Ghost of Friendships Past

About a week ago, standing in my kitchen in the midst of seasoning pork-chops, a disturbing and unsettling question popped into my head:

“Who will be the bridesmaids at my wedding!?”

Gathering myself a bit and returning my efforts to the pork-chops, I realized that the root of the question that initially startled me was even more frightening…

Out of the women in my life that I consider close friends, I would probably only have two bridesmaids!

Frightening. Because as a women in her twenties, I must admit that marriage is often on my mind – society practically shoves the idea down my throat! And, as sad as it sounds, if I were to get married tomorrow, or in a month, the only close friends I can think of are two women that I’ve known for a couple years that I’d feel pleased to have as bridesmaids. What I’m really getting at here is that I only have two close friends – that are women.

I think of shows like Sex And The City or everybody’s favorite 90’s American hallmark Friends, where even society points out a crucial characteristic of human existence: friendships. There are also shows like Clueless and I Love Lucy where, content of both shows aside, the link between the two is the close friendships shared by the two main women: Cher’s Dionne and Lucy’s Ethel. It is almost as if the creators of the aforementioned TV shows we’re trying to convey the same message: You may have your boyfriend or your girlfriend, your husband or your wife, but within a telephone’s reach, you must always have your best-friend. As for me, it is wonderful having two very good friends – they are the most genuine, funny, and caring people I know. But, I would be remiss if I did not mention the close runner-ups that led to me only having two best-friends.

The truth is, I have a had a slew of “close” friends. But, at a very young age, I felt the sting of friendships gone wrong. I’d had pretentious friends whose narrow-eyed glances at my clearance-aisle jeans opened my eyes to class-rank, jealous friends whose “You’re so pretty – I hate you'” comments helped me realize that a jealous friend is no friend at all, and I’d had belittling, arrogant friends whose insults about my lack of maturity led me to bitterness – all by the age of eighteen. At a certain point in my life I had had it with people that I sincerely believed we’re my friends, people that I invested time in and genuinely cared for, stepping on me like I was their doormat. Somewhere along the way I decided that if someone I cared about hurt me badly enough, I’d completely erase them from the planet – mentally. Now that I am a young adult, I have to fight not to do just that.

For example, after a friend has hurt me, my impulsive defense mechanism usually kicks in:

Good friend behaves in a way that is hurtful to me > I assess my hurt at their behavior > I then determine in my mind the value of the person’s friendship > I come to the conclusion that his/her friendship is no longer worth my time (despite how much I might’ve cared for the person)

And that’s how it goes every time. The person’s phone number is blocked from my phone, all pictures of him/her are erased, contact with the person on Facebook deleted, and the impulsive list of “cutting him/her out” actions goes on. I figure instead of “working things out” with a person, essentially telling them, “Hey friend, you hurt me pretty badly on this one and I do not appreciate it,” I try to flush out the daily existence of the person in my mind. The major problem with the string of actions I’ve developed is that people do exist – they are very real. They are real for my memory, real for my emotions, real for me – the memory you have of people does not go away simply because you want it to.

It is that simple truth that has led me to reevaluate the method in which I deal with how people hurt me. “Deleting” people from my life does not work, and honestly, dropping friends gets very lonely. After a couple of years of leaving people behind who I didn’t think were worth my time anymore I started to feel like I was living with a trail of ghosts following me. I found that even when I entered a new phase in my life, a graduation or moving to another state, I was still carrying my ghosts of friendships past.

In the end, I think many people live their lives with a number of friends in their memories that they’ve “let go.” As for me, I have grown tired of collecting ghosts. I have learned that it is better to fight for the friendships I love, than to continually cut people out of my life. Fighting for a friendship, working through the nitty-gritty with someone that you deeply care for, and repairing ties with a person is no cinch. In fact, I’ve never fought to keep any of my friendships. Thinking through my life, I’ve decided that it is time to make a change. My two closest girlfriends are ones I would never want to lose, and I realize that I even though I may have intense moments of disagreement with either of them in the future, both of those friendships are worth fighting for. So, as I challenge myself today to fight for my friendships, rather than giving up on myself and the other person, I invite you to the challenge as well. Be the type of person who is willing to fight for your friendships.

As Bob Marley once said, “… Everyone is going to hurt you, you just have to find the [friends] worth suffering for.”

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