Thursday, August 24, 2006

Friendship cycles

I've noted this more and more often as I get older. If you let them, friends will come in and out of your life and play many different roles as you find your way through the world. If they're good friends, they give you the space to grow as well.

My little brother ended his friendship to his oldest friend a couple of years ago. Surprisingly, my father actually commented on that when I was home once. He noted that we sometimes lose our closest childhood friends for the most ridiculous reasons, and that sometimes those friends are the ones who know us best. If not best, then in a way that no one else ever will.

My brother's response was that he didn't miss the friendship, so he feels that they both just outgrew it.

I have to side with my little brother on this one.

I, too, recently had an old friendship end. It's sad when it happens, but sometimes, you just outgrow each other. Sometimes, the person you're becoming just isn't going to fit with the person you used to be.

And sometimes, you're so used to seeing how you want a friend to be, that you miss who they really are.

I take full responsibility for the way my friendship ended. My friend and I were so close for so long, that I just assumed that my definition of friendship was hers as well, when I never bothered to ask.

My philosophy on friendship is that friends are the family that you choose. It's not just genetics. As you grow, you know who you are, you know what you need, you recognize familiar traits in others, and you choose to bring them into your circle. You depend on them, and in return, they can depend on you. If a friend needs you, you say "yes" and then ask questions later.

I definitely saw her for who she was. When you're so close to someone, attending the same high school, the same college, roomates after graduation, you can't help but have a really good understanding of their personality. But for all of her stubbornness, her inherent selfishness, her insecurities, and her avoidance of responsibility, I loved her to death. She saw all of my temper tantrums, my outrageous antics, my over-emotional reactions, my unreasonable requests, and my controlling personality. We were best friends forever.

But the problem was that while I understood her, I thought that if it ever came to me, things would be different. We were best friends!! Surely what she wouldn't do for others, she would do for me. I had always been there for her, whenever she needed me, whether I agreed with the situation or not. This was not for any gain on my part, but simply because I loved her and that's what I thought a best friend should do.

And then came a day when I needed help. Granted, it was an extremely difficult situation to be put in - tough for even the most stalwart of friends. When I shared with others, I had offers of support and assistance, even from afar. But when I needed someone by my side, I turned to my best friend - and she declined.

I was deeply hurt - betrayed even, and that moment put a rift in our friendship from which it never recovered. She returned my call within minutes, apologetic and wanting to help out any way she could, but the damage had already been done. For a long time, I blamed her. I was angry and upset that she couldn't find it in her to help someone she claimed to be so close to. She couldn't put forth enough effort to support me the way I thought a best friend should. But the more I considered that perhaps she couldn't help me. Perhaps it was my fault for not seeing that, and putting her in a position to fail?

It's true that your old friends know you best, in a way that no one else that you'll meet later in life ever will, but the best old friends give you room to grow. They accept that despite any changes, you will remain fundamentally the person that they became friends with. They don't love you because you're a vegetarian, or because you're a democrat. Those things will change as you go through life phases, and good friends accept and embrace those changes. In fact, they might even get to laugh about those phases with you after they've passed. Old friends will support you unconditionally because you are their friend, because they love you (whether you're stubborn, opinionated, meek or retiring), they understand what you need from them, and what they are willing to give. You need more than love for a friendship to endure. You have to have that basic understanding of your responsibility in the friendship, and then you can maintain some semblance of friendship as the years pass.

It's difficult to accept, and it's always sad when a friendship ends, but I believe it's always better to be honest with yourself about how you're feeling than to try to force the friendship to endure.

I'm big on being honest with yourself. I don't miss her, but I sure do wish that things had turned out differently.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is about the saddest thing I've heard recently. She called you back within minutes and offered to help, but you couldn't see forgiving her as an opportunity to not only maintain/restore the relationship, but also as a way to get that much-needed help you asked for in that dangerous situation of yours? Wow, and YOU don't miss HER? I'd say SHE is better off as well! What a shallow friend you are.