This year was admittedly a breakout year for me. Beyond the scope of career accomplishments and scratching idyllic travel destinations off my bucket list (toot! toot!); my greatest achievement thus far was mustering the courage to walk away from relationships that no longer served me.
More specifically, I saw less of a need for friendships that were one-sided, that lacked the mutual curiosity to push each of us forward, those buried in jealousy or bitterness and so-called friends who’d refused to accept my flaws and love me just as I am.
By no means do I believe I am a perfect person, but there is a thin line between stripping away a person’s essence to cater to another’s agenda while never once offering a genuine hand of support.
I clung to people who I had mistakenly categorized as friends. I collected them like chips at the casino and relied heavily on our infrequent interactions to feed my confidence.
Just knowing that I had a solid mix of friends to roundup for selfies at Happy Hour felt right. But when I found myself lost and feeling anxious or depressed, I realized I had nowhere to turn. Not because these so-called friends were incapable of consoling me in my times of need, but because we had never reached the depth of friendship that is necessary to feel safe enough to open up.
They never saw me ugly cry; they never saw me fall apart.
My primary job was playing Miss Perfect, and in that character, I willingly peddled to everyone else’s needs, wants, and invitations. In turn, I compromised my own happiness with this way of thinking. Each and every time, regardless the situation, I started putting other people’s feelings above my own because I felt “stronger” or guiltily, more “privileged.” I felt I could handle overt or inadvertent rejection from those so-called friends because I had forced myself to sympathize with whatever they were going through.
I belittled myself and subsidized my own happiness for the sake of others. This became apparent to me one day when I decided I actually didn’t want to go to a Happy Hour for fun. I fantasized about daytime brunches at my house, taking weekend-long road trips up to the mountains or going to check out a movie — just about anything that didn’t require a short dress and 5-inch stilettos.
It also doesn’t help that I work in an industry that thrives on likes and shares, so having a solid source of sisterhood became essential. I introduced ideas that my uninterested circle of friends said would “take a lot of work.” Even worse, I’ve had people cancel on the day of a meet-up and beg and plead for a makeup date. Eventually, I closed up shop.
I decided I wasn’t going to be strong anymore for friends who had refused to hold up their end of the bar. This was taking too much work and a great toll on my emotional state.
So, I built a wall of invincibility (or so I thought), but behind that wall was a broken and defensive woman who couldn’t allow herself to embrace vulnerability or honesty.
Being vulnerable means circumstantially sacrificing that wall of strength, a wall that is forever in danger of toppling over at the slightest rift.
In all of this, I did have my mom. She is truly a best friend and if she wasn’t 60 years old and opposed to alcoholic beverages, she would no doubt be my ride or die.
Her advice, plainly put, was to stop answering the call. “You don’t owe anyone anything and the same goes for them,” she told me. It was at the very point I started doing things that I wanted to do without co-signs from outsiders.
I still long for those genuine, bugged-out friendships where we can let our guards down and just have fun. I still want to have those intellectual heart-to-hearts where we sit down and mull over politics or all the disparities that have plagued the culture. I still desire that ambitious wanderlust who will encourage me to spit in fear’s face and go after my heart’s desires.
But in the meantime, I’m not going to force it. I know that friendships are not supposed to drain me of my confidence and peace. I’m learning to value the people within my reach and have made a commitment to give all I have to enrich those friendships.