We’re inching closer & closer to the end of the year, and I’ve written for 5 days in a row. Some stroke of luck this is.
I’ve devoted and dedicated several posts on this blog to my lack of connection with my school friends. In my memory, I’m friends with all 23/24 of my classmates who stuck by my side from Grade 8 to Grade 12 – though people left in Grade 10, the influx of individuals ensured a constancy in their number. Early in this year, I identified a strong sense of detachment from everything in their lives, and it frustrated me. It frustrated me that I could no longer go back to seeing their faces every single day and not holding a grudge. It irritated me that I couldn’t speak what was on my mind at any given instant – and expect only brutal honesty: even if that meant someone telling me I was being insensitive.
Then, I stopped writing about it.
I decided that it was time to think about how I approach relationships and friendships in this world a little more. What principles do I associate closely with good relationships? What do I seek? What do I offer other people?
Lots of introspection had to happen. And all of the introspection had to happen simply because I was frustrated. This irritation I faced began to affect the way I communicated with the people I saw on a daily basis at University, and the people I considered my closest friends. I really didn’t want that to happen.
A couple of things. I really wanted to figure out if I had messed up with my school friends. Life, in general, I think, is a lot easier when you’re willing to accept that you have a role to play in something that’s gone wrong. It also meant that I could move past and begin to apportion blame upon other parties without feeling too guilty, or even sorry about implying that someone else was messing things up.
So, to start off, I wanted to answer this: Do I carry high expectations into relationships that I forge? If so, am I right in doing that?
Then, I wanted to answer: Do I morally judge individuals who hold a different set of values close to them? Do I judge people who have goals that are vastly different from mine, or who do not live their life from goal to goal?
And lastly, I wanted to answer: Is it okay to blame someone else? Should I be feeling sorry for myself, or sorry for them?
Ultimately, I wanted to understand if any of my school friendships were resurrectable, and what I would have to do in order for that to happen. I missed those people I hung out with in class, and I didn’t really want to miss them anymore.
There was no structure to what I did. But upon reflection, I think there’s a bit of a pattern.
First, I started talking a lot more to the school friends I was already in touch with. This was easy. It just required me to initiate a few more calls, reply promptly, and not shy away from these things because I was busy. University was a side business I ran, and I started to put a couple of people ahead of that. They realized it too, I think, and before I knew it, I was back to speaking to these people on a daily basis. I really liked that, so I knew I had gotten off to a good start. I’m assuming they enjoyed talking to me a lot more too, because they wouldn’t have replied as much otherwise. Safe to say, I ran the rest of my year on that assumption. I stopped doubting if people liked me or not. If they didn’t want to reply, they wouldn’t reply immediately. They’d reply later. Or maybe they wouldn’t reply. And that’s just something I had to be okay with.
Then, I began contacting people I was very close to in school, but hadn’t kept in touch with as much since I came to University. These were people I’d see once in 6 months, but spend maybe one lunch outing with. I texted them around mutual interests. I remember texting a few of these guys after a Manchester United match, and figured it was easy to strike up conversation again as a result. They replied too. Conversation continued and flowed the same way it did back in our classroom. There was no lull. No animosity. No mention of the fact that things weren’t the same anymore.
Lastly, I attempted to reach out to friends, who, by the 12th Grade, were on the fringes of my friends circle. For a variety of reasons. Some, whom I had judged severely on the basis of their habits. Others, who I had pissed off as a result of my actions, especially when I was School Captain. And some, who I didn’t bother messaging, because I didn’t feel like it at all. Some responded. Others didn’t.
Basically, I consciously tried touching base with all my friends at least once in 2017. After I finished one cycle of this, that’s when I had to move toward working on friendships I had at University.
I’m very close to a couple of people at University, and they know who they are. However, I live on a different side of the hostel to them all. I should explain this. Our hostel is divided, in essence, into 8 parts. 2 per floor: the left side & the right side. The side that you’re on – which is effectively determined by the washroom you share, is the fundamental determinant of your hostel experience. My friends reside on the left side of the second floor, whereas I reside on the right side. Consequently, we don’t see as much of each other in the hostel. We’re likely to run into each other everywhere else.
