Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.

Ugh. Troubled and upset by a situation I’ve found myself in with my college friends (although I’m probably the only one aware of it).

When I got to college, I began hanging out with a few different groups of people. Over time, one of them became the mainstay, even though I wouldn’t even call them the best suited for me in terms of interests, personality, etc. They were just the people I hung out with the most and over time they became my main friends at college. I enjoyed being around them but couldn’t shake how incompatible we seemed to be. We did a lot of things together like vacations and outings and so on. We held a joint post-graduation reception for us and our families where we played a slideshow of photos of us throughout college. We did Secret Santa-type games, we had tons of movie nights, dinners, etc. There were six of us, later seven, all girls, and we even gave ourselves a group name and at one point nicknames. So this was a fixed, not fluid, friend group. I think they valued my place in the group and my friendship more than I did theirs. They told me they would miss me so much during my junior year abroad, that I was the glue holding the group together, and they even threw me a surprise going-away party. (Although things changed during the year I was gone, and I came back to a slightly altered dynamic that it took me a while to get used to. There were definitely some disagreements and misunderstandings and hurt feelings as a result.) For my part, I just couldn’t get past how these were very much normal, regular girls–far from the nerdy anime fans that made up my circle of middle and high school friends (many of whom are still my closest friends today). I felt like I didn’t fit in and was the odd one out, even though we have shared some pop culture obsessions over the years like LOST. But they were the type to love Twilight and The Bachelor and everything I find boring and common (I know, I sound like a terrible pretentious snob). And I just felt like they never really truly understood or even knew all of me. And there have been so many times over the years that I’ve felt let down by them.

Nevertheless, they were my college group of friends. It’s been four years since graduation and it’s been interesting to observe how the dynamic has changed. One of us has pretty much fallen off the face of the earth, a movement that began our senior year, and now she’s really only an honorary member. As for the other five and me, I am pretty sure none of them would call me the glue of the group anymore. In fact, it’s looking more like I’m getting edged out by just about everyone, even though I doubt it’s a collaborative move agreed upon by all or anything.

And I’ll take full responsibility for my role in that, I know that there have been things I could have done over the years to stop that and I didn’t. While I was close with one in junior and senior year (we visited each other while studying abroad; we took senior portraits of one another), the summer after graduation she got so upset by my repeated (and, she felt, insensitive) requests to return a book of mine she had borrowed that she called me one day to lecture me. Our relationship has never been the same since, but she is much beloved by a couple other members of the group, so if it’s a choice between her and me they’re going to choose her. Another two have always been rubbed the wrong way by my sometimes blunt spoken nature, and it just seems we don’t mesh on a fundamental level. I try very hard with them to be someone they’d like but I don’t seem to get anywhere and I’m not sure they’re ever going to let me make any more progress. The last two have become my favorites as we seem to be more inherently compatible, but they have been geographically farther from me and that hasn’t done us any favors. Also, recently one of those last two was in town, and when she’s in town we always get together and have a good time, but for some reason this visit she didn’t plan in advance to meet with me. Instead, she texted me the night before she was going to fly back to ask me out to a movie–because someone else had canceled on her. And we met up and I was glad to see her and I had a good time, but she seemed lethargic for some reason. Also, when I asked her, it turns out she had been planning a meeting with the other friend who’s somewhat local (one of the ones I’ve always sensed doesn’t like something fundamental about me). The last time the three of us were in town, we had dinner together and (I thought) had a good time. I have absolutely no idea why, this time around, I would get not only left out of the plans entirely, but that I would become a last-minute afterthought for the person in the group I had thought I was closest to!

