Despite having moved around quite a bit while I was growing up and being a pretty shy kid, I was always fortunate enough to make friends easily. With a complex and unsatisfying home life, I thrived on those friendships and took them seriously.
That being said, there are some friendships that you know aren’t meant to last. Or maybe, they could but you know you’re not invested enough to make it happen. When I was in school, this was a relatively easy process to go through. Every time I graduated from one chapter of my education, it was easy to shed some of the dead weight as we moved on to different schools, interests, and lives. And it was typically mutual, I never had anyone clawing tooth and nail to continue a friendship I felt had run its course.
After college, I had actually kept most of my friendships. The people I was still in touch with from my youth and adulthood were a solid group. We had a lot in common and I enjoyed their company. Which is why it felt like a smack in the face when I suddenly didn’t feel this way anymore when meeting up with an old friend over drinks one evening.
My large group of friends from high school had dwindled down to two women by the time I started university. We didn’t see each other very often as our lives moved on throughout college, perhaps 2 or 3 times a year, but when we did it felt like everything was the same and we continued to get along.
Over time, while me and one of them remained close I found myself growing distant from the third. While I would always extend invitations to anything I was hosting or coordinated dinner for us three from time to time, the same effort wasn’t being reciprocated from her. I never took it personally, as she was always excited to hear from me when I did reach out, along with showing up to whatever I included her in.
So right on schedule, I reached out to both of them for another meet up. We found a time that worked for us and settled on drinks. As usual, me and my closer friend of the two reconnected immediately when she came over to my home beforehand for wine and snacks. Me and her had also seen each other not too long before and were making an effort to stay in better touch now that we were both done with school.
Fast forward through the evening and we were all finally seated face-to-face, whisky sours in hand, and free to begin catching up like we had always done. But something was missing. A certain spark wasn’t there anymore. I wondered if it was in my head – had it always been this hard to carry on the conversation? The pauses were long and awkward. The topics remained surface level and uninteresting. Words and stories were left unsaid as walls surrounding our personal lives grew stronger and taller. After only one drink I posed the question of whether we wanted to go to a different bar or head home. Unsurprisingly, home was the unanimous decision.
After dropping off the woman who had now become a stranger to both of us, me and my remaining partner in crime returned to my house. Or more accurately, returned to the remaining wine and cheese awaiting us in the living room. As we debriefed about the night we soon realized we both left with the same bad taste in our mouth. It was a sad truth, but we had to come to terms with it…there was no friendship there anymore. Neither of us felt the same connection with the woman at a bar tonight as we did with the woman who was a member of every memory I can think of for four consecutive years of my life.
“I wasn’t being asked to leave, but I also wasn’t being invited to stay.”
As I now sat on the other end of the equation, I realized it was time to bow out gracefully. Sure, this person had been friendly, kind, and at times even excited to see me since our time together in high school. But she also hadn’t made effort on her own…it had all been me. So while I was used to being the person who left of my own accord, this was different. I wasn’t being asked to leave, but I also wasn’t being invited to stay.
Though there are no hard feelings and an acknowledgment of us going our separate ways will probably never be made, it’s a sad pill to swallow. While we expect heartbreak in our romantic relationships, we don’t always prepare for it in our friendships. In some ways, it might have been preferable to have some sort of blow up or disagreement that would make the dissolution more…justified? More unavoidable?
But I suppose at the end of the day, sometimes the sweetest goodbye can also be one where you never say goodbye at all. And simply know in your heart that your time in this person’s life – and in their story – has come to an end.