As I edge closer to the exact middle of my forties, I find myself looking at and thinking about the same situation I’ve been pondering for many years now: why aren’t my best friends from high school, who were easily my closest buds, still at least on occasional speaking terms with me, if not still involved in my life?
In the photo above, you can see me with two of my best friends in China, Niki and Jean. As of 2019, we’ve been friends for about four years and have done many things together, sometimes just us three and other times with our larger group of friends. Two years ago, I led a group of five Chinese friends that included Jean for a special one-week trip in Tokyo, including Christmas Morning at Mt. Fuji! This year, the three of us will visit Osaka and Kyoto for Christmas!
Due to some recent news I saw via Facebook, I was prompted to entertain a certain question again about my buds from way back when:
Why Aren’t My Friends My Friends Anymore?
As I edge closer to the exact middle of my forties, I find myself looking at and thinking about the same situation I’ve pondered off and on for many years now: why aren’t my best friends from high school, my “fun squad,” who were easily my closest buds, still at least on occasional speaking terms with me, if not still involved in my life?
Why is it that the closest me and my old crew get now is maybe a Facebook connection, but whenever I decide to fire a message over it gets “seen” but never a reply? Did I really screw up too badly all those years ago – or since – or is it all related to those infamous words I heard from my ex-best friend’s brother after he ghosted me: “Your problems were just too big for him?” (more on that later).
So why do some friendships fade? Why do many or even most friendships fade? The primary reasons why friendships don’t last include lack of bonding, no forced commitment, individual, social, location, and even career changes. Other, more specific reasons may include natural results based on our ability to be more selective than we were as youth.
Today, there is even scientific data available which reveals that friend changing is actually a lot more common than you may realize – I know I was. Actually, when I sat down to write about this article, I had no solid answers as to why I have been feeling the way I do about these changes in my old friendships. Furthermore, I have been dealing with fresh, new feelings of discomfort due to some recent happenings which I think should actually cause me only joy – but I would be dishonest in saying that all I feel is happiness.
Quite the contrary, actually.
Though I am definitely happy to see my former friends succeed, I cannot help but feel disconnected from them at best, but also I have to admit that I even feel forgotten, ostracized, abandoned, and even sometimes outright insulted – or used. It would be easy for me to go down the road of paranoia, as has been the road many in my family have walked for decades.
They always feared the worst when it came to what others knew about our home – what the living conditions were like and what went on there – and they had good reason to be worried, in all honesty. However, they always went overboard with their imaginations and efforts to censor my openness about it, concerned only with the appearances and never the harsh reality at home, sadly.
One big, happy family, right? Right. But perhaps I digress. Please allow me to share a little bit about my personal experience. Perhaps somewhere in there you can find yourself on one end or the other.
Do Family Problems Cause Friendship Problems?
I start off with this question because in my mind it goes straight to the root of practically any long-term, ongoing, repeating, or otherwise life-encumbering or even debilitating issues we may have. After having been through a traumatic childhood, lots of moving, loss of friendships, over 50 job changes, a divorce, and having my daughter taken away, I can assure you that it is a primary culprit.
What is the link between childhood or family and problems in relationships, especially friendships? Childhood problems are imprinted into the mind and become not only long-lasting and difficult to overcome, but they are insidious in that they are often overlooked, unseen, unconsidered, or looked to as an afterthought. Upbringing and family interaction style directly affects our individual mechanisms for socializing, forming, maintaining, and even ending all sorts of relationships, including friends.
I am no psychologist. Truth be told, I took a few psychology classes at my university and have studied the topic here and there, but do I really need to wave a degree at you to convince you how deeply affected we are by our childhoods? Perhaps it goes without saying but, again as I mentioned before, many people look to it as an afterthought so I will mention some key points here.
You may or may not think that your parents or family was “good, pretty good, so-so, okay,” or perhaps downright “groovy.” All right, I get it – good for you! Many people don’t get that so consider yourself one of the so-called blessed ones. While I recognize that family life growing up was definitely not the worst, I can assure you that it was more than just “quite bad.” I’ll save the details for another time.
I know for a fact that my problems at home bled over into my friendships in more ways than one. Actually, it creeped into all areas of my life and I was regularly embarrassed, emotional, rejected, ignored, defensive, cautious, scared – or one of many others. There were times when I just couldn’t seem to get my friends to understand – but did I really need to? Looking back, I still don’t know that answer.
