I went through my first breakup at the ripe age of 10. I was dating the fourth-grade-football-extraordinaire, Cole Calior (Cole, if you’re reading this, hello). He asked me to be his girlfriend in front of the men’s restroom during the bathroom break after math class. I guess you could say he was a romantic.
We “dated” for nine months (by “dated,” I mean that we would awkwardly hold hands at school dances and only text each other on our iPod touches whenever school was over) before I came to the realization that the relationship was no longer serving me. I promptly asked my friends to dump him on my behalf before “dating” his best friend the next day.
After a few middle school relationships, some vacation flings, and more than a few “talking” stages, I went through another milestone breakup. This time, with the long-haired, cute boy with big glasses that sat in front of me in English. This breakup was different than the first, mainly because we were 18-years old versus 10. But it was different in the way that this boy knew more about me than what my favourite colour was. He knew everything.
I’m a person with a lot of walls: I don’t open up easily. There are people that have been in my life forever that still don’t know everything about me. He knew more than any other living person on the Earth, and the thought of having someone no longer in my life, roaming around the streets knowing the origin of every scar and every fold of my skin and every thought in my brain was horrifying.
Thankfully, he’s still around. Now more than ever.
This leads me to my most recent breakup.
This breakup is different than the others. I didn’t break up with a boy, I broke up with several. And with a few girls too.
I broke up with my friends. My best friends.
I booked a one-way flight to LAX from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I was 18. With just two suitcases and a trip to Target, I created a new life for myself on the opposite side of the United States: away from my family, my best friends, my roots, and who I was. I had to, in a sense, start from scratch. It was a chance for me to reinvent myself in a way I never could before.
I was luckier going into college, too. I joined one of those group chats of prospective students in April and was adopted into a friend group almost instantly. We would chat everyday about how excited we were to meet. At the time, I thought they would be my people until the end of times.
I roomed with one of the girls in the group, and we became best friends instantly. We would do everything together. After a while, I started to let my guard down and, in turn, let her in. I did this another time too when I became friends with a boy down the hall. We both liked late-night food runs, acting in student short films, and talking about fashion. As I grew more comfortable, I started to let everyone in my friend group in. After all, it seemed as though I had met my people.
Much like my relationship, I let them know the origins of scars and the geography of my mind: my past, my present, and my future. I loved them at the same level I loved Jake, but just in a different way. It was a strong, platonic love that I reserved for my friends back home. It was familial. And, at the time, it felt right.
Then, after some time, they were gone. And a few others left with them. And when they left, they took every bit of knowledge they had of my soul with them.
The aftermath of a friendship breakup.
For a while, I didn’t know what I was feeling. I had never lost friends before, let alone an entire chunk of them. Sure, I still had a few key players: ride-or-die college friends that stuck by me. But they still went out to lunch with my exes and hung out with them on the weekends. After all, they broke up with me. Not them. Not each other.
I became angry and spiteful after a while. How dare they stop being my friend! I couldn’t quite place why I was feeling the way I was feeling. Why couldn’t I get over this? But then I realized something.
Relationships are relationships.
Regardless of the romantic or platonic, I was having a relationship with these people. I was in a relationship! Just because we weren’t kissing or sleeping with each other, that didn’t mean that we didn’t have an intimate connection. We shared things together that we never thought we could tell anyone else. Let our walls down. Be vulnerable. And at the time, it was right.
The idea of a “friendship breakup” isn’t talked about much, nor is it emphasized or explored. I thought that I must be possessive or something, looking back over the relationship(s) and wondering what went wrong. I felt that same stomach-dropping, horrible feeling that I felt when I was 18 all over again. I’m still feeling it a year later or two later.
Arguably, I would say that this “other type of breakup” hurts more than the stereotypical notion of a breakup. My mom always told me, “boys come and go, but your friends are forever.” But, what happens when those friends aren’t forever? Is there something wrong with me if my friends leave? If boys come and go, and friends come and go, who will be there then?
I’m here to not only talk about myself and my past, but to let you know that it’s okay to mourn the loss of a friendship. There’s this notion that friendships don’t end and when they do, it’s either a matter of fading away, or a horrible falling out. Friendships, much like romantic relationships, are complex and incredibly hard to navigate. They’re even harder to maintain. And even harder to lose. There’s no set way to end a friendship, nor is there a set way to grieve one. However, I’m realizing that I’m wasting time holding onto something that’s no longer serving me. And it’s okay to grieve and feel upset and angry at other people and the world.
But it’s also okay to let go.
In fourth grade, I broke up with Cole Calior because our relationship was no longer needed. Sure, the awkward glances and passed notes were fun. I’ll always look back at my fourth grade self and laugh about how silly I was. And when I was 18, it took me months to recover from my heartbreak. And there will always be a part of me that will be a little broken, even if the bridge wasn’t burned.
Now, at twenty-one, I’m looking back at friendships that taught me more about who I am than I thought possible: what I look for, what I need, and what I deserve. And instead of looking back at those relationships with anger and spite, I’m learning to look back with sentimentality before eventually letting go.
When will that happen? I’m not sure. But, then again, much like a relationship breakup, there’s no timeline for this stuff.
Friendship breakups are hard. No, more than hard. They’re terrible and complex and achey and upsetting and heartbreaking. But they’re normal. And natural. And, in many cases, needed to help you discover who you are.
So, just like how you picked up the pieces after that person dumped you, you can move on to bigger, better, and healthier friendships. You deserve a true, honest, and serving relationship. And that includes a friendship.