I’m a twenty something. I’ve been in college a few years now and I’m close to getting out. Over the course of those years, I’ve realized just how many of my high school friends were not due to similarities, their better qualities, or actual ability to be a friend– it was due to proximity.
We all have, and/or had, friends like this. Co-workers, high school friends, people in our classes or studies programs. When removed from the situation we originally befriended them in, too often their shortcomings become clear and just why you befriended them does as well: You needed companionship and a mutually beneficial relationship to get through a situation, nothing more. They don’t fit into your life, and the more you see them outside their original friend-habitat, the more you wonder why you ever liked them in the first place.
Now, this is not to say that all friends met in these places are this way. You can meet your best friend and/or soul mate in school or on the job, no one denies that. However, it is not the norm. Not from what I’ve observed.
The reason I’m rambling on this is recently, more and more people from high school that fall into this category keep contacting me. I’m not sure what it is– they felt no need, or little need, to talk to me, nor I to them, before this. Often what I discover on their end is that they have run through all the friends they had after high school due to one circumstance or the other; Either they have made a stupid ass decision and their friends left them to screw up their life after trying too hard to save them too many times, or they are in the same position I and others I know are: we realize our high school friends are still mentally in high school, even if they haven’t had an epic childish screw up to prove it. What matters is who is dating who, what’s on TV, what the hippest phone is. Some people never leave that stage and that’s fine, if that’s all you really want out of life. I think you should want more, but that’s just me. You want to stay there, fine, but don’t expect me to humor you.
Let me be frank: If I am friends with you, it is because you do not bore me and you’re not a pain in my ass. One can sugar coat the reasons they are friends with people all they want, but it comes down to two things most of the time: you are either useful or a pleasure to be around. That is why you have different “classes” of friends, they each have different things they are best for. The same person you cry to when your boyfriend/girlfriend dumps you is probably not the same person you go and discuss high philosophy with or go on spur of the moment trips to Canada with. If it is, you are damned lucky and I hope you realize just how rare such a thing is. Very often, there are certain things that are utterly off limits with some people for whatever reason (sexuality, gender, politics, religion, the list goes on), and if you want them to accept all of you, that’s often a problem. They may tolerate the fact that you’re Islamic and they’re Christian, but they’re probably less accepting it and more ignoring it exists so they can still use you for whatever end you suit. If you’re looking for “true friendship” that’s not it, even if that person bends over backwards for you on a daily basis.
In any case, I don’t like making people upset if they were once friends with me by telling them precisely why I have no desire to be friends with them anymore. I’m not going to tell them “Leave me alone, you’re bloody obnoxious, YOU are the reason your life is in the shitter because you refuse to keep a job because it’s ‘hard,’ and keep making the same pattern of mistakes because you refuse to believe the world isn’t your oyster.” Instead, I’ll just not answer some of the time, then most of the time, then almost all of the time, then never. It avoids all the melodrama. It’s a coward’s way out and I fully admit that, but again, if you were once a friend to me, I’d much rather avoid a melodramatic blow up and crying and carrying on. I’d rather keep up the pretense that we just naturally drifted apart because we’re both busy. Everyone’s happy, and it leaves the door open for contact to resume in the future, and maybe by then things will work out. I’m uncomfortable cutting people totally out of my life unless they do something to deserve it.
Unfortunately this approach’s upside is also a downside: it leaves the door open to resume contact, and often the dance begins all over again. Thus, I keep getting contacted by people whom I simply have nothing to say to. I feel awkward talking to them and the conversation frequently stalls. When we do speak, it usually becomes apparent quickly that there is little to talk about, yet they keep initiating conversation. I’d like to think that when I realize conversations with an individual are going nowhere, I give up and politely excuse myself. Sometimes, people just don’t have much in common and that’s really okay. Really. It is. Trying to force conversation repeatedly is not going to change our differences.
For some of these people, it may be that they are trying to get their high school days back and by forcing contact with people from those days. They felt safer and more in control then than they ever do now, and they mistakenly associate it with the people they spoke with during that time when really, it has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with the fact that the way high school and childhood are set up now, with layer upon layer of protection from accountability and responsibility, the real world is a very nasty shock. The real world has a very different set of rules than in high school in the fact that even if it does have any, they’re certainly not static. No one is going to write out a rule book and hand it to you upon the end of high school, college, or whenever mom and dad cut you off. Even if they did, by the end of the day the rule book would be obsolete, so there would be no point. Who wouldn’t want the days of when you knew exactly what was expected of you and how to accomplish it back? I can’t exactly blame them. I don’t think it’s my place to tell them to wake the hell up and realize high school is not only not all it’s cracked up to be but also not coming back– the universe will do that for me, there’s no need for me to rub it in.
I’m not sure if all of this is really progress– perhaps it is just my becoming more selfish with my time and energy. I don’t necessarily believe this is a bad thing, but I could also be wrapped up in happy clouds of denial. Maybe I should be more grateful that someone wants to talk to me at all. But as it stands right now, I’m taking the position of Ditchwater Sal: “I don’t deal with time wasters.” Talking to someone that makes you uncomfortable, whatever the reason, is a waste of both your time, neither of you are getting what you want out of your company. Life is just too damn short for that kind of thing.