I actually ran away from home – twice. I feel that I wasn’t loved and accepted for who I was or wanted to be, and was really craving some good, positive attention that just wasn’t afforded to me. As the middle child and second son, I neither got the respect like my older brother nor the spoiling like my younger sister. To make matters “worse,” I just wasn’t into the type of country boy lifestyle that my dad was, despite my love for nature and being out in it. I wanted to camp, travel, ride ATVs, and make trails, not hunt animals with guns and bale hay on a farm.
I was essentially an outcast at home. I felt, for pretty much all of my life, that I was born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in the wrong family. I truly was the black sheep in many ways, and there was no shortage of family around me to make me feel and know it.
This outcast feeling and need for acceptance led me to occasionally act out in silly ways to get attention. I wasn’t what you would call a troublemaker, because I actually did have a quiet, sensitive nature most of the time. However, when it came to competition – especially in things I did well or loved doing – I would work hard and could excel enough to best most anyone around. Contrary to what I saw in the movies however, being the best player on the team didn’t actually garner me popularity and girls.
I could just feel that I was still the smelly poor kid who didn’t belong. Still an outcast, even in high school, even though I was in my element on the baseball field or basketball court. It didn’t matter if I was fastest, it didn’t matter if I could score 30 points in a game, and it didn’t even matter that I could draw, tell stories, or even shoot and act in our own short films and videos. It still felt like I wasn’t really accepted.
Am I The Reason Why My Old Friends Aren’t My Friends Anymore?
I know now, as I have for years, that my outcast feelings were all just feelings and not necessarily truth, primarily in my friendship circle. There were many times when my friends said either honest, sincere, and even positive things to me which I’ll always remember.
I remember my friend Jon complimenting me once because he didn’t understand why I was so good at lip-syncing to a song for our music video while moving around, “doing stuff.” He praised me another time for a simple, improvised “tumble” I did for the first complete short film we made and sent to a film contest. They may seem like simple things, but I have always remembered them and treasured them. Jon and I used to dream about working on films together some day, and we made an agreement to “pull the other one up” when one of us finally made it. Now, I haven’t talked to him in years, and though I we were able to have a good meetup when last we met, I still feel like I did too many things wrong in our relationship.
And it wasn’t just Jon – I feel that I did this in pretty much all of my relationships. However, was it really all ME? Or how about this question: did any of us actually do anything wrong? Or were we just “kids?”
I really valued and loved my friends – I honestly cannot say that enough – and I still do. As I sit here and think about them all, I have to admit that I really miss them and wish that I could make them smile and laugh again. I miss taking the exit to Dallas with Jason, shooting a sketch comedy or music video with Jon, performing a bad rap with James (my bad, not his), listening to Iron Maiden with Steele while playing Street Fighter II, laughing at Josh’s portrayals of our teachers, fishing with Tony but catching nothing, jumping off of buckets with Kevin to dunk the basketball, or even occasionally getting invited to Brock’s to play on the Genesis (well, to watch him play, anyway).
The times we spent making videos, short films, sketches, music videos, talk shows, visiting the city for films, staying the night, camping out, and of course playing Dungeons & Dragons – these were precious moments and are special memories for me. They are not what I would call my “glory days,” and I don’t yearn to go back and live them again as most do (unless I could correct all of my errors and move out from my parents’ home!), because I look to my future as the highlights of my own personal life.
However, I do recognize that the times I spent with these guys as the absolute best times of my childhood, hands-down. I suppose they have no idea just how much they really meant to me during those years, giving me such an outlet during what can only be described as a terrible home environment. It was difficult for me to put on a confident, skilled, and confident – if not adept – persona for them, but I often feel that perhaps in my zeal to win them over and impress them, I indeed left a mark on their memories – but not one of such a degree of positivity that I had thought, or hoped.
Am I being too hard on myself, or placing too much responsibility at my feet? Should this even matter anymore? Is it common or just natural for us to not be close? Did the relationships really on matter on a deep level to me, i.e. “one-sided?” Or am I just being paranoid to think that they are all still connected, on speaking terms, or what? Am I being silly, is there nothing in me to correct, or is this good therapy to consider a way to fix it and correct myself?
This is a big topic and as I’ve just started thinking about it, I have to say that I’ll need a lot more time to process it and work it out. In the meantime, I hope that it has given you something positive to think about if you can understand some of the feelings I have, because trust me, you are most definitely NOT alone!
I’ll be back later to discuss this friendship topic some more!