Last time I opened the whole space around losing significant friendships because of major life changes. There is so much loss already involved in negative and traumatic life changes so why do some friends hurt us so deeply and make it exponentially much worse by walking away? There is only joy in the positive life changes that we often dreamt would happen, along with our bestie, so why are they now running away from our most joyous and celebratory moments? Why are they ruining it for us? I think that it is quite simple really…
Firstly I think that it is really important in all of this to remember that:
- Each of these friendships that were so important to us were heavily invested in on both sides…
- That for the most part, for the friendships and relationships that lasted many years, both of us passed hundreds if not thousands of tests, either large or small. Kudos to them and kudos to us!
- That even the friendships that from our perspective, were for the most part one sided, we still have much to be thankful for. Simply having that company on life’s road is a huge deal and we have much to be thankful for in any relationships and friendships that have been significant in our lives.
I think that it is also really easy for us (well I always have anyway) to see these major life changes as tests and that those friendships that I lost over them as failed tests …that my friends failed. That when the rubber hit the road they simply weren’t as strong as I thought they were.
I have always been aware in my strange life that the reality is that most friendships are never tested on that kind of level and had our lives not so drastically changed paths, many of those friendships could well have lasted a million “normal” tests and those people could have remained my bestest, truest, life long friends ever… I have always nodded and felt better when others have judged them on my behalf and told me that I am better off without such fickle people in my life. But I think that the reality is that many of us, (and I put myself at the front of the line here) may well have failed just as quickly if the tables were turned. And not because we are all weak deep down, but we all have to do the right thing by our own journeys and we simply cannot, no matter how much we want to, walk more than one path at the same time.
We spent a good many years in the magnificent Fiji Islands and while it was one of the most enriching times of my life on so many challenging and wonderful levels and I have left a part of my heart and soul there, in the months after our move I missed my friends from the posting before like there was no tomorrow. I had spent seven years settling in to a home and life in Australia and had worked hard on finding a place where for the very first time in my life I had felt fully accepted and loved. I had decided that this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life no matter what. When the Fiji assignment came up we grabbed it with both hands, but we agreed that it would be for the contract dates only, and that at the end we would return to our house which we had bought and our new life in Australia.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Fiji more than I could ever describe, but I also used to say that I wished that there was a little door in the bottom back corner of my garden, where every few days when the children were in school, I would be able to pop through the gate for a few hours and visit my old life in Melbourne. Wouldn’t that be grand! But the reality is that even with social media and the world becoming so much smaller, there is no moving between the paths across the mountain. The Fiji life was for us such a blessing that it felt like a “higher” road, but for many who wanted stability and education and all kinds of other things, it was considered a “lower” one.
I genuinely thought that my life would be enriched with this journey on a different path, but that at the end I could pop back onto the path that I had been following before. I thought that relationships could still flourish from a distance. I was wrong. You can’t swap paths and you simply can’t keep two paths at the same time. I am not saying that it is impossible, and I will go into all the exceptions in a few posts but for the most part it is simple, you can’t change paths and expect people to walk both of them with you.
I have a handful of beautiful friends still from those Australia days, but the friendships are deeply different now. They are nowhere the same as they would have been had we walked that path of the last decade together. The closest friendships however, are gone forever. I was shattered and angry and hurt. They failed the tests and I was gutted. But the reality is that I not only went on a different path, but I chose a different path. In their eyes I failed them. I promised to walk their path with them… and then I left. I wasn’t there to lift them over puddles, or dust them off from a stumble, so they turned to someone else. Someone more reliable, someone who will be there for the long haul and who won’t be leaving them any time soon.
As I lamented on Facebook a few years ago about how much I missed my friends, a “good friend” commented that “if you choose to move around so much you lose the right to have special friendships”. ….Yes she said that, yes on my status, yes it shut down the dialogue as people retreated to safe corners. I was shattered, she is no longer a friend, and yes, I still believe that she is wrong! But where she is right, is that if I choose to move to a different path, then I cannot expect the same benefits that come from sticking to a single path all my life.
I have no regrets, I LOVE my life, and thanks to social media and a whole world of Expats and TCKs out there, I am not the only one walking this crazy lifestyle path! I have found my tribe (or one of them) and when I come across them on social media and the world at large, it is great to hear my language, recognise my story in others, and be “home” for a bit. There are loads of people out there like me, who are able to change paths regularly, we are global citizens, mountain travellers, and people who don’t get that privilege don’t get us.
I am slowly realising that the friends that I lost because of my choices in life did not fail any tests, instead I just don’t belong on the same path as them and that neither of our paths are better than the other. I officially now let go of the pain of those losses and the hurt, anger and bitterness that I have carried towards them (woohoo!). It does not negate the pain or the experience or the loss, but there is no longer the failure involved. The impact on me is still the same, but I get it.
But what about when we change paths not because we chose to, but because we were hit by a bus or we fell off the edge of our chosen path and rolled down the mountain? What about my Chronic & Disability tribe who are suffering the same losses when these were not choices of any of us? … next time…