Monday, October 20, 2014

Friends and Frenemies, Part 2

In college, I called one of my friends in tears because I had to get my wisdom teeth taken out the next day. She showed up the next day to take me to my appointment, even though I didn't ask her to. She stayed there the whole time, and then she took me out for smoothies.

Another friend was upset because I couldn't hang out with her that often, due to the fact that I had three jobs and worked seven days a week. She lived rent-free with her parents and didn't even have to pay for groceries while she went to graduate school.

Guess which person I'm still friends with?

I read an article recently (sorry, I can't remember the author) about how important it is to "show up" for your friends. What the author meant was that it's important to be there for your friends, not just for birthdays and weddings, but also when they need you. It really hit home for me, especially because of everything I've been going through lately. The suffering I've experienced because of my neurological disorder made me realize who my true friends are and who my frenemies are.

I have trouble holding on to friends. I used to blame myself entirely for this, because I'm a workaholic and I think and talk about work 90% of the time. (The rest of the time I think about food.) It doesn't help that I'm an introvert and prefer to do most things on my own. (My idea of hell is being forced to party with the cast of Jersey Shore every night.) Most of my friends couldn't understand that my workday didn't end at five o'clock like theirs did, and I didn't get weekends or summers off, not if I wanted to have money for food and rent.

I canceled outings with friends on more than one occasion due to my work schedule, even though I didn't want to. And one by one, most of them walked out of my life and stopped returning my calls. One of them remained in my life because we worked together, but she pointedly ignored me; I often had to repeat myself two or three times before she finally answered.

I am partly to blame for the loss of those friendships. I am a workaholic, and I always will be. That's something that's not going to change, especially because of the nature of my work and the fact that I have a Type A personality. But what I finally realized is that the people who walked out were partly to blame too.

I thought of the friend who didn't have time for me on my birthday, but threw a huge birthday party for one of her friends (I wasn't invited.). There was the friend who went on and on about his personal life, but said he was sick of hearing about my work. There were the people who made fun of me for being a teetotaler; they insisted on hanging out at bars (FYI: inviting a teetotaler to a bar is like inviting a vegetarian to a steakhouse) but never wanted to come with me to any of my favorite museums on free admission days or plays that sold cheap tickets. There was the friend who always said she was too busy to hang out with me, but had plenty of time for her other friends.

Remembering these things lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. For so long I'd castigated myself for devoting myself to my work instead of my friends. I thought that there had to be something wrong with me because I couldn't make lasting connections with them. I thought that if I had been a better and more interesting person, they'd still want to spend time with me. And in many ways, I think that's at least partly true. But on the other hand, if they had been better, more considerate people, we still would have been friends.

There are the people who say that they're for you, and then there are the people who will show up for you when you're feeling lost, sad, or scared. The people in the second group are the ones whose friendships I value, and they're the people that I strive to be like. The people in the first group are the reason that I think Facebook should have a "frenemies" list or a "people who I always fake smile with".

What about you? How do you deal with it when your friends don't show up for you? How do you show up for them?


  1. I don't actually have any friends. In school i really tried to make friends, but people just never responded to me well. So after college I just gave up and since I was born my best friends were my siblings and to this day they still are. They are there for me when I need them and they always have my back. Naturally I try to respond in kind when they need. me.

    I think you shouldn't spend another second thinking about your frenemies. Only hang onto people that add value to the quality of your life. The people that make you feel bad about yourself, if possible, get rid of them. My mom always says that "you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends." You get to choose who you want to share your life with. If you work so hard and you get a few spare minutes, rather spend it with people you like and that make you feel appreciated and allow you to feel good about yourself.

    1. Hi Murees,
      Thank you for your advice! For a long time I made the mistake of spending time with people who made me feel bad about myself; some of them didn't realize what they did but some of them did it deliberately. I especially like what you said about spending my limited free time with people I like; that's definitely important, because when I spent it with people I didn't like, I always felt like I was wasting my time.

  2. Even my very closest friends, who live in the same city, I rarely see in person. I just don't have those kinds of friendships (and I'm a hermit so generally happy with that). My best friends are all guys. Unlike my girl friends, my dudes are rocks - have ALWAYS been there for me. The girls have let me down too many times, so I don't make a huge effort to be there for them.

    1. Hi eemusings,
      It's great that your best friends are there for you; that shows that they're good people. I think it's more difficult to maintain relationships as we get older; I read somewhere that it's easier when we're in school because we still see each other regularly. But once we start working, it's tougher to stay in touch.

  3. I've been writing about friends on my blog lately too. I had a lot of friends in college and in my early working years, but as I get older most of them drifted away - especially when I returned to school and was studying for the CPA exam. I am an introvert too and I honestly think as I get older I need more down time. I have a few friends, family members and co-workers that I can count on if I have to, but don't have that best bud I'm hanging out with every week.

    And to be honest as I got older I had to let some of my friends (and maybe a sibling) go because they were sucking the life out of me - calling with marital problems one day, staying the next then leaving again. Without ever a how are you. I couldn't take all the drama and the one-sidedness anymore.

    1. Hi Savvy Working Gal,
      I can definitely relate to the problem of self-centered friends who never ask how you are; sometimes it felt like these "friends" were just waiting for me to finish talking so they could change the subject back to themselves.
      I think we need more down time as we get older partly because we work so hard; when we're still students we still get vacations. Technically I get "breaks" since I'm on the college schedule, but I have no choice but to continue working due to my dissertation and my other jobs. So when I do get the chance to have down time, I want to spend it doing the things that I like to do. Unfortunately, not everyone likes to do the things I like to do. In Chicago in particular the bars are popular hangouts, despite all the other cultural attractions.

  4. I actually feel like a lame friend because I'm so occupied with family and work. I guess there are seasons in life, but this is one of those where I do the bare basics and hope to survive. The real friends, they're the ones I can go months without seeing or talking to, but when we come back together, it's like no time has passed at all. Thank goodness for that!

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

    1. Hi Crystal,
      You're not a lame friend! Family and work are important and take up a lot of time. It's good to have real friends; being with them is better than a day at a spa because it's relaxing to be around people who know and accept you.

  5. I'm not a workaholic but I have trouble holding on to friends too. I'm just not good at keeping up with people. I've lost a ton over the years, including some when I moved states. And I really liked those ones. Sigh.

    Glad you're not blaming yourself anymore. People are idiots more often than not, which is why so many of us are introverts. Also, I'm pretty sure all sane people's version of hell is anything to do with the cast of Jersey Shore.

    1. Hi Abigail,
      I've always been an introvert; I think it's one of the reasons I don't go to bars, which are perfect for extroverts. I prefer to hang out with friends one-on-one or in small groups rather than at large parties; it feels more comfortable that way and I don't have to yell in order to be heard.
      I must admit that I still watch the occasional rerun of Jersey Shore.