Friday, 21 May 2010

Musing On The End Of A Toxic Friendship

We started out in all of the same classes. I had had lots of Asian friends before (even an Asian girlfriend), but she became my first Asian best friend. For a long time she was the person closest to me. And yet only people who haven't known us very well over the years are surprised that we are no longer friends.

For the best part of a decade, I had been proud and protective of the friendship, thinking that it kept me in place. There were a lot of things that threw me off about her, but I convinced myself that the good parts greatly compensated for any sense of discomfort. Eventually the discomfort became more pronounced, and before I was willing to admit it, chatting with her became painful. I noticed that she, too, was on a diet of slowly but surely proliferating gaps and silences when we last spent time together. She seemed so different to the other people in my life when last we spoke in person. So, a few months ago, I started the process of terminating all interaction with her. What had once been a source of warmth and assurance had become a breeding ground for bad self-esteem practices.

Even though I knew her very well, it was still a shock to hear her make fun of idealistic self-help-oriented folks, and dismiss the entire self-help genre with extreme scorn. I saw lots of ego, and someone who had been burnt early, and often. It was a repulsive picture. We were only on the phone. I kept up appearances, not knowing how to deal with such attitudes which flew in the face of everything I was about.

I love self-help books, and often write in the genre myself. She either knew this and had forgotten or had assumed that I had changed over the years. I realised that I was not prepared to be hurt by this person anymore. But still, I wouldn't let go. Loneliness seemed too overwhelming. My other friendships weren't as well-developed. We had tons of history. A lot of positive memories to fuel our pursuits, even though those pursuits only pushed us further apart, and the memories became less feel-good with the encroachment of the present's persistence.

I suppose I could have ended it on a better note, but I was so sick of mustering up enthusiasm for this woman who wasn't really my friend after all. Who was boosting a totalitarian economy by lending her creative and innovative skills to it, and re-investing in it by buying property there. Most people in the country would like to get out to countries like Australia, yet here she is going back.

What have I learnt from this? Better to be yourself in full all the way in your personal relationships rather than hold back and hope the person will eventually change in a way that is more complimentary to you. If a person has to change something about themselves in order to be a great companion, then they are less than great, and they don't deserve you. Honesty is the best policy. I don't ever want to find myself in another situation where both me and my supposed friend are holding back big parts of our personalities for the sake of being nice and harmonious.

I've also learnt to constantly re-evaluate my closest relationships... something I need to work on. Think of it this way: If something is good, it is likely change over time in a positive way, and you want to be open to the benefits of the change. Taking for granted doesn't encapsulate emotion, it simply deprives you of pleasure.

Keep enjoying yourself, though the things you enjoy will change.

Robyn says (in Fembot):

There's a calculator in my pocket / that you aren't in check /

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