I’ve lost a fair amount of friends. That’s part of both growing up and also life. People come in and out of your life, some disappear quickly while others fade slowly like fog on a windshield.
It’s not the loss so much as the adjustment to your new world—one where that particular person is no longer present—that can be the hardest. Although our online lives make the transition from one world to the next seem less immediate, seeing someone you long forgot about appear on your newsfeed every once in a while does help hammer home the fact that there person so seldom enters your current orbit that they may as well be on another planet.
I’m talking about this because it wasn’t too long ago I haemorrhaged a rather large number of friends and it’s taken longer than I expected to really adjust to my world without them. Not that I’m not still connected to these people, or that I don’t still interact with them online or at public functions.
In fact, I actually ran into one particular person recently. That interaction kind of encapsulated the mix of feelings I had about that person, that group of acquaintances, and the world I once belonged to.
See, I lost contact with this “group” shortly after my engagement broke apart. And it was never really a group, I’m just using that as a catch-all term for a selection of people who stop interacting with me after this point.
I mean… it was sort of expected, I suppose. A lot of the people I’m thinking of were friends with both me and my fiancé at the time, so when things fell apart, I can only assume some people chose to stay friends with her and forget about me or just forget about both of us. I have no idea, really, since so few people ever reached out to me when word got out what had happened between us.
And that hurt. I don’t know why, but so few people I had been building relationships with over the course of several years tried to talk to me when I was going through a fairly rough time.
Like this one friend I ran into recently. We were never especially close, but we had spent a lot of time together at school and had been in a lot of the same circles. So when I never heard from them when my engagement ended, it still hurt. I didn’t realize how much it hurt at the time, though. It was only after running into this person for the first time in years that I realized I was quite upset at them.
I had found out just prior to this that this person had reached out to another mutual friend after their relationship fell apart under similar, but not identical, circumstances. My friend had comforted this other person through their difficulty, but had not so much as messaged me once in years.
So when I met them recently and they said hi to me, asked me how I was doing, and acted all chummy, like we were still buddies from back in the day… that’s when I realized how much they had hurt me.
Again, we weren’t bosom pals or anything. Just school friends more than anything. But I think it was the attitude that hurt the most. The fact that they put on a demeanour of avuncular playfulness while I was still coming to grips with how little they had ever cared for me in the first place. They were never interested in what had happened to me, or how I had handled my life and the various struggles that came next. They just wanted… to tell you the truth I have no idea what they wanted. They were all nice to me that day, then I went back to never hearing from them in any way. I guess it was to be polite?
Look. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to keep griping about this one person. They have their own stuff to deal with and I seriously don’t want to judge them for whatever it is that they’re doing with their own life.
But I do want to articulate that this one interaction possesses a theme that’s become very common for me. I’ve been cut out of quite a few different circles. I’m used to it. It doesn’t get any easier, but I know the process and I know how to take care of myself and take it less (although not completely) personally.
I too have cut people out of my life. In quite a few circumstances, it was accidental (or seemed that way). Things change and you just don’t connect with the same people as you once did.
I have also intentionally cut people out, as well. People in my life who were toxic to the wellbeing of me and those I cared about. It sucks and so often, you don’t realize how bad that person is for you until you get some separation.
I had a friend through elementary and high school. Neither of us were terrible athletic or cool or popular, so we became friends out of necessity. But they were my best friend. We did everything together, and we saw each other through some tough times. It was only as things changed and I started to make new friends in high school that I began—slowly, very slowly—to see how damaging this person was to me.
Everything was about them, and I was, to them, their “sidekick.” I was an accessory, to be used when needed and discarded until wanted again. And it was only after I started to split from this person that I saw just how harmful they were to a number of others as well.
And to be honest… that’s how I started to feel about this other friend I ran into recently. I realized how badly I wanted them to reach out, to say something to me. I had worked so hard to make them like me, to prove to them how important I was and worthy of being their friend. Around them, I had to be someone I never felt comfortable being.
And that’s not just true of that one person. Looking back, so, so many of those friends I lost were friends I had worked hard to impress or to make them like me. I had to be things I never should have been around them. Maybe they weren’t as openly toxic as my elementary school friend was, but I still ended up being hurt around them because I never got the same level of effort in return.
To be honest, again, I’ve never felt more myself than in the past year. There are so many areas of interest I’ve had that I never comfortable exploring while I was in the orbits of specific people. Now, things are far from perfect, but I like what I do. I’m proud of what I have to say. I love not pretending to be someone I never felt comfortable being.
I know how that sounds, and in fact, how this whole post might look. It appears like I’m just using this at a platform to complain about specific people then switch to how many friends I have now and how I’m not mad, I’m laughing in fact.
To be honest, I still feel hurt by the fact that there’s a good two to three dozen people I expected to reach out to me about four years ago. I still have no idea why they didn’t. And, while I have talked a lot about my own personal journey on here, I still struggle with the sense there are things I need to work through. Writing this here is helpful, but it’s by no means a “fix” to my own problems with self-doubt.
When I saw this one friend recently, I felt like I needed to say something to them. I felt I needed to tell them how hurt I had been they never reached out to me while I was in pain. But I didn’t. I realized I didn’t owe them any more of life than I had already dumped on them up to that point. They weren’t part of my world anymore, and that’s ok.
I had adjusted to my new world and, like I said before, I love what I’ve found here.