blue.  She was a live-in Nannie (I still wonder what those people were thinking) and she invited me over to the house while the family was away.  I’m too nice, I want to believe in people, I want to think the best of them, I wanted her to have grown up somehow.  I went.  Some lessons you’ve just got to learn more than once, I guess.  When I got there, she couldn’t wait to tell me that she had invited her boyfriend over.  Okay.  She also invited over the guy with whom she was cheating on her boyfriend.  They’ll both be here soon.  Neither one knows about the other.  What am I going to do?  WTF?  Excuse my potty-acronym, but come on!  It quickly became clear to me that it was my job to sympathize and say, poor you and what are you going to do (which would be ridiculous, because hey, you called them both, you’re trashy for cheating and stupid for inviting them both over).  I don’t know what she thought I would think, that she was super desirable or better than me or what?  Was I projecting because I’m the one who believes these things?  But no, I found that I wasn’t in the slightest bit jealous of her.  I couldn’t even muster up any more sympathy for her – for being this sad, sad person.  And why was I questioning myself once again?  How did I revert again, so neatly, into that 14-year-old girl?  I was still learning.  Only it didn’t suck as bad the second time.  This was a pattern of behavior that had gone on as long as I’d known her.  She loved drama and being the center of drama.  But you really need an audience for that.  I wanted to be a friend, not an audience.  So I left.  And that was the last time I saw T.  Believe me.


Skip on over:

To give or not to give? (a story about my Nannie and her neighbors)

Query this:

Do You Give Freely?  (what if the other person doesn’t reciprocate the intangibles?)

What’s something you learned The Hard Way?

Items of interest:

Listening to my Own Advice (by Malinda Essex)

Finding the best me is in my best interest (by Malinda Essex)


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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. “I wanted to be a friend, not an audience.” Great great great observation. SO true. This is going in my bank. And thanks for the links 🙂

    July 1, 2011
    • I was half afraid you wouldn’t like the piece, and tell me to take your links the heck off of there 🙂 . The believe stuff is a bit hokey, but I found myself saying it over and over, so I just left it. In a way, I think that’s part of it. Even after all these years, I find the need to justify my feelings: I believed this, so therefore I acted this way. And also to leave myself an escape hatch: I believed this, so don’t judge me, because I realize I might have been wrong. Does that make any sense?

      July 1, 2011
  2. Great explanation of a human experience we all go through at some time, I think. At least, I know I did. It is a hard realization but so liberating when it does sink in. Thanks for sharing it so beautifully.

    July 1, 2011
    • Thanks, Patti. I think the liberating part for me was letting it go from inside of me – the acceptance part. There is a certain amount of peace that comes just from finally making that difficult decision.

      July 2, 2011

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