In elementary and middle school, I had the same 20-something classmates in my class. You’d think seeing the same kids day after day, year after year, for close to a decade would make you close. Naaaah. Would we be lasting lifelong friends? Nope, definitely not.
I mean, they were decent people, but I never really clicked with any of them. Or at least not in the way all the ‘90s and early 2000s movies made it seem young friendships should be. Yes, I went to all the sleepovers and birthday parties, but when I moved on to high school, I left all of them behind. What was wrong with me? Maybe it wasn’t me? Maybe, I just needed a larger sea of fish to connect with.
Spoiler alert: That didn’t solve the problem either.
I was on the pom-pom squad for four years. Do I talk to any of those ladies today? Nope. I actually would much rather erase many of those years from my memory. My biggest problem with cultivating true friendships in my teenage years was because of my boyfriend. He was my life (in the way that 17-year-olds are sure they can’t go on without their brooding beau). Because of my infatuation, I found myself trying to mold into his group of friends instead of spending time creating my own. Of course, when that relationship ended, that circle of friends fell apart as quickly as it came together. (Don’t feel bad, that was absolutely for the best.)
Friendship Works Both Ways
During these first tumultuous years of my life, I only had one friend — one bosom buddy who remained and never wavered. Though it’s not like she had a choice; after all, she’s my sister. That’s not to say our relationship was always great. We laugh about it now, but there was a lot of time that was rough between us. We’re four years and four days apart, so we went through many milestones at different times, which contributed to the hot mess. But we’ve come through it and have been growing stronger day by day.
Now my sister isn’t my best friend because she’s my sister. We all know plenty of people who don’t get along well with their siblings at all. She’s my best friend because she isn’t judgmental about my life. She supports me and loves me unconditionally, even when I know damn well she’s wanted to shake sense into me. I do the same for her, because friendships based in honesty, trust, and mutual admiration are the ones that last.
Even when it’s hard for me to hear, or hard for her to say, doing right by each other is something we can always count on. That’s what has made this work for as long as it has. You see, I’m a giver and a people pleaser. Which is all fine and good, except I spent a helluva lot of time not realizing some people will take advantage of that. Don’t mind me while I dust off my rose gold-colored glasses.
I’ve had the friend who I’ve counseled through a relationship with a guy who wanted her only when he couldn’t have her. Did we have plans to hang out? Yes. Did he, at the last minute, beg her to spend some time with him, even though he had canceled on her? Of course. And she’d leave me hanging. Every. Single. Time.
I have to be honest. I know I’ve done it too. But knowing how disappointed I felt, I did my best to not make it a habit. I’ve also had the “friend” who played on my heartstrings. She had a complicated relationship with her parents and felt abandoned and alone. I had a big heart with essentially no limit, because boundaries, who needs those. I was a fixer, and damnit, I was going to help her fix her life. But when I introduced her to my other friend, somehow I became irrelevant.
My Circle Is Small But Mighty
Maybe it’s because I stopped answering the same phone call at 2 am about how so-and-so had been seen with someone else. Or maybe it’s because I found it curious that the estranged relationship described to me didn’t seem to be nearly as tumultuous as I was lead to believe. Regardless, it was a messy situation that I was happy to get out of. Well, happy, but also deflated. They both seemed to get along so well, which brought me back to the same question. Is it just me?
Because of those experiences, I’ve always been guarded when it came to making friends. I make small talk, but not too much. I converse via text but don’t get too attached. Over the last five years or so, in addition to my sister, only two other dear friends have been able to break down those walls.
One I met between 2016. We chit, we chat, we vent, and we celebrate together. Even though I only see her once a month or so, getting together never feels awkward or forced. We pick up right where we left off. My other friend, I’ve known for about three years. We work together, so we have to opportunity to talk almost every day. But even when we don’t, even when she left me alone in the office when she went on maternity leave (because how dare she lol), we were there for each other.
That’s the thing about friendships that work and that are worth it. There is give and take on both ends. Like any other relationship, it only works if you both want it to. So don’t worry if you aren’t great at making friends. It just means you haven’t found your people yet. And once you find them, love them and appreciate them, and they’ll do the same for you.
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