This is true for my other friends as well. They live in the Girls Hostel (which I cannot enter), or in some obscure parts of the hostel which I didn’t frequent.
I decided to change that in my 5th semester, actively. Started hanging out with my friends more, and began visiting their rooms just to chill. This may sound really, really stupid, but it took a little effort to do that. Not in the least because I had to walk maybe 300m to get to their rooms, but because sometimes it slips your mind because you see these people in class ALL the time.
I also started going out with my friends a little more. In first & second year, I avoided doing that, because I always had work. Which made it easy to say no to them. No was almost the default setting. Saying Yes came after a lot of deliberation about whether the trade-off was going to be worth it. That changed. I started saying Yes to heading out for meals.
(And yes, this did mean I spent a lot more money. My ambitions of living a frugal lifestyle disappeared. With a whimper, and a bang.)
All of this sounds like stuff that people do without effort. I used to be that way too. Hanging out with people was super easy for me. But I think a lot of that changed because of the work I took on in University and how goal-oriented I became. Which meant it took effort for things to feel effortless again.
This is one thing I can’t judge myself on. My friends will probably have to do the judging for me. But here are things I learnt, selfishly.
I’m happier around friends. Work gives me immense joy. Especially doing good work – by which I mean, completing a task to the best it can possibly be done. But my friends give me the same kind of happiness.
It’s easy to reply to texts immediately. It’s tougher to continue conversation when you’re replying to people 7 days after they texted you, because the context that that conversation resided in, is lost. My WhatsApp these days is occupied with fewer conversations simultaneously. But they’re all quality conversations. Including the groups with memes.
Some friendships have changed. There. I said it. It’s easy now that it’s out in the open. Can I reverse this change? Maybe not. But is it a bad thing that the friendship has changed? Definitely not. It literally just required me to be a bit more of an adult about it. Of course I don’t see my friends as often as they meet each other. I’m one of the few studying in a different city as a majority of them. Without any of them for company. That’s something I had to make my peace with.
Another thing I had to make peace with is the fact that others are busy as well. That took a while to accept. Because while I swore to reply immediately and such, it took me atleast a week to realize that others have schedules of their own and maybe I won’t hear back from them anytime soon.
There are some who permanently seenzoned me.
One of them apologizes for being a bad friend a lot. But she isn’t. That friendship is just different to others.
I also had to accept that in some relationships I am probably closer to the other person than they are to me. This all sounds very philosophical, yes, but it’s also the kind of relationship where I had to be a little selfish. I had to conclude that: I’m close to them and they’re around for me. Right now, I don’t think they need me. But if they do, I should let them know I’m around for them.
And lastly, I had to realize that some friendships will never change. I was a cynic to assume that everything in the world had gone wrong and I had no one to talk to. Some people were there through it all and it was really dumb of me to ignore that.
To answer my questions:
Do I carry high expectations into relationships that I forge? Here, I’ll lay it out for you. My biggest expectation is probably a modicum of communication.
If so, am I right in doing that? I don’t need to be “right” about this. I don’t think there’s a “right” answer for this. There never will be. Literally have to play things by the ear from relationship to relationship.
Do I morally judge individuals who hold a different set of values close to them? I try really hard not to.
Do I judge people who have goals that are vastly different from mine, or who do not live their life from goal to goal? I don’t. I love people. Not goals.
Is it okay to blame someone else? Yeah man. Relationships are 50% you and 50% someone else. I think it’s peaceful to blame others. But do it fairly. Simply blaming and all is little sad.
Should I be feeling sorry for myself, or sorry for them? Why do you need to feel sorry for anyone?
What did I end up with?
A happier version of myself with this newfound knowledge. And I’m closer to my friends now than I was at the start of 2017. Maybe it’s just the fact that another year passed, but I’d like to think a bit of what I did mattered as well. Also I think a few people now know that I actually value them. I hadn’t told them that before. Ever.
I also ended up, dare I say it? Dating. *soft, classical music in the background*
And on that bombshell. More shall come your way tomorrow.