When I was a teenager, spending every night on MSN (WHOAAAAAAA), it would have seemed impossible to have too many friends. How could I, the super cool creature whose blog you are reading, have too many people (who actually like me!) in my life?
So ungrateful, right?
But the truth is that while I can try to keep up with having many friends, I got burnt out and realised that I needed to tidy up my friends. This is what I did:
The School Friend
I moved from one end of the country to the other (not very far considering Singapore is tiny) when I was 11, while most of my school friends went to the same secondary school together. Immediately, it became hard to stay close with Sam*, a friend I’d known since I started school. I was having different experiences, meeting new people, and seeing new sights. For years I felt guilty about this and tried to arrange meet-ups and make it back to the “hood” for key occasions. But I realise now there’s no reason we need to keep the same friends from 20 or even 30 years back. I’ll always wish Sam well, but keeping in constant contact just isn’t possible now that we’re not even talking anymore.
The Jellyfish Friend
“So, how much does your new job pay?” asked Mark*, a friend I met while in my “band” days in my 20s. “Oh. That’s … not too bad I suppose. Here’s what I’m earning.” These “friends” will strike like a jellyfish (usually) mid-conversation with some passive-aggressive comment that leaves you quivering. When I began to see that I always felt bad about myself around Mark, I let the friendship lapse. I now try to only be around friends who are supportive and up-front.
The Funny Friend
I have a tendency, when I meet new people I like, to shout things like: “YOU’RE COOL, LET’S GO OUT TOGETHER!”. Alicia* was a person who I immediately took to, finding her warm, smart, and hilariously funny. But after a few aborted attempts to hang out together, I came to see that I could simply admire her without making her my friend, too. After all, everyone’s friendship roster is pretty full once you hit 30. Just because you can’t find time to do brunch doesn’t mean you don’t like each other.
The Selfish Friend
Sometimes it takes a while to realize you’re doing all the work in the friendship. Booking the cinema tickets, buying a birthday (cup)cake, spending hours talking about their problems. You analyze the conversation of a night out and realize 96% (Percentage pulled out of my butt) of it was about them and maybe five minutes was spent talking about your issues. When I realized I was constantly resentful of Al*, a friend I’d met through work, I decided it was best to let the friendship lapse, without saying too much. Perhaps we’ll reconnect in future, I don’t know. Right now I need friendships that are more or less equal.
There’s so much societal pressure to do emotional labor — remembering anniversaries, buying thoughtful gifts, sending cards on a friend’s cat’s birthday, and/or be their listening ear.
I sometimes find this exhausting and feel as if I’m constantly failing, because if you have more than a few friends, there’s always someone who’s sick/sad/having a birthday/getting married/giving birth.
Maybe instead we should give ourselves a break.
Like on Facebook, where you can just quietly unfollow someone, while still wishing them well and remaining friends from afar.
To all my friends, past and/or present. I still love you and wish you all the best.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.