I think I’ve always sought refuge in other people as a form of comfort. For a long time, there was something about meeting someone who I felt saw me for all that I am that made me want to transform, morph and become intertwined with them.
An unhealthy habit, I know that now, but back then it sure did feel good. At one point, it even led me to fall in love with my best friend. They knew, I knew and everyone else knew. It was equal parts embarrassing, frightening, amazing and all of those other feelings that make your tummy do somersaults. For what it’s worth: I survived and so did our friendship.
This story begins on an overcast day in 2015. I was a fresher, bundled into a lecture hall to endure awkward icebreakers. I found myself enjoying the company of one classmate in particular a little too much. I’m not sure what drew me in now that I think about it. Was it the unusually intense planes of his face?
Was it the way he sat a little slouched in his chair suggesting comfort, although his hands were tucked deep into the pockets of his pullover, hinting at the nervousness we were all feeling? Or was it something as rudimentary as the fact that our favourite book was Donna Tartt’s The Secret History? It’s hard to say what it was exactly. When the induction ended, we spoke for a bit, added each other on Facebook and the rest was history.
“So, how do you dissolve a fruitless infatuation, a friendship with a lack of boundaries but a mutual respect for each other? The answer in our case was distance.”
What follows in the next couple of years are moments that I’m not totally proud of. I made the classic error of losing myself within a person that did not reciprocate my feelings. In general, I acted like a dickhead because I wanted to be the centre of their universe. Queue blowing off other friends to drop everything for this one “special” friend, staring at them with sad looking heart-eyes from the corner of a room at some randoms house party, petty quarrels on night buses or at some gathering and way too many all-consuming moments that made me and others go: “what the actual fuck is going on here?”
I had to get over it. So, how do you dissolve a fruitless infatuation, a friendship with a lack of boundaries but a mutual respect for each other? The answer in our case was distance. For a long while, we lived our lives as separate people and were no longer joined at the hip. Our degree of separation grew as we made new friends, trudged our way through life’s milestones and learned how to exist without each other.
“I was teetering on the edge of a friendship break-up when I realised that what I wanted and missed during that strange, icy and tense year was him. I wanted my best friend back.“
While we were estranged, I found myself in my first relationship; dating a musician, being totally exposed to completely new worlds. Whereas he was globetrotting, meeting new people, and beginning a career. It was hard to see how either one of us could fit into the picture of each other’s lives anymore. We almost became strangers. I was teetering on the edge of a friendship break-up when I realised that what I wanted and missed during that strange, icy and tense year was him. I wanted my best friend back.
When we finally met again, it was like meeting a new person. It was then that I realised we had come very far since that overcast day in September 2015. This time around, we began our friendship the right way. It happened in an Uber during the summer of 2018 – we were a few cocktails deep into our night, and he’d returned from what I would describe as a life-changing holiday. Earlier that day, we had become graduates. Initially, we travelled in silence, making cordial conversation. Somehow, the chat pivoted and we were talking about the kids we used to be, and the people we became without each other and who we were going to become.
To rediscover and see who my friend was without a quixotic gaze showed me how far I had come, and who he really was. I now had a stronger sense of self, had learned how to be alone but also how to be with others and truly appreciate them as individuals.
I no longer feel the need to go making a home in every person who saw me for who I was, and I don’t think my younger self foresaw a future where I didn’t need constant validation from others in order to feel whole, but I’m so proud that that’s the future I forged for myself.
Hope is a Publicity Assistant currently working in publishing based in London. @hopeisreading
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