Today, I’m drinking sage tea. Sage is famous for its cleansing properties, removing toxins and negativity on both a physical and spiritual level, making space for the new.
They say “friends are like seasons, they come and go.”
Friendship should be valued, as it can be such a wonderful thing. But accepting that friends come and go can give you peace. In rare occurrences you may have a friend, or the same few friends, for life — but even then, you live your own lives, you go through phases of not seeing one another all the time, or not talking all the time, etc. Even a lifelong friend comes with phases of being in and out. People move locations, graduate from school, change jobs, have children, all different sorts of life-phases that pull you apart whether it be temporary or permanent.
I used to be very possessive and exclusive over my friendships which caused significant stress. It took A LOT for me to consider someone “my friend,” and once I was friends with someone, I took the relationship far too seriously. I would set a lot of conditions and expectations for my friendships, quick to cut someone off who couldn’t meet them. I would get angry and jealous when a friend of mine was friends with someone who disrespected me. I would take things too personally, get too wrapped up in their lives, or let them get too wrapped up in mine, tried to control them or allowed them to control me… and so on.
Once I got to college I became a lot more open-minded and considered everyone I met a friend. Everyone I knew, everyone I had positive interactions with, whether just once or on a daily basis, was a friend to me! And I still like to think this way. “Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet” is a favorite quote of mine. People come with issues and frustrations, but overall I want everyone to be happy and healthy. This doesn’t mean I go out of my way to please everyone, but I try to treat everyone with respect, because I know we are all going through heavy things we can’t talk about.
And I have to say that even during my college years I still dealt with plenty of friendship issues — feeling disrespected, getting angry with people, feeling drained or used by people, jealousy and rivalry, insecurity and inadequacy, paranoia, any many other dramas. It really wasn’t until full adulthood, twenty-two or so, when I realized that you can’t own people. And it wasn’t until just this past year or so when I learned the importance of having boundaries, in my later twenties, something I am still working on.
You have to be very careful with friendship when you’re a very giving person. There’s a lot of people out there who want to take, take, take — your time, your energy, your money, your resources, your happiness… and so on… giving nothing back in return. And a lot of people use guilt tactics such as “you’re my best friend!” or “you mean so much to me!” in order to make up for it.
You’re not everyone’s therapist. It’s good to listen to someone when they’re struggling and show them that you’re there for support. But many people take this way too far, going on and on about their problems, never even giving you a chance to speak. If a friend is going through a hard time then you should be a good friend by offering support. But remember we are all human, you can’t be everyone’s “savior,” you’re not a therapist (if you are then you should be getting paid for it!) If a friend is genuinely in a bad place, it’s irresponsible of you to say that they can rely on you completely — instead you should advise them to find professional help, or if money is an issue then provide them with free resources (Suicide hotline: 800-273-8255) (Send them links, lend them books, see if they have family or others they can reach out to.)
I like to look back on friendships and feel grateful for happy memories and lessons I learned. I don’t hold a grudge against anyone. It’s nice when old friends reach out just to say hi, and I like to reach out here and there to old friends to send them good thoughts. Sometimes people cut themselves off completely, even with social media you can still block people or choose not to have any accounts at all and make yourself unreachable. Either way, we’re all on different wavelengths, constantly changing. Shared interests change — you move locations, you no longer study together, or you’re not in the same club together, or you grow to like different things — sometimes you reach the point where the only thing you have in common in your memories together. Respect the constant ebb and flow of life, respect our unique paths of healing and growing, respect the things we explore. If you hold on too long to a dead friendship, you prevent yourself from meeting new friends who are more vital to your current phase in life, here to teach important lessons that your old friends can no longer teach you.
A lot of us hold onto dead friendships. You can still appreciate old friends, you can still get in contact with people from the past, you can still make an effort to reach out to people you don’t always see every day. But forcing a friendship, when you’re both on completely different wavelengths, is damaging. Not only do you miss out on new friends, new lessons, and new perspectives — you halt your healing process. Often we tend to hold onto friends from our youth just for the sake of missing the feeling of being young and free of responsibility. A lot of people are involved in toxic friendships because they’re too scared to let go, too scared of the unknown.
I also think that sometimes people use their friends as a way of avoiding true emotional intimacy with their partner. They will rely on their partner for physical needs, then turn to their friends for emotional needs. This can happen with either gender but I see it happening a lot more with females (maybe just because I’ve always had mainly female friends.) For example, they will communicate all of their issues/problems about their partner to their friends, instead of having an honest and constructive conversation with their partner. Or as another example, they will go out of their way to put their friends first while lacking any attention towards their partner. So just watch out for friends who use you as a pawn in their toxic relationships. You may not realize that you are encouraging their toxic habits towards their partner. If someone vents to you about their partner on a constant basis then instead of continuing to listen perhaps you suggest they keep their issues between themselves, that this is a personal issue you shouldn’t be involved in.
Personally, I’m at a phase in my life right now where I’m really focused on myself and doing a lot of self-exploration. Friendship is not the same priority for me as it once was in my school years. I’m trying to learn who I truly am, which is hard for me to do if I’m always hanging out with or talking with other people, as I have a tendency to take on the energy of whoever I’m communicating with. Quarantine restrictions aside, I’m really not trying to go out that often like I used to. I love staying home by myself, journaling or writing blog posts, learning new topics and practicing my favorite hobbies. I’m avoiding most social media so that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, really just trying to embrace the present moment. I’m happy being my own best friend!
So basically, we should all be friends with each other, we should all treat one another with kindness and respect. No one should be “owning” or “controlling” one another. Friendships should not be forced, especially when there’s nothing left in common — it’s okay and maybe in the future you’ll reunite when you’re on the same wavelength again — either way it’s fine. Watch out for toxic friends and don’t let them suck you into their dramas; don’t let them drain you, use you, or disrespect your boundaries. Those who are in a relationship should not be leaning on their friends as a way of avoiding their partner. Friendships come with a dangerous potential, they can be so toxic, even without you realizing it! Just focus on yourself, do your thing, let everyone else do their thing.