Friends like these

I have often been called a thoughtful person. Not thoughtful in the sense that I am often overly considerate of others. That would be more my sister’s realm, which doesn’t mean to say I am heartless and unkind. I just prefer to keep out of other people’s business.

In any case, I find myself quite often totally absorbed in my own thoughts. Whatever is in my head, whether it be letting my mind wander off back to the book I’m currently reading, what new recipes I want to try this week, or even totally recreating music videos to make them better (in my mind anyway), I’ve been totally inside my own head and it has led me to being labelled as a thoughtful person.

I have opinions and, if asked (and sometimes when not), I express them. If someone asks me for advice, I will quite often oblige them. I don’t like to see friends struggle so I will do what I can to help them whatever they are going through.

I really do try.

But I find now, at the age of 25, that I have very few people I actually call Friend. And of those, I don’t tell a single one of them anything deeply personal. A “how are you?” will be answered with a quick “I’m good,” followed by a question about their own lives to deflect any further questioning towards me.

It’s not the biggest deal on the planet. I don’t really make friends myself. People make friends with me, which is fine. It’s nice really. Nice to know that they consider me to be the kind of person they want to call their friend. I like that.

Some of my friendships have been very long. Some short. Some of them extremely intense and loaded with all kinds of emotions, whilst others have been relaxed and fun. Friendships, because they happen between different people, are all different. Not everyone reacts to the same thing in the same way. Some people grow more emotional as they grow up. I have done the total opposite: going from the biggest drama queen you could ever meet in your life as a teen, to a no-nonsense, mostly quiet and controlled individual.

I’m not an expert on relationships. Friendships? Even less so. So I’m not saying that I’m perfect. And I’ve never been the perfect friend by any means, but I find that the older I get the less time I have for drama, pressure to keep in touch all the time and generally hurt feelings over pretty much nothing. I sound mean. Maybe I’m being unfair. I don’t know. What I do know is that I have a job (spending 7 months recovering from my last job was not fun so I’m glad to be back working in a place I am happy), I have family responsibilities that I took on myself and I’m desperately trying to get myself onto my chosen career in a hideously competitive industry aged 25. It means navigating all of these things AND going back to school for the next two years to get the necessary qualifications. I figure by the time I finish my training etc. I’ll be into my thirties already. I expect so much of myself that this isn’t good enough for my standards and I am scared.

I have friends, but none that I can talk about all of this with. None I can share the anxiety, the sleepless nights, or the general helpless feelings that come with having to manage all of these things and how hard it is to get up and spend every single day anxious that something might go wrong. Sometimes it would be nice to just meet up for a coffee, a drink, lunch or something without feeling like it’s supposed to be some kind of event. Oftentimes these meet ups are used to share big news in their lives: “I have a new boyfriend,” “I’m getting married,” – or just general despair over “my boyfriend,” “my job”, my this, my that. It’s always one extreme or the other. Joy and elation or sadness and misery. It’s hardly ever a casual meet up or just a relaxed fun catch up on our lives.

The keyword here is ‘our’. Because there sometimes feels like there is no ‘we’ in my friendships. There is just them. Yes, I deflect any questions about myself. But once I have brushed any interest in my life aside, the entire meet up thereafter is consumed by the other person’s life. I find myself talked at for hours. It is as though these times are used as their very own therapy session where they vomit up every single emotion and thought they have had since we last saw each other (I’m talking months), or spoke, and they spew it all over me.

Any pause in conversation is up to me to fill, heavy with the expectation of advice. What do I know about anything? I’ve been single after a very short, but disastrous, relationship 9 years ago (a teenage love that scarred me to the bone). I avoid feelings as much as possible because I find them exhausting and I have deep relationships with the only family I have in the world – my mother and sister – that no one else understands. What do I know?! 

The answer is: nothing.

I don’t want our meet ups to just be about you and then waiting for me to give you advice we both know you won’t take. That’s not a conversation. That’s a therapy session and I’m not your therapist!

I know, in theory, what a healthy relationship is. What a healthy friendship is. But I seem to have never had one. And it is perhaps for this reason that the advice I do give is never taken by my friends. They find an excuse to not take action. They ask me what I would do in their situation and I tell them something along the lines of, just ask him/her what they want directly and ask for the truth. Or I say, command respect from him/her and they will treat you with some.

I try not to skirt around problems. I try to be honest about my expectations of people. You either respect me or I’m out. That’s it. It has nothing to do with confidence and everything to do with knowing that I am not going to spend a single day having someone in my life who makes me miserable – who doesn’t respect me. I do just fine with that on my own, thanks. And all of this goes to show that my friends have literally no clue about me. Because they assume I’m the most confident person ever. I tell it how it is. That’s it. Perhaps this is the reason they don’t take my advice. They think being a straight-talker is some kind of personality fault that prevents me from being in a relationship. They don’t know me.

I don’t know what causes my friendships to fail or fade away completely from my life. If I did maybe I could change it. Or maybe I won’t. Because if any friendship is based on constantly being about one person and how they feel, about their childish ways of simply trying to piss me off/make me jealous and then act as though they didn’t, then fine. I don’t need that. I really don’t. And I am quite happy to not fight for a friendship that irritates me more than it makes me happy. I can’t abide childish games.

I’m finding figuring out life hard and confusing enough that I simply don’t have the time or energy to invest in people who only think of themselves.

Perhaps I expect too much of my friends. Maybe I’m being unfair to them all and I should do better myself. I should try to be more of a thoughtful person and maybe concern myself with their business more. It’s exhausting but maybe that’s what a friend does and I’m complaining about something that is a fundamental part of friendships. Maybe I should change myself to be less concerned with my own thoughts, share them more with my friends – to offer up my Self instead of waiting to be known. I feel like if I did wait I would be waiting forever. Maybe I should even be flattered that they come to me with all of these problems so I should fight to keep hold of them.

But for the moment, it’s just not worth it to me. I can’t be bothered to fight to keep a friendship alive that takes so much of me but gives me nothing back. And I don’t want to offer up all of myself to someone who couldn’t be bothered to truly know me after all this time.

Who needs friends like these? Because I know some people who could do with one.

I’m out.

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