So, in Germany, it is damn near 4:00 in the morning, and my body has absolutely no intention of falling asleep any time soon. Future Linda has a doctor’s appointment in the morning and an eight-hour shift at Starbucks not long after, but Past Linda spent most of her time sleeping and drinking almost three two-liter bottles of Coke Life, so Present Linda is a tad concerned. Sleep would do her some good, but luckily, there is all the free coffee to be had at work tomorrow, and I will probably need it.
Anyway, why am I writing a blog post at this ungodly hour? I was skimming through my newsfeed and I saw that a friend of mine had tagged one of her friends in a post. This would normally not raise any kind of alarm; it seems like a pretty standard social-media interaction. But what struck me was that this particular friend had confided in me about the aforementioned taggee about what a terrible person she was, and how she wanted nothing more than to distance herself from her.
That was months ago, and for all I know, they’d buried the proverbial hatchet and were trying to pick up their friendship again, but it reminded me of experiences I had with friendship in college.
The first friend group I found was not a good one… at least, it wasn’t good for me. The individuals themselves weren’t bad people, quite the contrary. They were smart, independent, creative, and interesting individuals – and yet, something happened when they came together. An overwhelming culture of back-stabbing, bullying, and exclusion became the dominant group dynamic, and I couldn’t take it for long. Having done my own fair share of damage, I stepped out of that friend circle and began the process anew, spending most of my time alone because I deemed it a better fate than to be around people who made me feel alone and unwanted. I vowed never again to become a part of a clique, and to instead value the friendships I had with individuals.
This served me well for the remainder of my college career, but this strategy was not without its flaws. Once I freed myself from the need for close companionship, however temporarily, I could no longer understand anyone’s need to be a part of a friend group, and yet many of my friends were. I was excluded from a number of activities because I was a free agent, drifting unceremoniously between social circles without claiming any as my own. I spent many nights feeling alone, left out, and angry.
What frustrated me the most about this period in my life is that when I could secure some one-on-one time with my friends, it was often because they needed something from me. I wouldn’t have minded this so much, knowing full well the desperation of needing another person’s guidance, but those lonely nights made me feel used. What’s more, even as they complained to me about how awful their friend groups were (citing the same problems I’d had with my freshman friends), they would ultimately return to them for the better part of their social activities. It didn’t matter that the relationships were toxic and unhealthy. What mattered was belonging to a group, a small family in our little Lyco away from home. I broached the topic with a close friend of mine, and she explained simply that she would rather have bad friends than be alone. This saddened me, and it still does, when I think about it.
My friendship troubles of college are long past. I’ve held onto some friendships and made my peace with others which didn’t work out. I still wonder sometimes, though, and I worry that there’s something wrong with me. I still have trouble making and keeping friends, and I wonder if this is a personal flaw or simply a flaw of humanity. Why was I a good enough companion for one friend when nobody else would see a new movie with her, but not good enough when it came time to celebrate Thanksgiving or the end of classes? Why was I good enough for one friend when she wanted to join my friends in the cafeteria, but not good enough when I wanted to join hers? Why was I good enough for one friend when he needed someone to run to the store for him, but not good enough when he felt like going out for drinks?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. On a spiritual level, I have forgiven all of these people for ever hurting me; I know they meant no harm. However, I can’t help but feel jaded by the idea of friendship, sometimes. What does it mean? Can you trust someone who calls you their friend? Or are you ever something… less than that? Simply a part of someone’s social survival? A pawn in someone’s subconscious, evolutionary politics?
Please treat people with kindness, kittens.