Breakups are sad, painful, and most of the time, downright terrible, but even worse? Cutting off friendships you thought had been built to last.
Related: IS IT REALLY AN OPINION OR ARE YOU JUST ADDING NOISE ONLINE?
There I was, lying flat on my stomach preparing to dive deep into the black hole of YouTube videos to tire my brain out. With the light of my computer casting a light at an awkward angle from my face, there I caught my reflection from the screen: hair an electrocuted mess, face sunken even more by the harsh shadows, lids drooping from visible exhaustion and my eyes an empty, glassy abyss. I take a deep breath and survey the endless list of saturated content until I see one that catches my interest: Best Man Speech—Receives Standing Ovation. Click.
The 14-minute video saw me through a swing of emotions, from laughing my guts out to trying and ultimately failing to hold back the waterworks. “You’ve taught me that the most important foundation of love is friendship,” he says followed by a brief and weighted pause. At this point, I was feigning the sniffles just to cover up the stream of tears giving way to gravity. Why was I so affected? I mean, I am predisposed to crying to just about anything, especially wedding- and love-related videos, but this one struck a deep resonant chord, opening up a wound that I had tried to be steadfastly nonchalant about. No, this isn’t going to be yet another narration of my ever-so storied and virtually non-existent romantic life. In fact, this is the beginnings of dealing with the dynamics of loss, one that is anchored on the integral and often taken for granted relationship in our grown- up lives—the case being adult friendships.
You see, it is no secret that I have some sort of idea how I want my future wedding to be. While there is no partner in plain view or a definite visual I want realized (yet), I was always sure that at the heart of the coming together would involve speeches from the people I hold near and dear, friends and family who have seen me through everything, recounting my woe-is-me youth to the questionable decisions I made as a knowing adult. It would be funny, charming, heart-warming, gut-wrenching and full of love, I imagine. Tears would be requisite—lots of them, because damn it, I waited for so long. But as the video stretched on to the final moments leading to the enjoining toast, things felt amiss. This might not even a possibility anymore, I thought, at least for the foreseeable future.
A week prior to this well-timed conduit, my friends had I figured into a petty scuffle that escalated to heightened emotions, a spilling of long-held frustrations and a well-reasoned fit of calling out on certain misgivings. These people, at least to my knowledge, were my constants; my ride or die; my chosen family. Meaning, whatever and whenever problems and misunderstandings accumulated, it would take a precedent shred of understanding to pull through, including an airing out of feelings shut tight, making sure nothing and no one was to be left behind. Or so I thought.
Just a few days shy of a work trip that I extended to a quick vacation, I was notified by a message from the friend I called my best that popped up on not just one, but two other platforms that in a nutshell read something like: “Our friendship has been in a state of limbo lately. I don’t know why and I can’t explain it, but I want to be truthful to you.” What followed was a laundry list of everything that was apparently and allegedly my fault. Boy, was he thorough. Basically, it became clear how I was painted and portrayed—and it wasn’t pretty. A saving grace superseded, as the letter gave way to saying how much I was loved and missed. It felt like a misguided eulogy, honestly. And well, it could very have well been. “I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel we are not where we were anymore and I’m moving on. I hope you understand and thank you for the friendship.”
There it was, the persistent thought I had swirling in me for the longest time. So much so, I have sought out the opinions of other, far more objective and emotionally sensible constants to weigh in on the matter. “Am I such a terrible friend?” I asked, feeling the pain of each word uttered. While I do not even remotely consider myself perfect, I know in my heart that I am the type of person who would go through great lengths for a friend, especially those who I’ve seen many ups and downs with. I was assured I was not, but a warning came not too long after: “Your definitions of friendship are not the same, that’s why this is necessary, especially for you.”
And then it struck me, while the relationship wasn’t what I had chalked it up to be, I thought it was the best for us. It was a friendship we meticulously shaped over the years—nicks, bruises and bumps notwithstanding. But as the veil of familiarity was violently yanked from the sinuous drape over us, it became painfully clear: not only were we different people, at least at this point, we also settled into the confident and comfortable, which in hindsight were precursors to the cracks that were there all along.
A similar “break-up” happened years back, which is why I felt bothered and backed into a corner. Maybe, I thought to myself, there was something inherently wrong with me, since people easily just decide to walk out of my life. No explanations, no discussion, no threshing out—just a final address that is the proverbial nail in the coffin. Rest easy, friendship.
No matter how hard we try, friendships (or any relationship for that matter) will not always be the way we see it from our point-of- view. And if you begin to trace things back, this is where things start to fall apart. Friendships, especially the real and great ones are meant to last a lifetime and more, whatever the circumstance may be. But as we continue to wade the murky and complex waters of adulthood, we begin to realize that sometimes, it is necessary for things like this to end at a certain point—when it feels right, of course. There are friendships meant for specific times of your life, and it is okay, normal even, for it to expire at a breaking point. It is futile forcing something (or someone) that doesn’t want to be there anymore to stay. It becomes more apparent that your brand of friendship is something that has to be met and reciprocated in the same way, if not even greater. There should be no need for words, for guesswork. The beauty of seeing eye-to-eye is that you don’t need to speak when something is up, or when something is off tangent.
I’ve had my fair share of romantic breakups in the past, the real and the shoulda, woulda, coulda included, but nothing compares to deep and lingering pain of parting ways with a friend—especially one you thought you would see through to so much more. It is a sharp cut that slices through each and every time you go back to the message locked with firm decision, as well as the curling anger you conjure up realizing how you didn’t even so much as have a say or will to fight the perceived liability. But then everything dissipates into specks that settle and it becomes crystal that as your wise friend has made mention, just as any toxic or weighted relationships you’ve accumulated or held tight, this needed to happen for your sake and peace of mind.
There’s no use crying over spilled milk, or in this case, a friendship relegated to what once was. The best thing to do is to shake the excess off, learn from the falling apart and build yourself up. And this time, you have to rear yourself to choose friends better, nurture the ones that are true and beyond just the surface level, and make sure you are that friend you want others to be to you. Finally, learn to let go when life begs it to. Don’t hold on when things are falling through the cracks just because of history and nostalgia. You need better to see your best self through, that includes people who will lead you to that path and pardon the platitude, light the way as it needs be.
I’m pretty sure when the time comes and I do get married, someone will fill in and give a wedding speech that is the best ever. He or she could be in the current circles I interface with or it could very well be someone who will come back, we never know. Or you know, I could even meet someone new who would be able to eloquently articulate my romantic narrative better than I can imagine, leaving people in tears, both from laughing and crying—just as I had imagined it to be.