Being an introvert, I often find it challenging to make friends easily. By the time I become comfortable with someone, I’m branded an arrogant snob. There is no win-win here. This was true as a youngster and even more so as an adult. The only difference is that new friendships are more challenging for grown-up introverts. As we socialize less than before, our social circles become negligible. By our 30s or 40s, we are too busy with work to care about anything else.
It also hurts when a friendship is falling apart.
Sometimes, after a period of time, you realize you and some of your friends are no longer compatible. You laugh at different jokes; you start taking an interest in different topics and don’t like talking about the same things anymore.
We move on, evolve, and so does our friendship with the people around us.
I remember making bitchy friends when I was in a gossiping phase.
I remember making sweet friends when I was in a vulnerable state.
Some of us bond over the uplifting, enriching positives, whereas some share a fun camaraderie maliciously giggling over the sinful negatives.
The universe gifts us with different kinds of friends during different seasons. The caveat being these seasons are exclusively yours. Each season can be as long or short as your destiny allows them to be. And it is rare that a friend sticks through it all. When you are in summer and in need of light, love, and passion, your friend might be in winter, in need of subtlety, distance, and introspection. There might come a point in the future when you both are summers, or you both are winters. But life is too short to wait for that perfect harmonious season because it might never even arrive.
Over time, I realized I was just not comfortable gossiping and backbiting just for the sake of maintaining a friendship. I was a part of a group (let’s call it The Umbridges) who would say the meanest things about the people they didn’t like – unwarranted comments related to looks, character, and lifestyle. I was no saint. I used to enjoy it tremendously back then. But when I reached my 30s, I couldn’t do it all the time anymore. It didn’t feel right, the gang didn’t feel right, and being in this group of friends felt.. suffocating. I didn’t want to hear any of their nasty jibes. It was obvious to me that the amount of bitching we were doing was not healthy. It felt like I was on Twitter 24×7.
I now wonder if this need for a break from The Umbridges was new or if it was always buried within me, waiting for the right time to surface. Eventually, it did surface, and I started keeping a distance from friends who didn’t feel right for me.
Then they started keeping their distance as well (rightfully so).
The Umbridges slowly started fading. A mere ghost of its previous version. Now the friendship is limited to birthday or festival wishes, casual exchanges, and social media comments.
I feel at peace with this change.
But I also feel sad.
Because no matter how wrong someone was for you or how toxic, you miss the connection it gave you at one point in life. That connection meant something then, though it feels tiresome now. The word “connection” usually has a positive ring to it. But it can exclusively stem from negativity (gossip, backbiting, complaining) or positivity (encouragement, care, good humor). Both can be equally addictive. You often move on from this addiction, but you never forget the feelings you experienced at that point. You were genuine, and you gave it your best.
All types of connections are hard to let go of.
I remember a friend forlornly telling a younger, bitchier me that she didn’t want to gossip with me anymore about anyone as she felt terrible about it. I didn’t understand that emotion then, but now I do. I understand this feeling of desperation that prompts you to stop talking negatively. I cannot describe the feeling in words. It is akin to getting your supply of clean air disrupted, and now you desperately want it back.
You realize sometimes friendships need to fade for you to sprout back to life, to start afresh. You also realize it is going to be that more difficult to find new friends because your social circle diminishes as you age and your affinity for small talk reduces. As a kid, all it took was a new class or a walk to the park to find new friends and initiate a fresh beginning without egos or dozen trepidations coming in between. Now, the best we can do is roll around in bed, sighing and hoping that one day we will find someone, anyone, to share a deep connection with – a friend after our own heart.