It’s quite sobering when you look back on your life at your friendships and realise that they were in fact “friendships” for the most part. I grew up in a rural town (it wasn’t really a “town” but for lack of a better word it will do). When I started Primary School there was 12 of us in my year, 6 boys and 6 girls, I don’t think that number ever changed the whole way through primary school, a couple of the girls left at different times and new ones replaced them. But there was 6 of us girls. My best friend in Kindergarten and year 1 was my teacher. How do I know this? I read my school writing books. How I told her I loved her, how I asked to visit her house, how I asked her questions about her life. I can still picture her. She made me feel important because I was intelligent, I impressed her with my stories at such a young age, so much so she used them as part of her university assessments. Mum has told me my teacher used to be worried that I’d get bored because I was an advanced reader and writer.
I remember there was one girl out of us 6 that was the “leader”. I remember when she left and our group was in tatters – who would take her place? That’s when we started pairing off. One of the girls was more like me, a tomboy of sorts. Sometimes we’d all be together, I guess it just depended on the day. There was a hierarchy at school which basically meant that the older kids hated the younger ones. I certainly wasn’t an exception. But I don’t remember that I was overly liked by the kids younger than me either. I wasn’t popular but I certainly wasn’t one of the kids teased daily (there was one girl and one boy who were, poor things). It was a small school, my Dad was the President of the P&C, matter of fact it was a small community and he was very much involved in it. I don’t know if this affected things, but I know I certainly felt a lot more pressure to be a “people pleaser” because everyone knew my family. I was intelligent but I don’t remember loving school. I know a few older kids didn’t like that I was doing the same writing and spelling as they were when I was in 2 grades younger, I remember one older girl refusing to discuss it with me. I also physically stood out at school, I was the tallest girl in my year always, and then the tallest girl in the school. Plus, I’ve never been skinny, and all of the other girls my age were. I feel like I was tolerated. I do remember the odd taunts about my weight, I wasn’t a confident speaker or person in general. I didn’t care about fashion, and when the other girls got interested in bands etc I tried to be too, but I always liked the odd looking boy in the boy bands not the “cute” ones, I was weird.
When we hit high school, all of us girls went to the same one. We went from 12 kids in our year and a school of 80-90 to having 150ish in our year and 1200ish in our school. I ended up in a group of 5. One I went to primary school with, two that went to local primary schools near ours, and one from the town our high school was in (30 minute car trip from home or an hour bus trip). I don’t see how I fit with these girls either. Three of them were horse mad, and I tried that for a time, I had a book I wrote all about horses in, the equipment I’d need to have one, what I’d need to do with it. My parents refused to buy me one, probably a good thing too, it was an attempt to “fit in” not something I truly was interested in. The other girl was smart like me, we had a lot of classes together. But she was quite popular, very fashionable, a girly girl. We certainly didn’t have that in common. They were all into boys, I wasn’t. I liked boys, as friends, and I got along with them well as friends. We eventually merged our group of 5 with a group of boys, funnily enough most of which I went to primary school with. Three of these boys I chose as my best friends. So the girls wanted more to do with me to get to the boys and vice versa, I was somewhat of a message runner. I didn’t mind, I was involved in everyone’s life and that’s how I lived. Only on reflection can I see how sad that is.
Then my parents decided to move. 4 hours away. I was devastated. I was 14 and moving away from life as I knew it. How many of these friends came to visit? 4. In the first 6 months I moved away, 3 came up for my birthday weekend and one was on holiday with his family locally. All of my school books at my new school were plastered with photos of my old “friends”. I tried to keep in touch with them but communication was generally one sided, their lives went on without me.
My new school. A girl was chosen to show me around, I hung with her and her friends for a few days until another girl called me over to sit with her and her friends. I did, how could I say no? Two of the girls left when I joined their “group”, they didn’t like me, I don’t know why. They were a bunch of bigger girls and had great self confidence, they could laugh at themselves and each other. It was different but good. I became best friends with a girl who lived up the road from me, we caught the same bus and were in the same year. She was outgoing, loud, and embarrassing often but she made up for everything I wasn’t so I clung to her, we spent pretty much every weekend together. When she left school and I continued we drifted apart. All of my bigger girl friends had left school, so I joined another group of girls. They had their different likes to me but they made me feel welcome enough.
Adulthood has seen friends come and go. I haven’t really made any new friends since high school to be honest and I left there 12 years ago!
To this day, I have friends. I do. I live 4 hours away from most of them. I’d say I have 3 close friends. I talk to them if I need to get something off my chest, but not often. I’d say I make more of an effort than any of them to keep in touch. That’s the story of my friendship life actually, I always seem to be making the effort. It’s a little depressing. It’s also depressing when I consider than most of my friendships are based around alcohol, when we catch up it’s to drink for some occasion or just because we are catching up.
I can’t be bothered anymore. I’d be the first one to put my hand out to help a friend, it’s generally not reciprocated. I think that’s something that frustrates me the most, maybe my expectation of what friendship is is too high? If one of my friends needed me, I’d be there. I’m protective of those I care about. I also wonder if it’s because I put on such a strong “front” that everyone thinks I have my shit handled so I don’t need anyone? I struggle to ask for help, and when I do and am dismissed it’s horrible. Or if I’m brushed off with some cliche quote e.g. “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – seriously? Stay silent rather that make me feel invalidated. No wonder I have so much trouble talking.
My closet “friend” at the moment is, of all people, my ex boyfriend. He knows more about me than anyone on Earth. He’s seen my highs and copped my lows. God knows why he hasn’t blocked me. I don’t really want to be friends with him, it’s a little painful at times when the good old memories start swirling, but I’m trying. He disappoints me though, for the same reason other “friends” do. I hate that it bothers me. None of them understand me or try to, nobody asks me questions or checks in to see how I’m going unless I offer them information about myself off my own back, I honestly expect too much because I give too much. But I don’t know how to not be like that? I’m a caring person to the point it hurts.
When people say they don’t need anyone – it’s bullshit. Everyone needs someone. I say it often from behind my metaphorical walls I’ve built around myself but even I do. This hasn’t been a good week.