2018 was a great year for personal growth, the highlight being finally prioritizing my mental health and starting therapy. As the sun sets on my twenties, I’m taking stock of what I have in life and how I want it to look in the next year and beyond, and therapy has helped a great deal with that. I first decided to go because my depressive moods were lasting longer and longer, and while I’m constantly surrounded by people in this crowded city, I feel incredibly lonely and find it hard to connect with others.
Therapy has helped me process my upbringing, my identity as a queer Black woman, and an unfortunate recurring pattern in my most contentious relationships with others. Long story short, I tend to see interpersonal relationships where I do most of the work as normal. Since childhood I’ve been the one to reach out, to do the work to figure out the other person’s likes, interests, triggers, and to deliver my whole self to them. I’m the fiercely independent daughter, I’m the strong friend, I’m the model employee.
I’m fucking tired. And I’m still lonely. I have finally buckled under the great pressure I’ve put on my damn self to show up for others when admittedly few people show up for me. Now I’ve begun therapy to unlearn this impulse to carry every relationship I have with another being on my back. And when I ultimately collapse under that strain, I flagellate myself for being such a bad friend.
But I’m not a bad friend — not really. I’m a kind, thoughtful and generous person, and I don’t usually half ass friendships. My love is intense and constant, and I do my best to show up. But now I realize that I’ve felt like a bad friend because I was surrounding myself with bad friends.
You know the ones:
- The friend that treats you like their free therapist but disappears when you need support
- The friend who claims to be “bad at texting,” so you never hear from them unless you initiate contact (and even then there’s a 95% chance you’re left on “Read”).
- The friend who shows up every six months and still feels so close to you despite missing your birthday, your graduation, your promotion
- The friend you can’t pry from their significant other
- The friend that excitedly exclaims that you two should “totally hang out soon!” but wouldn’t show up to a coffee date for anything less than a subpoena
When we don’t make an effort to show up on a regular ass day to ask a friend how they’re doing, when we don’t send our significant others off to see their neglected friends to spend some alone time with a friend, when we don’t treat these crucial relationships as a priority, we are being bad friends.
And we allow ourselves to stay bad friends when we do nothing to correct this behavior. I am not completely blameless in this either. I can be all of these friends at any given time— we all can. Shit happens. And in a way I’m still adjusting to the isolation that comes along with adulthood: most of my days are spent at work, at the gym, and at home with my husband in that order. I don’t expect my friends to be available for me 24/7 because I’m often not. But I see where I need to improve; I’m making the effort to eliminate all of the bullshit and people in my life that make it harder to show the people that matter how much I care for them.
I’m guilty of entertaining bad friends when I already have a few amazing friends who do reach out to see how I’m doing, who call just to say hi, invite me to just sit and chat, and challenge me to be the best version of myself. They’re the clear mirror to myself that I need. I want to be — and should be — more available to them. I also want to be available to new friends who do their fair share. Friends who show the fuck up.
I’ve wasted a lot of time on bad friendships last year and complaining to great friends about bad friends. I’m determined to break this pattern in 2019. I’m done trying to prove myself worthy to others. I want to have deep and meaningful relationships with the wonderful and patient friends I have as well as build better friendships with people who actually show up. I deserve it.