My Greatest Friendship Had To End Before I Could Find Myself.
Our friendship was like a matchstick on fire. Full of warmth and life. We lost ourselves in conversations about everything and nothing. Sometimes in her apartment. Or mine. Or over the phone. We clocked hours together, cooking meals and gobbling down endless bottles of cheap red wine. And we liked it.
We liked it so much we slotted our off days together to do just that. We went places together. From shopping malls and restaurants to parties, movies and everything in between.
It was seven years ago when we first met. We were both on a work trip to the Far East. We met at the hotel lobby through a mutual friend and just like that, we clicked. It was a bond made in heaven. On that evening in a tiny and dark restaurant in Bangkok, a friendship that would span a total of seven years was born.
For the most part, it was pretty awesome except for one fallout at some point. Something which, looking back, was the first writing on the wall. That fallout should have been my first lesson had I paid attention. Only I didn’t. But it’s ok, I doubt I would be writing this if I had.
She became my best friend. My ride or die. The sister I never had. Or was she?
It was as if she was someone I had known from a former life. Or a version of me that I didn’t know existed. We were each others’ shadows. Or perhaps a reflection of each other. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was exactly the point. She seemed to ‘get me’ more than anybody else in my short list of friends. She was always ready to confirm my fears and ‘pull me back to safety’.
Like the one time, I expressed my fear of starting a business. I thought the market was flooded and I told her as much. As always she was there to lend me her ears. After which she gently unplugged me from the latch of my ambition.
Here she was again, ‘pulling me back to safety’. Like the sister I never had. She not only validated my fears of the flooded market, but she also gave me the names of people who had tried and failed in that business.
It would take me years to reach a certain degree of awareness; where I could lose my rose-colored glasses and see others for who they really are.
You could argue that this is because growth comes gradually and it takes time to see past the veil. You may be right.
But if I were, to be honest, enough signs were flickering at every corner. I just kept turning a blind eye to most, if not all of them. This friendship was something of value. It represented a piece of me that I couldn’t afford to lose. But most importantly, it served a purpose. That of filling a hole that had been created by years of failure, sadness and a lack of fulfillment.
So I held on. Until I couldn’t.
Somewhere along the way, I started to get tired of it all. No, it wasn’t because a switch flicked on the inside. Nor was it because some motivational speech about changing my relationships finally seeped through the mask of my conscience.
Here’s what happened; The glue started to wear off. The effects of my habits finally started catching up with me. For starters, drinking endless bottles of wine started affecting my skin. And not in a good way.
Also, I became cranky at work from nights of staying up late. Subsequently, my performance dipped. As such, it wasn’t long before trouble at work started brewing.
When work became hectic, I stopped showing up for after-parties. My off days were becoming something sacred. I began to live for them. From then onwards, the after-parties and drinking sprees died a natural death.
Understandably for my friend, I was not much fun now. Sure, I still relished our time together, I just couldn’t go the whole nine yards. Not anymore.
It is said that change starts from the inside.
And that’s often true. But for me, the opposite is what worked. I had to first change the outside to experience a change on the inside.
When I stopped drinking heavily, partying hard and staying up late, things started to shift. Slowly. I now had plenty of time to myself. Which I must say was a much needed, long-overdue breath of fresh air. I could now meditate, read, think, dream, plan and get productive with my life.
Basically, it was everything I was capable of doing all along but never did.
I was starting to feel good. Both on the inside and outside. My newly-formed habits became the cracks that would eventually usher the light into my life. In essence, they were laying the foundation for what would be, the greatest self-discovery of my life. Yes, they were nothing but tiny shifts but they were powerful nonetheless.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light get’s in. Leonard Cohen
In my moments of solitude, I began to peel back the layers. For the first time, I was able to truly evaluate my life. I took a long, hard look and watched my life play out on the big screen of my mind. I needed to do that if I was ever going to confront my demons. It was the only way I could get to the core of the issues that had been plaguing me for years.
A. Why was I unfulfilled?
B. Why was I fearful?
C. What was my life’s purpose?
The more I connected the dots and unearthed answers for question A, the more enthused I felt to keep digging for answers to question B. Little by little, I started to find myself.
Basically, the wider the cracks became, the greater the light streamed in.
It gets interesting….
Because I could now see myself for who I truly was a person, I was able to clearly see how the friendship fit into my life. It became evident that this friendship was the missing piece in the puzzle of my life.
It dawned on me that reason my friend struck a chord within me was because I could see parts of me in her. Those parts were covered in a different personality than mine. Still, I identified with them. She truly was a reflection of me.
When she ‘pulled me back to safety’ by encouraging me to give up on my dream for starting a business, I interpreted it to come from a place of concern. And maybe she really did mean well.
But what I know for sure, is that I was only saying yes to my insecurities. Deep inside, I knew it would take too much work to nurture my ambition to life. But as long as she was in my corner, I was safe, because I played it safe. I didn’t have to push myself to become the person I knew I was capable of being. So admitting that the hurdles would be next to impossible to overcome, was a safer bet. So I took it.
Having said that my friend was a reflection of me, also goes to mean that I too was reflecting parts of her that she saw in me. Perhaps I am wrong in saying this.
But could it be that she also felt that she could do better with her life? Even though she was not doing anything about it?
Could it also be that the reason she affirmed my fears was her way of blocking my light so that we could both remain in the dark?
Two years ago, that friendship came to an end for obvious reasons. The distance between us had grown wider, our personalities had drifted further apart and our lives could not mesh together. Not anymore.
For starters, I had started to warm up to my passion for writing. I had always loved to write. It gave me life. Until now, that was a passion that had been buried deep. I had also given up drinking altogether. And my skin loved it. I had even quit my job and moved to another country.
Basically, I had forged an entirely new path for myself. No. I didn’t at any one time consider myself to be more superior than my friend. Absolutely not. All I was doing was following the path I believed would lead me to discover my identity and purpose. It just so happened that this path took us farther away from each other.
So I guess you can say I starved our relationship to death. Because what you don’t feed doesn’t grow. Do I miss her? At times. I admit there are memories of her that I reminisce.
But that fades in comparison to how much my life has evolved in the last year. I can now see myself more clearly, I now know how I want the experience of my life to be and most importantly, I know what I don’t want.
For example; I don’t want friends who feed off each other. Sorry. I know it sounds harsh. But that should only happen in the animal world. Like the Masai Mara.
What I want, are friends who strive to be whole and aspire others to do the same. Sure, we all have flaws. Unfortunately, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. But that’s not to mean we shouldn’t use our good side to pull others up.
Also, I don’t want friends who are not committed to developing and growing themselves. And that’s ok if that is how they choose to live. But as for me, I still have the fire in my belly. I want to keep it moving; re-invent myself, learn new skills, and grow.
I am not ignorant that this comes at a cost. Not at all. I know it means stepping out of my comfort zone. It also means burning bridges along the way. But really, what’s the alternative?