It’s Monday. It’s Fair Day. I went to the fair last night. It was awesome and freed me up to do grad school homework, take my dog to the vet, and write this rant post. I would say enjoy, but…maybe just appreciate and relate?
During college, I “discovered” a Ben Folds song that illustrated a lesser-known concept that my cynical, realist side loved and my sweet, idealist side also felt was nice. It was like, this uniting force for the two sides of my personality. Also, he’s quite the amazing performer (I think he performed this at the concert I attended during my Mizzou years…)
In any case, I felt the need to bring this up because lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in my friendships – even a tick in myself both past and present – of people ignoring this particular truth. And, quite frankly, it’s royally pissing me off.
Friendship is a two-way street.
To be fair, many of my oldest friends may not be accustomed to me expecting my personal friendships to operate under this guideline, because honestly, until recently, I haven’t forced the issue. But now? Now I’m strong enough and confident enough in myself to value my time and effort more than I have in the past. And so, there’s a shift in my definitions of a healthy relationship.
Public service announcement:
I am sick and tired of people making me their backup and then pouting when I don’t drop everything to hang out with them.
If I’m not your priority, then you’re not mine.
Especially when I’m in graduate school. Suck it up and deal or change where I fall on your list.
The hard part of this, of course, is explaining this concept to said friends without completely losing the friendship.
You see, once upon a time, if a friend called me upset over some problem, big or small, close friend or lesser acquaintance, I would immediately drop what I was doing and comfort them or offer a solution. I made their problems my problem, under the assumption that paying it forward would help me down the road.
But you know what? In most cases, I never gave them the chance to be there for me. Mostly because I feared that I would discover that they were not, in fact, going to be there for me. That was my bad.
Lately, though, I’ve been putting myself out there, making myself vulnerable and asking for help. Sadly, I’ve realized that my original fear was justified in many cases. Some of my friends are too self-obsessed to be truly good friends, no matter their intentions.
It’s not all bad news, though. Putting myself out there has taught me two valuable lessons.
1. I have friends who love me and will genuinely be there for me. I value them all the more for the disappointments.
2. I don’t have to send the friends who don’t cut the mustard away, just create better boundaries and expectations for the relationship. I’ve also learned how to identify these people before I give them too much.
Now, when one of my less-giving friends calls with an emergency, I commiserate a bit and give them a very valid reason why I can’t just drop everything for them. Then, I hang up and exchange this look with my dogs:
It’s not that I don’t care. I do. I care too much. It’s in my nature, and one of the reasons I became a teacher and why I’m constantly sitting on my hands to stop myself from over-volunteering in every part of life. I want to help people, especially people I have a buy in with, like me friends, you know? Plus, I mean, I know I’m good at helping people.
I thrive on relationships. It’s why I go out of my way to keep in touch with friends across distances, whether the distance is thousands of miles, time restraints, life circumstances, or some combination of the three.
Isn’t it amazing when things work out like that? I wish all friendships turned out in this brilliant way, but you know they don’t. It still breaks my heart when I have to let go and realize that maybe those friendships aren’t going to last, not because we suck, but because life got in the way. But still, I let go, because holding on too tight makes it weird and makes me feel unloved. No one wants that.
What people like me have to remember is that we, ourselves, are just as valuable as the next person. And, just like everyone else, there will always be someone cooler than you – so just be yourself and don’t stress out about it.