When I was in middle school, my biggest goal for high school was to make friends. I was scared to reach out, but I knew that I’d probably make a few along the way.
Regardless of how many friends I made, however, I found that summer breaks always took them away from me; I failed to continue friendships I previously had when there wasn’t a classroom that forced me to mingle. I always envied how others so easily established long-lasting connections with one another, and I tried to think about what I was doing wrong.
While friends I made inevitably turned into acquaintances, then strangers, my friends from middle school seemed to be blossoming into the very people I envied: we’d always talk about the friends they made in class and the plans they made to hang out. Though I knew they weren’t trying to shame me in any way, I couldn’t help but feel pathetic. It felt like I was the only one out of my friend group who hadn’t unlocked the secret friend-making technique.
I knew that my friends were still my friends, but I couldn’t help but feel as if they were trying to start anew, at least to a certain extent. My biggest worry was that one day they’d drift to find new cliques, and I’d be forgotten.
After thinking about potential abandonment, I soon realized that I didn’t crave friendships. I craved to have an impact on others’ lives; I wanted to be remembered. Based on past experience with my friendships, the idea of eventually being forgotten by everyone I love didn’t sound too unrealistic to me.
I would always remind myself that even though someone may like talking to me, it doesn’t mean that I’m their favorite person, or that I necessarily mean something to them. I hated the idea of having someone to talk to but not having any value in their life, and how I’d never know if I did or not. The thought of it made new friendships unappetizing, so I pushed people away, sometimes without even knowing it.
So, the problem was this: I wanted friends, but it was too difficult to feel safe making them. Coming to terms with this wasn’t the easiest; it was saddening to think about all of the strong friendships I could’ve had, if my desire to mean something to someone wasn’t so important to me.
As sad as it was, though, I was never completely able to change the way I thought. Today, I still fear the amount of people who won’t remember who I am, but the difference now is that I know it really doesn’t matter as much as I thought it did. People come and go—that’s life.
But, I’m grateful for the people who didn’t go. I have friends in my life who I know will be alongside me for a lifetime, and they’re just about the best friends I could ever ask for. So, to my best friends, thank you for being there for me, and I’m sorry for ever doubting that you’d stay.
After four years of somewhat unsuccessfully trying to befriend others, I came to realize that as long as I have friends who truly care about me, there really isn’t more I should try to gain from others. And, in the future, I know that if I let people in, I’ll probably end up having an impact on their lives without worrying or trying so hard. I just need to trust the process.