Saying goodbye to friends can be a very difficult thing to do. Most often we disconnect from friends because of geographical moves. As a child, I grew up losing friends all the time because my father was in the military. It became second nature to me in a sad, but oddly freeing way. We moved all over the world when I was growing up. We never lived anywhere longer than three years. It was this way until my father retired from the military when I was 18. So, obviously, I never stayed anywhere long enough to get to know and develop forever friendships. Long term friends were alien, yet very appealing, to me.
I wasn’t always unhappy about moving around because my life, during those years, also had a secret door. An escape hatch, so to speak. I never had to feel bound to anything, anyone, or anyplace. So, if the frienship train jumped the track, with whomever I was investing my energy and emotions, I was safe. I would not be there for long. There was no need to feel too upset. Soon I would get a new start.
Everywhere I traveled, in those early years, were other “drifters” just like me, but also kids from the local area. These locals had been born and raised with their friends and they held strong bonds to each other. I, on the other hand, had no ties but those to my parents. When I came rolling into a new town I was already with my best friends – Mom and Dad. They were my life raft in the sea of the unknown. Since I was an only child, my parents were my world. Home was my sanctuary. Still, the neighborhood children drew me to windows of wonder and desire to be a part of their world, too. Which eventually I would, for a while.
The idea of being friends with a person or a group of people for a long period of time, even a lifetime, is something that has burned in soul my entire adult life. I often observe others with their close, longtime friends in awe. That easy camaraderie, the inside jokes, knowing looks and the “no-matter-what” kinship was what I wanted to experience, too.
However, the friendships of my dreams have failed to manifest. Patterns have emerged from the dust of my past and followed me through adulthood. I am stuck in the ebb and flow cycle of “take it or leave it” friendships. It’s like reading the same series of books over and over, only there never is a happy ending, there is only the continuing quest for success. Three primary issues have worked against me in my quest of achieving the friendships I so coveted:
1) Penchant for Solitude – Introversion is probably the biggest mountain I climb daily to achieving what my heart most desires. Introversion goes way beyond being a little shy. According to the world of psychology, introversion is a trait you are born with. It does not mean an introverted person is unfriendly, but that we are often anxious or uncomfortable to a varying degree in social situations. We find social interaction taxing and often have to recharge after hanging out with friends or going to parties.
2) Zero Siblings – While some might think the lack of siblings would be wonderful fairytale world to live in – much is missed out on. Having siblings to pick on and to be picked on by has got to be one of the best ways to prepare us for the cruel world that exists beyond the comfort of our family unit. To navigate life without the interactions with siblings is a loss. No matter how awful they can be sometimes, those cursed brothers toughen your hide. Those jerky sisters help you build up an emotional callous and sharpen your comeback skills. I grew up without a brother or sister calling me names, pinching or punching me, or eating MY donut. Alas, I am too soft-hearted – the weakling in the herd.
3) Lack of Social Talent – By this I mean not having the social toolbox available to draw upon in various social situations. I am pretty down to earth and do not have the desire or skill to participate in put-downs, slams, or snarky conversations. This could be an end product of 1 and 2 above, combined with the lack of opportunity to grow up in one location over the expanse of an entire childhood. My idea of being a good friend is being kind, listening, and sharing what is going on in our lives. To me that doesn’t seem unreasonable. But some groups of people do not trust those who are more reserved and polite. If you can’t dish it out as good as they can give it – your pecking order drops.
In reflection, I wonder if I am more “alright” than I have given myself credit. Yes, I have a rough history with friendships. But truth be told, most of the people I have invested my time and energy in have not been deserving of the kind of friendship I was willing to bring to the table. I have been betrayed by my “friends” time and again. But do I only have myself to blame? My biggest failure has been to give my trust too completely. In return, I have received lies, back stabbing, and disrespect of my feelings.
However, I have not been desperate in keeping toxic friends. Make no mistake. What I build in friendship, I easily relinquish in relief, thanks to my upbringing. I see now that it is a failsafe mechanism built into my nature to protect myself. While I will continue to enjoy friendships, I will no longer beat myself up if it does not last forever. I know I am a good person, a quality friend. Endings are often opportunities for new beginnings. Onward!