Some moments in life happen within a heartbeat. Others take their time, crawling at first within the edge and rooting into your life while you’re looking the other way. Losing the first of my best friends happened so gradually that I was surprised when the word ‘friends’ didn’t really fit with their names anymore. Why did it happen? Physical distance, to some extent. Something shifts when the rhythms of a friendship aren’t dictated by the regularity of school schedules and shared experiences within classroom walls.
Suddenly you don’t know detailed aspects of the other person’s life. The names and faces they embrace in familiarity are foreign to you. Doubt emerges. Where do you fit into their new life? Will your continued presence bother them? Will they read your words and care about what you say? And the childish speculation of whether new, immediate friendships take precedence over those steadily growing distant. After all, there’s only so much that can fit in the palm of the hand before the excess starts to slip away.
Over time, I started to see my closest friends forging new friendships in their new homes, our messages becoming infrequent and our inside jokes becoming forced. It was as if everyone had stepped on an escalator carrying them out of my reach, while I was incapable of taking that step. I sat by myself in classes. I worked during lunchtime and saved up my thoughts and words until I got to go home and talk to my parents. The people around me meant nothing to me, and I nothing to them. The words we managed to exchange, mechanically, evaporated from our lips. I couldn’t remember them if I tried, and the idea of them brings only indifference. They left no trace on my life.
When I moved to university, the occasional solitude of school hours truly found scope to capture me. For the first time, I learnt what true silence sounds like. Everyone finds lifelong friends at university. These are the best years of your life. I counted down the days to the winter holidays as I watched these words ring true for everyone else. People found each other around me as I watched from the other side of the glass.
Over the months, as I settled in to life at university, I also re-settled into friendships that felt like waves beneath my feet, never constant except in their inconsistency. I was grateful for a little tableful of friends one birthday, a handful of glittery birthday cards I got to take home with me. And another birthday I spent revising for exams with a friend who brought a dry loaf cake with a little candle. But nostalgia for previous years persisted, along with the feeling that I wasn’t needed. I was a spare part, easily dispensable. Not the first choice to share exciting news with, or to rant to about the rest of the world’s stupidity.
I was my own friend, and I didn’t even like myself enough for that arrangement to work out.
I’m blogging every day this month. Take a look at the introduction to the series here.
Thank you for reading, and until next time.