“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember, sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go, too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soul mate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” – Marilyn Monroe
The older I get, the more I have realized you have to learn to be your own best friend. You have to learn not to be blown about by every wind, every loss, every person that may not like you or what you have to say. It takes knowing yourself, coming into your own, and developing a strong sense of self. A sure sign you have arrived: Being called a bitch. No, it’s not always a bad thing to be. It means you have a backbone.
I don’t take decisions lightly, especially since I turned 30, and especially major ones that involve uprooting my life or permanently altering it in some way. Maybe it’s because I made too many dumb ones in my 20s, mainly regarding men, but I also think many women in their 20s simply don’t know who they are and bounce around trying to make everyone else happy or fretting that they are somehow losing at the game of life.
The 20-something decade is fraught with bad boundaries, shaky self-esteem, body image issues, career insecurity and, of course, doing senseless things for the sake of having a man in our life. We try to impress bosses, job hop or move around in hopes of getting a promotion, or at least a raise and some semblance of job security. We invest way too much energy in trying to find a man, or revolving our life around one, hoping we will get that ring and start a family before other friends do.
Although I have been fortunate to have good female friends at different stages of my life, and hopefully they know who they are, sometimes you just need to let friendships go. The 20s seem to be the decade where you learn who your true friends are or you simply outgrow friendships and find yourself with maybe one or two real ones – if you’re lucky. I mean the kind you know you can reveal your darkest secrets to and they won’t judge you, and they really have your best interest at heart and want to see you happy and successful. I guess that is why I am a fan of finding a good therapist, and keeping them on standby, so you can vent and ask for advice and it’s confidential. It’s also why I used to hang with the guys, and my boyfriend is now my best friend. They are simple, usually drama free, and there isn’t the undercurrent of phoniness and jealousy.
Some childhood friends end up being lifelong friends. Great! But just because someone slept over at your house every weekend in elementary school, or you were inseparable in high school, doesn’t mean you still have the same values or interests at 25 – or 35. For some reason, maybe because women tend to suffer from people-pleasing and second-guessing-themselves syndrome, you find yourself holding on to friendships that aren’t all that healthy or fulfilling because they seem safe, comfortable, and you know each other’s history.
Maybe you rarely see the person, they live in another state and are settling down, while you might be doing the career and dating thing. You get tired of hearing them rag on their husbands, and they get tired of you recalling dating horror stories. They offer unsolicited advice and pass judgment, and you believe somehow they know more about relationships than you do just because they managed to get a ring on their finger. Yet, you know they are miserable, or at least they sound like it based on what they tell you. In all reality, you may not even really like each other all that much, but “breaking up” seems too daunting.
Or friendships become an unspoken competition filled with jealousy, envy and passive-aggressive digs, especially among two single women out on the prowl together. But you grin and bear it because you surely cannot show up alone at bars or parties. The worst: Catty, backstabbing copycats, also known as frenemies. Comparable on the spectrum of toxicity: The fake work friend who buddies up to you and invites you to happy hour, only to steal your ideas or pump you for personal information, then run and tell bosses and coworkers in an effort to undermine you or make you look bad. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Guess I prefer originality and authenticity. If you have “friends” in these categories, trust me, it’s better to cut your losses and roll solo.
I love the above Marilyn Monroe quote. The one line I might dispute is that sisters can make the best of friends. Some sisters truly do grow up BFFs, sharing everything and supporting each other. But, in many families, same-sex sibling rivalry and competition can be unspoken and ugly. One of my sister’s unfriended me on Facebook several years ago. No, we’re still not friends.
One of the trickiest friend dynamics: When you have been friends for so long, the person feels they can boss you around and tell you what to do, because that is what they have always done. And, for whatever reason, you have let them, because they were always the leader of the pack and that is what kept you friends. It really doesn’t help if you grew up being bullied and yelled at and struggle with low self-esteem and not trusting yourself. It actually leads to the perfect bully dynamic, but with someone who is supposed to have your back and be a solace from your dysfunctional family. Again, this is where a therapist can come in handy. There’s no shame in consulting with a trained professional for an unbiased opinion on whether it’s really healthy.
The trouble is: No one gives you a friendship breakup manual. In the best case, some superficial relationships just fizzle without a big blow up. And if you lack communication and conflict resolution skills, a confrontation can become as heated and end as badly as any romantic relationship on the rocks. Just watch “The Bachelor.” Cat fights can get nasty.
Since everyone’s attention span is miniscule on the Internet, and since I’ve already written twice the standard blog post word count, stay tuned for the sequel …