Overcoming Bad Friendships
Growing Up When Others Can't
Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
Though a friendly enough person, I have never been an ace at making friends. I make acquaintances with little effort. People say I have a kind face and a voice worth sticking around to hear. I rarely remain alone in a social situation for long. Still, I can count the number of true friends I have on one hand.
Growing up, I attended a normal amount of classmates’ parties. As weekends have always been a sacred time in my house, I had to pick and chose which parties I went to/was allowed to go to. More often than not, two classmates would have a party in the same weekend. My mother would decide which party, if either, I went to. As you may assume, this behavior did not make me the most popular girl in class. While my real friends understood my situation, the brats in the class would tease me, calling me a snob or saying that I was a baby for letting my mother have so much control over my social life. Honestly, I don’t know what seven year old kid’s mother doesn’t have such control.
As I got older, my friends gradually discovered the art of spreading rumors. By the time I hit junior high, they had it mastered. Each week, there was a new rumor. Someone had kissed someone else behind some building. Someone’s mother had gotten into such and such trouble. These rumors, though obviously false, caused piles of drama. Being the quiet kid that I was, my name stayed out of the rumor pool for the bulk of the school year. Yet, at one point during the final months of sixth, seventh and eighth grade, my name would surface. I had supposedly said something ridiculous about someone else using vocabulary that I had stopped using in the third grade. I was involved in one form of illegal behavior or another. When your mother is a popular teacher at the school, people will do anything to bring her down a few notches. When her daughter was as sensitive as I was/am, it quickly becomes clear that you bring the mother down by way of her child. These kids, who I believed to be my friends, were vicious, stopping at nothing to do harm.
In high school, I had far more positive relationships with friends. While there was still drama, I was lucky to remain out of the bulk of it. On the rare occasions when I did get involved, it became clear how silly the charges were and the drama dissolved quite quickly. I enjoyed high school mostly because it was the first place I went to that I could be myself without the fear of letting someone down. I could share my opinions with my friends and not have to worry if they would start a rumor or make me feel inferior to them. As I watched my classmates follow the same pattern that the kids at my old school did, I suddenly had perspective. It was there problem, not mine. They weren’t my friends.
College was the middle ground between elementary/middle school and high school. Up until a couple of years ago, my alma mater was a single-sex school. Though I hate to admit it, women aren’t to each other what women’s lib groups would have you believe, at least not in this case. We didn’t band together. We fought against each other, each trying to overpower the other. If you excelled at anything, you were looked down upon by a large portion of the student body. People who excelled were snobs, single-minded and old-fashioned. If you did not fully embrace the college lifestyle i.e. low grades, drinking parties and smoking pot, you were an outcast. The rumor mill was constantly spinning. Too many good people were brought down by people with nothing else to do, but cause pain. Though I commuted and took part in few activities, I was brought into a rumor each year. I lost several people because of these rumors, forgetting the difference between a true friend and someone you hang out with. While I finally got to associate with people, one in particular, who believed in the same things I did and viewed the world through the same lens as I, I also befriended too many people with low self-esteems and big mouths. Having had a couple of years to consider things in, it’s clear that these people weren’t my friends either. Though both my elementary/secondary school and college are Catholic institutions, many of the people I met at both places were not very Christian.
Though now an adult, I still have nightmares about elementary school. While I have a clear, solid vision of who I am and am respected by many people, just one dream can send me back into pre-teen panic mode, re-evaluating my life and everyone in it. How does someone allow themselves to make new friends after they’ve had such negative experiences?
The key is to be able to separate yourself as an individual/the person you know you are from the self they’ve turned you into/painted you as. I know I possess good qualities and am a valuable member of society. I know I am kind, perhaps to a fault. I know I am intelligent, though not when it comes to relationships. I know I am worth having as a friend, but I need to pick and chose who I become friends with more wisely. I know I will continue to gravitate towards the people I shouldn’t gravitate towards. I know I will continue to open myself up to more frustration and harm. Yet, I firmly believe that everyone deserves a friend. You can’t stop being nice to people just because you’ve been hurt. If you do, you’re letting the mean-spirited people win. How do you continue to bounce back each time someone brings you harm? It’s the realization that there are good people out there who have the same goal as you do. If you shut down before you meet them, you’re only cheating yourself.
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