I’ll also admit that since graduation I haven’t made this group my priority at all. I’ve been happy to reunite with my old group of high school friends and grow closer to them instead; for some reason, many people in college totally broke things off with their old friends in favor of new college friends, including a lot of this group, and I definitely did not. There was, for sure, a part of me that felt like “I’ve got my real group back, and you guys have never been the ones I was most compatible with so it’s not as important for you as it is for me to stay close.” I am also very online-oriented when it comes to contact, and they are more Luddites; using the phone is big with them. Texting and phone conversations are huge with this group, and that’s just not my preferred method of communication. If they wanted to chat with me online more, I am sure we could have kept in touch better, but that just never happens. I also have tried pretty hard over the years to keep a big email chain going, but especially lately it’s been falling flat; no one will respond to the long, thoughtful catching-up initial message I wrote. I’ve also dragged my heels when it comes to meeting up in person; the closest one to me geographically lives on the complete other side of town where I never go, and I am just not able to justify spending the time and gas on someone who I continue to sense just plain doesn’t like me and get along with me, even though we try for the sake of the larger group. The others are in the other major cities in my state, and I have rarely gone to visit (for time and gas-cost reasons, mainly). When I have, I haven’t had the best time. So I’ve turned down offers to join everyone else for a vacation many times at this point. And a lot of my reasoning has to do with my future plans that I’ve been working towards for the past few years; I have needed to save just about everything I have, so I have not justified a lot of vacations and time off. It makes sense to me, but it looks like my friendships with these people may have become a real casualty. And I’m not putting in enough to make them feel kindly and supportive towards me when I say I can’t make yet another thing. I’m sure they’re feeling the rejection, and they have begun to withdaw from me in turn. I’m not even getting invitations now, as you can see. In fact, one (one of the two who I don’t click with intrinsically) is getting married, and I wasn’t asked to be a bridesmaid. But she asked the other four. I am the only one in our fixed-member group of friends (minus the one who we never hear from anymore) who was not asked to be her bridesmaid. That. Hurts.

Yes, I may not even be in the country for the wedding. Yes, I said I wouldn’t be in a wedding party ever again for anyone. For those two reasons I would have turned her down if she’d asked. That doesn’t matter when you consider the sting of realizing you are the only real member in our group of friends that this person does not consider herself close to anymore. The only one. And, yes, this is making someone else’s wedding about me, AKA exactly what you’re not supposed to do, but… I can’t help feeling hurt.

And because I’m a blunt bitch, I did tell her how I felt. I mean, I was gentle. I told her that I’m sure she had good reasons, and I understand why she made this decision, but it still hurts. And she said “I’m sorry you feel that way” but they needed to keep the wedding small and focus on only the people who knew the two of them as a couple. And she’s right. While I fully support their relationship based on everything I’ve heard, I haven’t seen her fiancé since college (because they don’t live locally and I don’t visit). She’s right but it still stings to have it made so obvious and before me. And I just hate being told “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It doesn’t show any empathy or sympathy at all. And I hate being told lies about keeping the wedding small. If I were a closer friend, that wouldn’t matter, and you and I both know it. It’s about as bad a lie as “I’ve just been sooooo busy lately, that’s why we can’t get together.” Nope. You make time in your life for the things and people that matter, and “busy” is no excuse. If someone’s not making time, it means you’re not that important. And it’s the same here. I’m not that important, anymore.

Every time I talk to one of them, I try to be myself and say what I want to say, about any topic, and I just feel like they wince. And politely sidestep what I said. In order for me to fit in with this group, it feels like I have to be a sanitized, tamer, more “normal” version of me.

(I also need to say a few words in my defense about my behavior since graduation. Aside from focusing on the local friends I felt naturally closer to, I have had to deal with a lot in the past four years. My career path plans have changed several times, resulting in numerous disappointments. I became extremely anxious starting the year after graduation and it has really taken me until just about now to figure out how to deal with myself and not freak out about the things I used to freak out about. And also to learn how to calm myself down when I do get anxious. I am way more relaxed now overall compared to then but it has taken a while. These people probably still think of me as a high-strung, high-maintenance person. In the meantime, I’ve gone to many therapy sessions and I did a year of meds. I also got official diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I tried to tell my college friends about this, but I didn’t get much of a reaction. It didn’t make a real impact on them. Maybe I’d already done the damage by then and they didn’t have any warm feelings towards me left. I mean, resentment can really eat away at a person. It’s impossible to have a good relationship with someone who resents you and vice versa. It’s a poison in relationships of all kinds. Last summer Kirk and I worked out some issues related to that and things have been so insanely better since then, so the difference can be like night and day. But if resentment is there, things are not going to get better until it’s gone. And I don’t know if they’re willing to consider lifting their resentment towards me, even though I know all of my actions were perfectly understandable and justifiable in the context of my issues; I just don’t know if there’s anything I can do to stop it at this point.)

