Over the weekend, I went out to celebrate the birthday of a friend I went to college with. For the purpose of this post, let’s call her Kayla. It was the first time I’d seen Kayla in about six months. Two of my other friends were there too, who I hadn’t seen in longer than that. Their names aren’t really important.
What is important to know is that, in college, they were three people I spent the most time with. Two of them lived on my freshman floor, and Kayla transferred sophomore year. We all lived together junior year. Kayla and I were definitely the closest, but I was friends with the other two as well.
The problem is, during college I had numerous issues with these girls. I’ve written about them before. These are the girls who threatened that I either go to therapy or they wouldn’t be my friends anymore after I posted something about my depression that upset them. They are the ones who I discovered saying some pretty mean thing about my eating habits via text. They are also the ones who talked about me behind my back when I was in a relationship with a woman senior year, not because they were against it but because they were angry about how much time we spent together.
So yeah, when I look back there were a lot of bumps in the road.
I’m not innocent here. I let immaturity rule because I didn’t know how to handle my issues with them properly. So I said things that weren’t nice because I was confused and angry and often venting to someone in the hopes that they’d understand. Not that it ever fixed anything of course. Still, I think it is fair to admit they were not the best friends to me.
I used to have a lot anger directed my friends. I was mad that they didn’t display their care in the overt, obvious way I felt I needed. I was mad that they couldn’t seem to relate to me on a personal level; it was never easy to talk to them about real feelings. I was mad that I could never trust them to keep my secrets a secret. I was mad that they made my stuff, my emotional problems and my relationship, all about themselves. In short, I felt like I wasn’t a part of the type of friendships I deserved and I was mad at them for falling short. And once we had that first blowout, it always felt like no matter what I did, I couldn’t make things right, couldn’t get close to them. It felt like there was some invisible barrier between us. I was so frustrated, with myself and with them.
The summer after my first year of grad school ended, I was visiting Kayla at her beach house. One night, the two of us went down to sit on the beach. Somehow, we delved into deep conversation, rehashing so much of our history. After that night, I let a lot of that anger go. I finally came to a place of acceptance about all things I was holding onto. Kayla said something that helped me: maybe me and those other two girls were just not the best match as friends. Maybe it was no one’s fault.
I realized she was right. I’d picked these people out of convenience, not similarity. I hung around with them out of convenience, because I liked them enough and didn’t feel the need to rock the boat. And yeah, they did some crappy things. They were not the best friends they could have been. I don’t think any of us had the emotional capacity to discuss our issues with each other in a functional, problem-solving manner. Everything just festered.
I didn’t feel that way about Kayla though. I had always felt closer to her than the others. I’d really tried my best to be there for her, even despite all our crap. We shared a lot of the same thoughts. We confided in each other. Especially after that night, I hoped we would continue to be in each other’s lives.
Unfortunately, we’ve drifted apart a lot in the last few years. I talk to Kayla very rarely, and the other two even less than that. We still have a common group of about 7-8 people, so I see them when someone suggests we get together maybe once or twice a year.
What’s hard about that is that the three of them still seem close. I’ve seen snapchats of them hanging out. Going on a trip. Celebrating New Year’s together. These are not things I was invited to. Each time I see this, I feel a twinge of regret that things have come to this. I feel sadness that I am not still a part of the group.
If I’m being honest though, I think that more of it is despondency that I’m no longer connected to the people I spent most of college with, when I feel it should be that way. I always hear stories of how you meet your best friends in college, and that isn’t my experience. Really, I’m grieving the friendships I wish I’d had in college. With the insight that I have now, it makes me sad that I can’t go back and make different decisions.
Despite all that, I just can’t seem to let them go. I thought that I had. After seeing various social media posts over the last few months, I thought that I’d come to a solemn kind of content that these friendships were past me. I thought I’d just quietly cut the cord and we’d part ways without ever acknowledging it.
But then Kayla asked me if I’d come to her birthday plans.
I wasn’t sure at first, but I ended up going, deciding I wouldn’t have any expectations. It’s a good thing I did, because it was kind of weird. At first, it was nice to see the three of them. However, after catching up, briefing each other on the newest developments, all I’ve really got with them is nostalgia. The silly memories we have from living in each other’s pockets those years.
They clearly knew about each other’s lives, potential love interests and the latest about their respective jobs. There was an ease about them, they seemed like people who were friends. Me? I had no idea what to talk about. I stared at them and hoped someone would bring up a topic I could follow along with.
Worse, because of some of our past experiences, I still have this conscious fear that they are judging whatever I say. I worry when I’m eating that they’ll talk about my choice of food. I worry if I send a text to someone they’ll be annoyed that I wasn’t present enough. I worry that I can’t talk about a current friendship without someone getting mad.
None of these are things they’d ever say to me aloud. It would be behind closed doors gossip. But I know from experience that it happens among them. I was once part of it.
I left feeling even more confused about where I stand with them. Like…I had fun, I think? But at the same time, that invisible barrier remained. In a different way, this time. Not anger, just a missed connection. That makes me sad. You shouldn’t have to force a friendship like that.
Maybe it is time to cut the cord on these friendships. Can I even categorize them as friendships anymore? They no longer fulfill me in any type of positive way. They’re just there, pieces of my past that I’m having trouble letting go of. It’s completely unlike my friendships with my friends from grad school, people who I laugh with and am not afraid to be honest with. People who I never worry about judgement for.
That’s what it is supposed to be. I know that. So why can’t I let the others go? Why am I holding so strongly to what little bit remains?
If you’re still reading this, maybe you can give me some advice on when you’ve known it was time to move on from a friendship and how you learned to be okay with that.