Today (or perhaps “last night” I really struggle with the time difference) something wonderful happened. A long time friend of mine had her first child – a child that was so desperately wanted I’m not sure it could be put into words. I’m sitting here scrolling through gift ideas to find the perfect one to celebrate such a joyous event (coincidently, I think I’ve come up with something pretty awesome)… and it’s made me wonder why this relationship has worked when so many others that should be easier, have not.
You see, my friend lives in New York City – and over our 15 year friendship – we’ve only ever met once. Our relationship started over a mutual love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (yes, the TV show) but we found we had a lot more in common. When we were both at college / university we would be up all night writing papers (alternatively) and be able to chat for hours and hours. We both got jobs at about the same time and of course our communication times were hampered. But I never lost “that” feeling with her. That feeling that regardless of how infrequently we spoke, we had a pretty special relationship.
At that time of my life – I didn’t know… anything. I didn’t have a single ounce of real world experience. I just bounced through things and for the most part landed on my feet.
Soon after – life started to get, well, real. I experienced relationships, hatred, cheating, marriage, illness, discrimination, cruelty, jealously, divorce… life. I had a good taste of life. And instead of just getting on with it – I went to this very dark and angry place (I was still in my early 20’s so I suppose angst was my “go to” position). I am going to make an admission here. I made new friendships based solely on hatred. Mutual hatred for people or a person… or for a situation… or a personality trait. There was so much I hated and I clung to that like it was actually something I could form a deep bond over. During this time – I let some people from my happy and carefree past go… and I deeply regret it. I’m always 40% of the way through a message that tells my best High School friend what an exceptional arsehole I was during that period of my life. It’s a message I can never seem to finish – not for a lack of wanting to, I just don’t know how to. It took me a long time to start letting go of that hate, it wasn’t until 2010 that I made inroads. I had been living in this world where I hated things… for 7 years. The death of one of my best friends was a massive wake up call, I started letting go of my hate… and recently I’ve even been able to stop hating myself. I’ve come along way in the 7 years that followed.
I’m not the same person.
So I’m really struggling with some of the relationships I made when I was in that bad place. It’s become more and more obvious that the only thing many of us had in common – was hate. I try and start messages to check-in – but before I can get through it and hit send – I see something which serves as a stark reminder of how different our ethics, priorities and personalities are… I see how little “big picture” stuff we have in common… and I can’t finish that message either. I mean what am I meant to say? Am I just meant to maintain a superficial conversation and relationship were I don’t feel comfortable talking about bigger issues? Some of these people publicly call people who have ethical values likened to mine stupid and uneducated – now, I’m neither, and having a different position on something doesn’t make me so or warrant name calling. When I’m called stupid (by proxy) by someone who’s meant to be my friend – how is that meant to make me feel? I would never do that – I still stand by people being able to have their own opinion and share it – I don’t stand by derogatory remarks toward other people who don’t share that opinion. Basically our topics of conversation would be limited to “have you heard this new single” and “what’s your favourite lunch meat at the moment”… is that what friendship is about? Have I missed the boat on this? Am I the one that has it all wrong? A lot of the time – I think I am the problem. That I should be able to have superficial relationships with people who do indeed, passively aggressively call me names and put me down. And other times I think…. “but, why?”.
I’m so lost – I’m continuously bombarded with posts telling me I’m the one in the wrong. But again, it’s a matter of perspective. Because separating myself from situations where I’m put down because of my ethics has really helped my mental state. I believe in an open dialogue – sure. But by the name calling it’s been made very clear to me that the freedoms I ensure I extend to other people – don’t apply to me, just because my upbringing, travels and education have led me to a different place. Where do I go from here…? In many of the cases I’m talking about – even if I knew the words to start the conversation, it is probably too late – as in there is too much water under that bridge. If there wasn’t – then am I ok with being close to someone who thinks I’m uneducated and stupid for having a different opinion? Am I ok chatting with someone like that who will turn around and disrespect me because I believe differently? I think I already know the answer to that. I’m not ok with it – and it’s my opinion that I shouldn’t be. While I will ALWAYS respect differing opinions to my own, I have gone past the place where I can in good conscious slander, bully or call someone else names – purely due to a different set of values. I’m not going to lie, during that hateful period – I did all that. Now the way I used to behave turns my stomach, I would like nothing more than to forget about but to keep moving forward, I need to own it.
Not being able to hit send on those messages… does it make me a bad person? You know what – maybe? Maybe I haven’t been there for people who need it. But is being a doormat healthy? Mentally? I don’t think so. In the last few years where I haven’t reacted to the bad stuff and I haven’t responded to the passive aggressive nastiness – my mental health as improved. It might just be a coincidence. It might not be. And it’s not the difference of opinion itself that has pushed me away – hell, my best friend in the world has a very different set of thoughts on immigration policy to me, it doesn’t make us any less close. It’s the nastiness after the clash. Calling me stupid, or uneducated or “unwashed” or any of the tens of things I’ve been called – that’s what pushes me away. Have your opinion, your beliefs, your ethics – I don’t expect you to change them. But calling me hateful things won’t make me change my morals either. I’m not a sheep who gives in to avoid conflict and stop bullying. And I think I’ve just happened upon the problem. No amount of manipulation or bullying will encourage me to change my mind – all it does, is push me away.
Am I saying that what I believe is 100% right? I would bet it isn’t. But my morals, ethics and priorities are based on my life up to this point. All of those three areas of my life are in a constant state of evolution based on the things I learn and witness. Can they evolve to the point they change completely? I would never say never. I do know one thing – they will not change because someones best argument is to call me stupid. I’ve seen far too much for a petty attempt at manipulation to work on me.