I mean, I know exactly what caused this, and I know it’s largely my own fault, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And that, weirdly, considering everything I’ve said, I want to reverse the process. I want to repair these friendships and get them to like me and love me again. But what are my reasons? Is it because I adore and want to be close to these people? In most cases, no, not really. They are familiar, like relatives, so I don’t want to give them up, but if I didn’t know them I wouldn’t think “I must be this person’s friend.” Mostly, I think it’s out of shame and embarrassment. I don’t want to be the one abandoned by an entire group of friends. There are many times when I think “I could do without this person in my life,” and withdraw or officially sever ties, but that’s been on my terms. This started off on my terms, but now it’s on theirs. Now I’m scrambling and scrabbling to get my foothold back–and just to save face? I’ve already made overtures to several of them. But honestly, they might already be done with me. And I have no idea how to proceed in that case. Because I hate the idea of staying friends in name with someone when in reality there’s a mutual complete lack of fondness there. I’d rather be honest and just cut the ties. That’s what I had to do with my Paris friends when, in a shockingly similar situation, all of them turned their backs on me. But I feel different things, and varying desires to stay friends, about all of them. So I can’t just do a mass defriend/remove-from-life. And if I do only a few, it could be awkward in the future if we’re all together. Although at this point, who knows if that will even happen and I’ll be invited to it!

But when you can’t afford to visit people and show them with actions that you think of them as important… when all you can do is use your words and talk and make online contact… how is this not inevitable? I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently. Gone on those visits and had a miserable time doing things I didn’t want to do or spend money on (like country dancing or eating sushi at a non-authentic place yes again I am a snob)? Ugh. I guess I’m going to have to chalk this up to “sacrifices along the way as I pursued a career change.” But, I still hate it. And at the same time I wish these people would be more understanding of me and my situation. I wish they still felt I deserved that.

I mean, I guess all of this brilliantly illustrates just how much of a selfish asshole I am/can be. Yikes!

Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.


One thought on “Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.

  1. shawnlenore says:

    Dude, these people aren’t your friends. Not anymore, anyway. Some people are in your life forever, some of them are only there out of convenience or geography, some of them are there because you went to school together or lived on the same block at some point, etc. Putting in effort to see a friend and maintain that relationship is a must, but it should be natural and reciprocated on both ends. I honestly don’t have that many friends at this point. I’ve had a lot of people turn their backs on me, mostly after my parents died and I was a fucking nutcase, which I understand but don’t support their methods of telling me I was a horrible person when it was pretty obvious I was grieving and emotionally unavailable for their nonsense.

    It sounds like you need to concentrate on the people you feel the most comfortable around and let these people fade out. There’s no reason you have to have everything in common with a group of people to be their friend, so that’s not the issue really. Honestly, it sounds like these girls attached onto you in the spirit of college! and friendship! and as the luster of your newness wore off with time, they probably realized you guys didn’t have as much in common as they imagined in that weird, hopeful and optimistic haze of your early twenties. I had people I was “friends” with in college, because you make “friends” so easily when you’re all scrambling to feel attached to something in a new situation, but many of those friends have faded hard. Even people I was really attached to. And that’s fine, because I have mostly replaced them with people who share my priorities and lifestyle as an older adult.

    Give yourself a break, and focus on the people you’re actually drawn to spend time with and who communicate and maintain relationships in the manner that’s most natural to you. And for whatever ways you fucked up, unless you went and kicked their puppies and slapped their moms, a decently solid friendship should be able to weather misunderstandings and occasional bouts of interpersonal issues. Short of out-and-out being abusive towards them, if they aren’t more understanding, then they probably were looking for shit to be mad about and resentful of. And that girl who was pissed that you wanted your book back should have sucked it up and apologized for taking so long. I lent a DVD to a friend over the summer, and she routinely kept me updated that she still had it, and when I reminded her to bring it to work next time, she got it back to me that week. She didn’t want to upset me or overstay her time with my stuff. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

    You’re allowed to have conflict with people. You’re allowed to be pissed off with people even if they’re your friends/boyfriend/coworker/whatever, and those feelings aren’t invalid just because someone doesn’t want you to be pissed off at them. You’re allowed to be yourself around your friends. If people don’t like you for that, then that’s okay too and not anyone’s fault, they just aren’t suited to be your friend. Just be yourself. Be kind and as understanding with other people as you can, but be yourself. Let people gravitate towards you, don’t force yourself to change so you can stay in their orbit.

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