There comes a point in your thirties, when you look around, and your friends from your twenties are nowhere to be found. It can be especially difficult when your best friend from your twenties, the university years, the single years, who’s been with you through thick and thin, has suddenly disappeared from your life.
I didn’t have the most secure start in life. My parents were so consumed by their own problems, that they didn’t really have time to dedicate to childrearing. So I learned really early, I would have to make my own “family” if I wanted to have Sunday dinners and warm & fuzzy family room gatherings. As I got older, when I made friends I could trust, they were my family. For me, it was a great relief and perhaps the beginning of real social and personal acceptance when I realized, in my 20’s, I could find friends who would be lifelong fixtures in my life. I became attached to my friends the way kids with “happy” childhoods seemed like they were attached to their mothers and fathers.
I did take her for granted. We celebrated birthdays, holidays, weddings and divorces together. And I took her for granted, just like I imagine I would have if I had a sister. She was certainly the sister I never had. After I had them, my kids called her “Aunt.” I never for a moment considered that a year could go by without them seeing her. I never considered that I wouldn’t be as important to her as she was to me.
One day, she met someone. I was so happy for her. I happily anticipated being by her side as she went through all of the things she had been waiting so long for. But it did not unfold like I thought it would. Slowly, she slipped away, not just from me, but from my whole family. I was left to wonder, was it just the new guy, new life? Did she really suddenly not have any time at all anymore for me? Did I do something really offensive and not know? I was constantly second guessing myself. Where did I go wrong? I’ve seen her only a handful of times in 3 years. At first, it really hurt. Time has definitely healed the wound, but for a while, it was sure difficult to move forward.
Life happens to all of us. Friends meet someone else, get a job in a far off place, find a new passion we don’t ‘get’, get married or get divorced. And then all of the years of memories with that person slowly start to fade. You rationalize, telling yourself this is normal and people drift apart, right? Life takes people in different directions. Why am I being such a baby?
After a while, I got really sick of feeling sorry for myself. And my other friends probably got sick of hearing about it. I also realized, I might have been more attached than she was (my childhood experience sending a boomerang to hit me again). With the love and support of some wise people, I pulled myself out of this incredible feeling of being rejected (my therapist would have a field day with this).
In hindsight, this is how I did it. I started to realize, “it is what it is,” otherwise known as acceptance. I could only control me. I realized I couldn’t make anyone want to stay in my life, hang out with me or call me to go out for drinks. I started taking a lot of deep breaths. It then occurred to me, just because she was experiencing something new, didn’t mean she didn’t want me in her life. Friendships ebb and flow, and people come and go. Just because someone is in the “gone” phase, doesn’t mean they won’t be back. I learned to slow my thought process down. Rather than feeling badly, I started to poke holes in my negative self-talk theories. I also realized, I was still me. Just because my friend had forgotten how fabulous I was, didn’t mean I was no longer fabulous. I didn’t need to be constantly validated. I was still fabulous.
Then I realized, there was more for me to do. I cultivated more independence. Learning to focus on myself, rather than constantly (that’s how it feels) living in reaction to external demands can be challenging, but I’m a survivor. I spent more time embracing the things I liked to do, rather than what others asked me to do. I started to surprise myself. Finally, I realized this was an opportunity. I suddenly had time to explore new interests, learn new things and made some new friends, who did suit this phase of my life.
People expect sadness and heartbreak when a romantic relationship dissolves. But it can be just as devastating when a decades long friendship starts to fizzle (despite your childhood issues). No matter where this takes me, I try to remember that I am constantly growing and getting to know myself better. That is cause for celebration. I have me for the rest of my life. I’m making sure I am the best version of myself I can possibly be. And now I also know the people who bring out the best in me, demand the best of me and whom it gives me pleasure to be my best self around. I’m choosing to surround myself with those people. I hope she comes back one day. But if not, I’ll be okay.