We rarely put much thought into our friendships. Usually, they develop naturally and find a way to remain stable even in times of significant change and turbulence. Yet, sometimes those exact times of change and turbulence are precisely what it takes to take an honest look at our friendships and truly understand what they mean to us and whether we’re still as much a part of them as we were when they began. In other words, what about outgrowing friends?
“One day you share every single secret and are connected to the marrow of your bones and the next day you’re standing in front of each other and realize you’re universes apart. ”
When I was younger, and by younger, I mean in my teen years, I didn’t think friendships were that important. While everyone spent their time hanging out and swapping stories, I spent my time working on my future career. It felt like the right thing to do and, frankly, made me feel superior. And even though I had a lot of friends, they just weren’t my priority.
Now that I’m older (almost 30, baby), my value system looks different. As time went by and I got to experience some major heartbreaks, losses, and soul-wrenching breakups, I began to realize how important the people in your life are and how lonely a lone ranger can feel. Because people can shape you, inspire you, and easily keep you going when you can barely get up. But they can also break you, mess you up and simply leave you feeling more alone than when you were actually on your own.
Today I want to talk about a tough topic – outgrowing your friends. It’s a tough topic because the friends you outgrow are usually those you’ve spent the most time with. One day you share every single secret and are connected to the marrow of your bones, and the next day, you’re standing in front of each other and realize you’re universes apart.
1. You mostly talk about the past and superficial stuff
“Yet, while the newest gossip receives a fiery reaction, the deep stuff leaves you with a ‘seen’. ”
Of course, it can be fun. You remember the good old days, discuss the weather, show off the new shit you bought, but the deepest you get are debates about relationships. You might feel passionate about something, share something you’re working on, discuss the ideas you found in the books you read, and insights that keep you up at night. Yet, while the newest gossip receives a fiery reaction, the deep stuff leaves you with a ‘seen.’
These friendships are very addictive, and while they do have their value and the weekly/monthly catchups might be fun, they also leave you feeling hungry for something that truly makes you feel something. Something other than the short-lasting glow of nostalgia. You might find yourself in the position of an observer. The conversation goes on, and you just stare at it, as if from the other side of a strange mist, and realize you’re not there anymore. You were back in the day, but you no longer are. And it hurts because once upon a time you didn’t have to make yourself smaller to make this friendship work, but now you’re just too distant even to try.
2. They don’t accept that you’ve changed
“Our friends can help us do the work and accept us for who we are, no matter how many transformations we go through. They can also hold us back. ”
Sometimes change is optional, and sometimes it’s unavoidable to move on. Some people live their lives without bigger turbulences, and even though nobody’s path is perfectly smooth, some paths are smoother than the others. The reasons for that range from daddy issues to bad divorces and further, and, often, deeper than that. If you know what it’s like to fight for your life either literally or figuratively, you know the importance of change. And growth. And the fact that usually, one doesn’t exist without the other.
Our friends can help us do the work and accept us for who we are, no matter how many transformations we go through. They can also hold us back. This is especially common with old friends, who have a very rigid idea of who we are. They keep taking us back to the places we don’t want to visit again, and sometimes they keep making us feel like we never truly left at all when all we want to do is just let go. Do the work, learn, and let the fuck go. Even if that means letting those very friends go as well. You have a right to rebuild yourself; however, many times, you need to.
But sometimes the people closest to you will rub your past in your face. Every single mistake, every embarrassing moment, every wrong move you’ve ever made will be brought to light and presented to you repeatedly in more ways than you thought were possible. A “LOL” emoji followed us. Because that shit makes everything better, right? Well, let me let you in on a little secret: when we say something cruel and mean and put a “LOL” emoji after that, we do it so that the other person would think we don’t mean it. But we do. We sure do. And we all know it.
3. Everything’s a competition, and nobody’s happier for it
Have you ever felt that your failures make your friends somehow weirdly happy? I have.
“The truth is that when you‘re actually happy, you don‘t feel the need to prove it. You’re just happy. ”
Maybe you have a particular lifestyle that makes your life seem somehow easy or glamorous? Perhaps you’re a freelancer, and your friend has a 9 to 5 job? Maybe you’re in a loving relationship while your friend is struggling to make theirs work? Perhaps you have your place, and they are struggling to pay the rent. Maybe you have a kid, and their partner doesn’t even want to talk about a dog? Perhaps the grass on your side of the fence simply seems greener to them. And they just can’t be happy about any of it.
Honestly, I think it’s very human to get jealous from time to time. But the funny thing is that jealousy is always mutual. Because some parts of their grass seem marvelously green to you as well, and maybe you’d really like a piece of that for yourself. It’s fine until it becomes pathological. If you’re afraid to make the slightest mistake (or tell someone about it) because you KNOW it will be followed by an “I told you so” or “Look, who failed now, and you thought you were so happy/smart/pretty/successful/likeable/ *insert any positive state and quality*, it can be very confusing.” At first, you may feel hurt and try to figure it out or, worse, try to PROVE them wrong. Yet, at some point, it just starts feeling tiring, pointless, and frustrating. At some point, you’re just over it. Walking on eggshells is suddenly no longer fun.
This point is related to the second one. You have to PROVE you’ve changed; you have to PROVE you‘re happy, you have to PROVE so much and so often, that you may start feeling completely unheard and misunderstood. Competitions are especially common in-group friendships. Someone has to be the hottest, the most successful, the smartest, etc. And once you chose your role in the group, you make fuckin‘ sure no one dares to claim it. And so the happiness contest begins, and it rarely has an ending. Or a winner.
The truth is, when you‘re happy, you don‘t feel the need to prove it. You’re just excited. But other people being happy for you wouldn’t hurt. Because happiness multiplies when shared. And it wants to reproduce.
Conclusions… sort of
“Because while photos and videos can help you reminisce about the details of your seaside holiday, people help you remember what the breeze felt like on your skin.”
So, what do you do if/when you outgrow your friend(ships)? Do you just cut the people out of your life? Maybe. If individual relationships become too damaging to maintain, perhaps you’re better off without them. And that‘s a tough part because we get addicted to our usual ways, and we let people mistreat us so that we wouldn’t feel alone.
Yet, all in all, I am not suggesting that you let go of those friendships entirely because they still have value. If talking and explaining how you feel doesn’t help, you need to find another method. Maybe you just need to find them a proper place in your life. Some people will support you and help you grow, and other people will make you laugh and share memories that help you remember who you were and relive the moments that made you – you.
Old friends matter. We will never get our childhood and youth back. Seasons change, and spring always comes around, but some things will never return. And old friends help us remember not only what happened, but also what it felt like. Because while photos and videos can help you reminisce about the details of your seaside holiday, people help you remember what the breeze felt like on your skin.