What To Do When Time Won’t Turn Back: Moving On From A Friendship

What to Do When Time Won't Turn Back

A year ago I fell out with a best friend. Up until this point I had never fallen out with anyone to the point of not speaking. I’d had disagreements with friends, sure, but always reached a resolution as the matters of contention were mostly over what the best pint is or which film should win the Oscarminor subjects in the grand schemes of life. 

Artwork by Ida Henrich

Without going into detail, this matter was greater and one that the friendship did not survive. It was a horrible time; other friends got tied up and initially a divide was created leaving me isolated from the people that I loved. My head set off into a spin and before I knew it, I had an identity crisis on my hands. 

I believe that who I see myself as has a huge deal to do with who I am as a friend and how I treat those around me; my opinion being that I am a good friend, a nice person who people want to spend time with the evidence leading up to this point. All of a sudden someone was rejecting this notion and refusing any negotiation of retaining the friendship. 

As someone who has stacked up a back catalogue of reasons for self-punishment over her life, I took to blaming myself. To me it was black and white, someone had rejected my offer of an olive branch, therefore no one should want to engage with me for the rest of time and I was worthy of nothing. 

Suddenly the mental health issues that I thought I could see a recovery from came back with a vengeance. I would proceed to retreat from any social engagement as all our friends were mutual, themselves torn with whose side to choose. 

I’ve never been through a break-up of a romantic relationship but I imagine that in most cases you run to your friends. When the break-up concerns your friends it’s hard to know where to turn, there are limits to the conversation topics I will cover with my parents and my brother was having an affair with his X-Box at the time.

"I had the power in my hands to let go...
I didn’t have to yearn after something that I wasn’t being let in on anymore"

At first, I had no willingness to move on. I was already negotiating the departure from one familiar part of my life; having just left education I was about to jump feet first into a gap year. What I’d pictured as an exciting new adventure now seemed like a lonely voyage on the road to further despair. I made several attempts to repair the cracks, desperate to cling on to what I knew and where I felt comfortable. 

Perhaps when I say ‘repair the cracks’ I actually mean ‘to turn back time’. I’d previously had the best few months on holidays and at festivals with this person, welcoming in the new age of our lives together. Now, with the gift of hindsight, I can see that comfort wasn’t to be found there anymore but at the time the reality 

I was slowly being forced forward into was a dark void and I couldn’t see any light at the end. I didn’t want to move on, moving on meant walking on foreign terrain whilst blindfolded and with no-one to hold my hand but the events had happened, history is not to be erased and consequences are to be dealt with. 

Moving on is often something we can foresee and plan for. For example, I am about to go to university, perhaps the greatest moment of departure from the familiar, in my life so far. I’m changing out rural Somerset and the finest cider in the world for a slice of the party in the big smoke. This change is something I have anticipated, and more importantly, chosen. 

A year ago I was thrust into the unfamiliar overnight. It was not my choice that I couldn’t meet up with them to talk things through, it was not my choice that it would take over a month until others felt free to speak to me again but it was my choice as to whether or not I would move on. It had to be an active decision.

It took me ages to realise when it was time to accept that I had done all that I could do to make amends. I had thought that was the key, that by making amends we could be friends again. But there was never to be a ‘we’, plan A was quickly exhausted but I had no blueprint for plan B apart from perhaps reluctant loneliness. 

It was a real eureka moment when I came to the realisation that I had the power in my hands to let go, that I didn’t have to yearn after something that I wasn’t being let in on anymore, that I didn’t have to live in the past and that the end of a friendship is not the end of the world. The age old saying “there are plenty more fish in the sea” is perfectly applicable to friendships too. 

Our brains are so good at dwelling on and remembering the things that have gone wrong in our lives because they’re crucial to our learning process however, in this instance, I had forgotten that this has only happened once in my life. The fact that one person had decided not to be my friend did not mean that I deserved to be lonely for the rest of the time and I did not need to claim back their approval to prove otherwise. 

It hurts to lose a friend, really hurts, but focusing on how negative the situation makes you feel is not helpful to moving forward. Life is subject to impermanence and so are our relationships. We change with them and that is exciting. Once you allow for yourself to find joy in the new, moving on becomes possible; the foreign terrain stops being scary and becomes whatever you want it to be.

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