The concept of everlasting friendship is one that is ingrained in many of us from a young age. We are taught how to make friendship bracelets, and encouraged to purchase halves of lockets to couple with our best friends’ other halves. We casually throw around the acronyms BFF and BFFL on a daily basis. But what happens when a friendship doesn’t stand the test of time? What happens when the friend you grew up with transforms into some you don’t like or even recognize?
At the age of twenty-five I already have many friendships that have lasted over a decade or two. My friendships have survived butterfly clips and tie-dye shirts, side bangs and Lisa Frank, different schools and even different states. I have watched friends graduate, fall in love, land first jobs and move into first apartments. Unfortunately I have also watched some friends seriously disappoint me.
I once had a friend that I described as a “soul sister.” She and I went everywhere and did everything together, we laughed at the same jokes, thought the same things, even liked all of the same foods – I truly believed that I had found someone to share my locket half with. Then, three years into our friendship, my friend came to me and bragged about betraying another friend – she had hooked up with a guy her friend had dated and still had feelings for behind the friend’s back. What upset me the most was not what my friend had done, but her lack of remorse for her actions. Instead of feeling guilt, she felt proud and gloated for twenty minutes as she sat on the foot of my bed telling me what had happened. She looked like a stranger to me. After that night our jokes didn’t seem as funny, our thoughts not as aligned, and our favorite vanilla milkshake didn’t taste as sweet.
In another instance it was a friend of eleven years – she was the first friend I made in high school. We talked until 4am nightly, wrote each other emails and letters when on vacations, visited one another at college and had regular sleepovers in the summertime. However, as the years went by and my friend entered into a serious relationship, our friendship stagnated. The talks became weekly, the sleepovers obsolete. I didn’t complain when she cancelled plans or even when she missed my birthday, but when for the first time in eleven years I asked her for a favor, to be there for me for something that was serious and important, she bailed because she was “too tired.” I knew then that I would never again eat breakfast on the kitchen counter of her Brooklyn apartment.
We often want to believe that the same people our friends are when they have braces, are the same people they will be when they have grey hair. That we know them better than anyone so they can’t surprise us, change on us or hurt us. But sometimes in life people change and grow apart, sometimes we see people in new circumstances and situations that display their shadows in an entirely different light.
This isn’t to say that a friendship should be abandoned the second one friend makes a mistake or has a slip-up. No one is perfect and part of caring about someone is accepting her flaws and enduring the tough times together. Although sometimes it’s worth weathering a storm for the sake of a friendship, you maintain the right to evacuate yourself from a hurricane. It’s about weighing what is acceptable for you and what isn’t. I was okay with my friend missing out on phone calls and my birthday, but I wasn’t okay with her bailing on me the one time that I really needed her.
We can feel beholden to a friendship because of its longevity, but there is no point in staying loyal to something or someone that will bring us more sadness and hurt than joy. I was hesitant to end my friendships – how do you throw away 3 and 11 years of memories and laughs? But I wasn’t willing to invest even more time in people I knew would disappoint me, in people I could no longer look at the same way. My mom always told me “if you have one good friend in your life, that’s more than enough,” and so I’d rather spend my time and energy on the good friendships that I have, on the people that are there for me and support me, than on people who will let me down.