For a long time, and even now, I struggled with letting people go. I will go through my friend list on Facebook sometimes and consider cleaning up the scads of people from different phases of my life, and I never really get rid of anyone because “I’ve known them forever” or they’re family, or a friend of family, or the girl I met through someone else who I have about four things in common, never interact with but keep them because their presence is innocuous. I keep her because she likes cooking too, or this girl also had weight loss surgery and we’re sort of friendly … Oh this person knows my mom, or dad or aunt’s cousin’s brother …
I had the same group of girlfriends for most of my life; we didn’t all hang out together, or make plans to grow old together like the Golden Girls, but for many years and boyfriends, moves, celebrations, changes, happy days, crazy neighbors, bad ideas, annoying parents and questionable choices; these were my people.
One of them, also for years, made me feel inferior to her. She made my feel like most of my ideas were shit, my decisions were wrong and like my existence was basically this puzzle that if it weren’t for her, would never be pieced together. She had an opinion about everything that you couldn’t question, and while she wasn’t some awful human being, it turns out, she wasn’t one of my people. She was for a time, and her purpose had sort of run out. It wasn’t until I made the decision to change my life and my health that I fully realized it. I also got older; not everyone you know at nineteen is someone you should still know at thirty-nine.
I always thought of myself as a people person with a big group of acquaintances and full social calendar that diminished only when I moved hundreds of miles away from everyone I knew. I’ve been more introspective (who knew that was possible) in the last few years and have clearer ideas about who and what I want in my life. I felt guilty and sort of selfish about it at first, but I gradually made peace with it, and you can, too.
If you want to.
I was talking to someone recently who was frustrated with their place in their friend group; she felt she had to force herself on others to be included, she felt left out sometimes and as if she didn’t really play a role in her group the way she thought.
I empathized but “then they’re not your people” flew out of my mouth immediately after. “Yea but we always used to hang out….” and “We’ve been friends since we were kids ….”
“Okay, so they used to be, I get it, but for today, for now, for where you are, they’re not for you…”
“I know but I just really want things to be how they were, and …. seriously, we’ve been friends since like first grade…”
If I have known someone since kindergarten or am related to someone by blood or marriage and they don’t make me feel valued, or like I am “worthy” of their attention, I should let that relationship continue? On the basis of knowing them so long? Illogical.
My grandmother used to say that if someone wants to be in your life, they will find a way. I totally believe this; sure things happen and maybe someone can’t text you back when you want them to, or come to something you invite them to, but when you mean something to someone, when they are grateful for whatever role you play in their life, you will know. And if you don’t, ya gotta go. For you.
I have a love // hate relationship with social media because it gives us a connection to people that maybe we don’t need to be connected to. It makes us think things are a certain way and maybe they aren’t. While people share real things, and are mostly their true selves, it’s definitely convoluted. Being friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t necessarily make them your friend in practical everyday life. Being related to someone doesn’t always mean they have your best intentions at heart, and knowing someone since your childhood doesn’t give them free reign to neglect your feelings. People will treat us the way we let them, and if we stay in relationships with people like this, knowing how they make us feel, and don’t do anything to change it, we can’t complain.
Our perception is our reality, so when I am in my head about who is a keeper, and who is a floater, I ask myself two questions. The first; if I met this person today rather than at birth, or in fourth grade or college, would I still want to be friends with them? And do I like a person or keep them in my life because of their role (lifelong friend / family member) or because of a genuine interest in knowing them? I have always said of my parents, that if they weren’t my parents, and just two people, I’d still like to know them, because outside of their role as my parents, they are genuinely awesome people. As are the people I choose to interact with on a regular basis.
I don’t know where I got the idea that I have to be friends with everyone I ever knew, or that I should hold on to relationships that no longer serves me (and in turn makes me a person who no longer serves their life’s purpose either) but I don’t do it anymore.
I’m not saying that you should grab the hedge clippers and go all Edward Scissorhands on your friends list, or social circle. I’m just saying it’s okay to take inventory. It’s okay to make sure that the people you interact with are invested the same way. Maybe you used to talk to someone every day, and now you just text; or you used to have coffee every weekend but now your schedules only allow for once a month. Totally cool. It’s the quality of the interactions, not the quantity. The quality of the relationship, and how it makes you feel, how it allows (or inhibits!) you to be your true messy and real self that determines, to me, if they are in fact one of my people.
Some people just aren’t.