I don’t have any friends.
It’s something I say and think about a lot, but I know it’s not true. However, in the grand scheme of things, I find it easier to just believe that it is.
You see, in school, I used to have a lot of friends. And I always knew how many. I had a word document with a list of their names and would go into it a few times a year and add a new list with my current set of friends. Most of the names would stay the same and I never really removed anyone from the list. And although I think it would be interesting to look back, I’m kind of glad that it was lost with all my other documents when my laptop broke many years ago.
I miss that group of friends. It was very much a school type of friendship between us all. We would all invite each other to birthdays and other things, we would all make sure to go to the same place at break times, and we would all make sure to sit together at lunch.
And I miss it because I’m never going to have that again.
When I left school at age seventeen, I realised that most of those friendships were only still present because we saw each other every day.
I used to blame them for that fact. I blamed them for not noticing when the state of my mental health was rapidly declining and causing me to isolate myself. But how could they notice when I was making a point of hiding it? To them it must have just looked like I didn’t want to hang around with them any more. They were and are not at fault for my behaviour. It took me quite some time to realise that I was pushing them away, not the other way round, and by then they were well and truly detached from my life.
Because of this, I’ve developed this niggling insecurity that nobody likes me as much as I like them. That nobody cares about me as much as I care about them.
I’ve never had the kind of friendship that is plastered all over social media, and I’ve never had one where I felt like the balance was 50/50.
And I know it’s not true. I am constantly being given so much proof that I am cared about a lot by people who I’d consider a friend.
But that’s another thing: I don’t usually use the word “friend.”
I have “[Name] who I know from school”, I have “work people”, and, passively, I describe everyone I like as “my mate.”
I think the idea in my head is that I can’t lose friends I never had.
But I do have friends, and I always have had them.
I’m very good at getting along with people. If someone isn’t awkward when they meet me, I don’t find it difficult to build a positive relationship with them. And even if they are awkward, it doesn’t take long to break down that wall. I am awkward too, usually, and we’ll bond over that.
But then I have a problem with knowing how close I am to someone. I can become very attached to a person very quickly, and then I feel like I have to hold back from showing them that. I think closeness is a weird thing. I have people who I like and get on with who I wouldn’t want to talk to outside of the place I know them from. Similarly, I have people who I don’t know that well who I’d love to know in a different context. As soon as I can relate to someone, I latch onto them and sincerely hope that I’m not being to full-on.
Leaving school was the main learning curve. Friendships as an adult are different than when you are a teenager, and I’m grateful for the few people who get no more than a fleeting message from me and yet still remain part of my life. Keeping tabs on how many friends you have isn’t good for you, and judging the worth of that friendship by what they post on social media is silly.
Your friendships are what you make of them.