lessons from introspection
art by Zoe Pyne
I don’t think I’ve ever been so exhausted by the first week of school. This seems to be a unanimous agreement throughout my grade. However, some things I’ve particularly been grappling with lately are residual feelings of frustration, hurt, and guilt stemming from being put in classes with people I used to be very close to, but now never speak to.
Remote learning has been pleasant to me in the way that I haven’t been put in classes with people I’ve stopped communicating with. It is really easy to pretend that those people, and those feelings, don’t exist. And so when I clicked on my teachers’ Zoom links and saw all-too-familiar faces, I was presented with a really unique and valuable opportunity to reflect on my relationships with these people from an aged and (mostly) healed perspective. Here are some things I have learned:
It is not my fault, nor an indication of my character, that these friendships were not meant to be. I used to believe that losing these people meant that I was somehow unloveable, or difficult to be around. But that is simply not the case. I am very fun to be around. People just have different needs, and we weren’t able to fulfill each others’.
Boundaries are set to be followed by everyone you interact with-- even your closest companions. So make sure you enforce them! The notion that your best friend can do no wrong because you are BFFAEAE (Best Friends Forever And Ever And Ever) was definitely coined by a toxic person. There have been times where I didn’t communicate my boundaries, or my frustrations with them being disrespected, which led to awkward conversations. Because how do you tell your friend they’ve been hurting you all this time?
I was wrong, and I’m sorry. Although it is not my fault that we stopped connecting, I am not always the victim. I have learned to acknowledge the things I did that hurt the ones I loved. This was probably the hardest lesson to learn. I thought that by taking accountability for my own actions I would admit full culpability and therefore, deserve to feel shitty. Honestly, knowing that I did something wrong was shitty enough, so I tried to ignore it as much as possible. I’ve found, however, that having empathy for others encourages them to reciprocate the same courtesy. Knowing that you both played a part in your friendship and its shortcomings makes it less like you’re fighting against them, and more like you’re coexisting.
They were wrong, and it’s okay that I was upset about it. I acknowledge my own hurt and create space to liberate myself. Here is a quick exercise to demonstrate this: I want you to try to picture a pink elephant. Make it vivid: how big are its ears? What shade of pink is it? Let that image jiggle around in your brain for a few minutes. Now don’t think about pink elephants. Whatever you do, do not imagine pink elephants in your head even though I keep saying pink elephants. Pink elephants should not even cross your mind. The point is to show that you cannot suppress thoughts. In fact, the harder you try to ignore them, the more apparent the thoughts become. My concerns will continue to persist as long as I am pushing away my concerns. So, although apologizing is just as much my responsibility as it is theirs when you’re in a position where you haven’t spoken to each other in two years an apologetic confrontation is unlikely. I provide myself with closure by confronting my experiences and feelings.
I forgive myself and them for any of the mess that occurred during our connection. People make mistakes and (usually) grow from them.
These five lessons have made it a lot easier to exist in the same Zoom screen as these old faces. I hope these can bring you some ease if you are in a similar situation.