I have always convinced myself that I would never be as fulfilled in my friendships as I truly desired. I give a lot of myself to my friends because making other people happy makes me happy. In the past, they have let me down – they cancelled plans, weren’t always in the mood to go out, or often made me do a lot of the work to reach out. Up until last year, I fully believed that I was a great friend but I was always going to be disappointed. It used to bother me a lot, but it doesn’t so much anymore mostly because I’ve come to realize three things:
Firstly, like any relationship, my love (platonic or not) has its up and downs. Secondly, no matter what kind of relationships it is, they require some work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes, you don’t get as much out of it as you wish, but often people can surprise you. You get what you put into it, whether it’s ten minutes from now or ten years. And lastly, I’m not always the most amazing friend I used to believe I am and I’m learning to accept that too. Having come to that realization, it’s so much easier for me to let go of negative emotions and get more out of my friendships. It’s also okay to admit to myself that I’m only one human and I can’t always be my best self.
Last year I had a rude awakening when, for the first time, I found myself questioning whether I was as good a friend as I had always told myself I was.
I met this girl and we wound up clicking right away. As we spent more time together, I liked her more and more. She was funny, smart and woke, but as I found out, she relied heavily on her friends. By that I mean if you made a plan with her, you stuck to it – no questions asked. If you cancelled plans, you were (in her mind) a terrible, awful person who didn’t care about her. I saw her continuously getting upset with others when they flaked or changed their mind last minute. To be fair, it’s not a great feeling, but it I felt like she was taking it very hard. As freelancers, we both worked from home and would frequently meet at coffee shops to work together. Over chai lattes, she would often vent to me that she felt as though her friendship meant nothing. I wanted to be there for her, so I tried to comfort her as much as I could. I told her you can’t always rely on people; that they let you down.
And then I became the bad friend. The details aren’t important, but it was a similar situation to what had happened in the past. Two situations actually occurred. In the first one, I showed up to the event where she barely acknowledged me – that was how angry she was. The whole experience was very jarring and frustrating for me. I left feeling saddened and questioning all the reasons I usually prided myself on being a good friend. I spent days agonizing, asking myself if I was a bad person. Did I really care about my friendships? What was I doing wrong?
The second time, I tried to avoid conflict by reaching out to her personally beforehand and telling her I wasn’t feeling it. No luck. She lashed out and, ultimately, our friendship ended. While I miss our time together, it was also one of the most stressful friendships I have ever had. For me, it was toxic in many ways.
On the other hand, it did make me take a step back and reevaluate my relationships. I started to see a pattern of being disorganized with my time, often changing up plans last minute, which probably could have been upsetting to some or at least frustrating. In the end, I’m glad I went through this because I emerged as someone who was more self-aware about how I treat myself and how I treat others. It also gave me the power to understand that it’s ok to let go of a friendship and not hate myself for it. In the end, we weren’t a good fit and it was better to disconnect from each for both our sakes. I’ve only lived twenty-eight years on this planet and while it may not seem like a lot, I’ve lived through a number of friendships.
It also gave me the power to understand that it’s ok to let go of a friendship and not hate myself for it.
I have always been an extrovert who loves to surround myself with people. My worst nightmare consists of being left in a room by myself for over 24 hours or working side by side with people in an office but be unavailable to talk to them at all. In college, I somehow ended up becoming good friends with people who were only introverts. This was a real problem for me emotionally. Come graduation day, I felt like leaving my second home was a little bit like tearing away a piece of my heart, but my friends clearly were ready to move on.
I first moved to Baltimore about three years ago for a multitude of reasons including my lack of a social life (hell for an extroverted person) and my lack of a job that actually used my college degree, which had caused me to sink into a depression. The glittering promise of living on my own, friends and the fact that my long-distance boyfriend had a full time permanent job (and couldn’t leave) led me to move in with him. So here I am. I have a wonderful friend group that accepted me with open arms. I’ve realized that I’m finally getting what I need. I have a group of friends who both enjoy going out to dance and also like to stay in and watch movies or play Settlers of Catan. They love to travel and eat delicious food. One of my good friends enjoys it so much that when she eats something absolutely delectable, she foodgasms. It’s hilarious and endearing.
As someone with a very small family, my friends are my family. My friends accept me despite my faults and quirks. If I want to make T-rex noises, they go along with it. When I laugh so hard that I snort, they think it’s hilarious. They come out to birthday dinners with me, even if I’m running 15 minutes late and welcome me with joy. Every year, we spend Presidents’ Weekend at a cabin in Western Maryland, where we fill the house with warmth, laughs, and good food smells.
One of those things is coming to the realization that I don’t have time to waste raking myself over the coals because I can’t please someone.
There are many aspects of being an adult that I really dislike, but there are many I love. One of those things is coming to the realization that I don’t have time to waste raking myself over the coals because I can’t please someone. Of course I love my friends and I want the best for them. If I can be there for them, emotionally or physically, then I will be. But I only have so much of myself to give and I need to take care of myself, before I can take care of others. This is how I am learning to love myself, imperfect as I am.
India Rose Kushner currently works as a social and marketing consultant. In the past, she has been an editor and writer for the feminist blog Rose Water Magazine. In her free time, she enjoys writing and reading poetry, knitting, cooking and traveling. You can find her on Instagram at @indiarose_k and on Twitter at @indiarkushner.