Friendship Inventories and the Unexpected Breakup

Just before I had set off for University, everyone I spoke with seemed to idealize their personal college experience, outwardly acclaiming how they would do anything to turn back time for a mere day, simply for one more tailgate, senior party, or a night surrounded by best friends. Much to my surprise upon arriving to campus, I was greeted with a tiny bedroom, a communal bathroom, five-dollar handles of Vodka, and an utterly unnavigable social scene. Let’s just say that I was a tad disappointed given my highly-set expectations. I nearly habitually prayed that this wasn’t what everyone attested to be the “peak” of their lives. When I was just about to graduate four years later, I had finally found a comfortable pace to University life, but also looked forward to the years ahead. I heard strangely familiar anecdotes about different adults’ twenties, and how they were yet again, “the best years of their life”. To me, this attestation was much more sensible. Most twenty-something’s are finally making a steady flow of income, living independently from their families, and find themselves just at the onset of exciting career journeys. Some relocate across the country, or to another one entirely, merely because there’s nothing holding them back. Surely, it’s a thrilling time, but coming from a twenty-something herself, it can also hold a great deal of uncertainty and pain.

Learning how to “finance my life” was quite challenging at the onset, what with the countless “bills” I now had the responsibility of paying off and determining what percentage of my salary to allocate to retirement. Especially in our twenties, romantic relationships face the ultimatum of marriage or separation. The majority of twenty-something’s experience a difficult loss or job uncertainty. This decade has brought all of that my way; both the excitement and joy alongside unbearable challenges. From grandiose trips, sitting for the LSAT and deciding to relocate to Europe for a few years, to a devastating loss, breakup, and uncertainty about the next fifty years of my career, I’ve endured a great deal, as I’m sure most twenty-somethings have. These “rights of passage” aren’t unique by any means. On the contrary, most of us are experiencing them. However, the social media epidemic alongside countless other pressures encourage us to capture only our deceptive “twenties are the best years of our lives” photos, and leave the rest out.  Luckily, I was able to take a great deal of comfort in the articles, books, and podcasts I found encircling grief, breakups and career changes. However, quite frankly, there was little-to-no guidance surrounding an additional hurdle that I encountered: the dissolution of a friendship or a “friendship breakup”.

When it comes to romance, we’re conditioned to proceed with caution, yet when it comes to platonic friendships, no one seems to discuss their potential to crumble. Instead, most friendships hold the allure of lasting forever. Nonetheless, following University, as everyone relocates to disparate directions of the world, it’s necessary to decide who we invest our time in. Once the element of convenience of physical proximity is removed, we must evaluate which friends merit a plane or train ticket to visit alongside a weekend’s time allocation, and which don’t. These priorities will change as the years go on, and as we all tangentially change and evolve as human beings. The true friends are the ones still standing through the constant transitions life tosses our way.

A few months back, when I had been feeling drained and used in a particular friendship, I re-conducted this very “friendship inventory”. Across the globe, I reflected on individuals whom I admired and relied on for advice and support. Funny enough, one particular friend in question did not appear on this list. Quite to the contrary, actually. Upon contemplation, I vividly recalled a handful of times in which I leaned on this friend for support, and received selfishness in response, whether it was her interrupting me to discuss personal challenges, or simply not checking-in or following-up, which was especially jarring after confiding in her a mental health issue I had been struggling with. Then, I figured, maybe emotional supportiveness is not her forte; not all of us are gifted with an aptitude for emotional intelligence. I thought, maybe she fell into the other category of someone I had looked up to, or was uplifting to be around. Upon rumination, in line with my previous appraisal, I noticed that she was not someone I would ever wish to emulate. This individual possessed many narcissist qualities, consistently sought attention from men, and continuously asked me if I thought her boyfriend was fat, which exemplified the superficiality reflected in most of her relationships. Nonetheless, I had been convinced that we were true friends. The lack of emotional support or uplifting qualities that any friendship should guarantee was camouflaged by the convenience of living nearby one another, the pleasure we had traveling together (which eventually faded due to her reluctance to reciprocate financially), and the enjoyment we experienced partying together. However, speaking from experience, as we mature, we come to realize that friendships need to be more than simply a “fun going-out friend”. In our tumultuous twenties, we all need at least one friendship with depth and reciprocity.

This “friendship inventory” I conducted months back truly prompted me to reevaluate a great deal in my life, namely who I am investing my time with. I choose this word “invest,” because as our lives speed up and grow more bombarded with everything, we merit the individuals surrounding us to be supportive, reciprocal, and more than simply someone “fun to hangout with”. Those we choose to devote time and energy to, should support us in any venture (even if it means that we’re selling dirt and they buy it from us); ought to check-in and not solely call when they need something from us; and should elevate us to be better human beings. If you’re feeling drained in a friendship, it’s okay to conduct a friendship inventory. What once drew you to an individual may no longer hold the same allure; we all change as we grow, and naturally, people will grow apart.

Many behavioral scientists and psychologists opine that human beings are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Generally speaking, I find this to be the case. It’s certainly a difficult balance to find, but a friendship ought to be treated like any relationship: it should fundamentally elevate you and ensure that you feel safe and supported. It should never leave you feeling exploited, overburdened, or drained. Life is short, time is precious, and this world is filled with billions of individuals. Invest in those who bring light and goodness into your life.

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