Have you ever heard of the “turkey dump”? It’s that phenomenon where a high school couple go to different post-secondary schools, they inevitably change and grow and forge new relationships there, and when they return to their hometown for Thanksgiving, they break up. I don’t know why this phenomenon is so widely acknowledged that it has its own Urban Dictionary definition, yet no one ever talks about friend break-ups.
Friendships usually end with a bang (a big blow-up that is never reconciled) or with a whimper (a gradual fading out of each others’ lives). They don’t usually end with a meeting at a neutral location and a less-than-sincere cliché like “it’s not you, it’s me.” Friend break-ups are less ritualized, less official—there’s no drop-down menu on Facebook that allows you to announce how your life has just changed—but none of that makes them any less real.
Personally, my friendships have been a lot more significant in my life so far than my romantic relationships. That’s why my friend break-up hit me pretty hard.
This was a girl who was in practically all of my significant memories, from the first day of school all the way to prom night. First school project? She was the one helping me colour in a map of Nunavut (definitely a two-person job). First slow dance? She was the one making funny faces behind my young suitor as I concentrated on not tripping over my own feet. First scary movie? She was the one with a death grip on my arm. I could go on but the point is, we were important to each other.
Even though we decided to go to different universities, we had every intention of staying friends for life. She was the one I called on the first day when frosh activities were over and we were both alone in our respective dorm rooms for the first time. We were feeling lonely and nervous and we reassured each other that things would get better
We were right. Now, we’re both in fourth year; we have new relationships, new accomplishments, and new goals. Our friend break-up was the gradual kind; the Skype-Netflix sessions became fewer and farther between, we stopped updating each other every time something noteworthy happened, and we eventually stopped meeting up when we were both in our hometown.
It took me a while to even realize the break-up had happened because I was busy with my new life. I didn’t notice until she posted a link to an article on Facebook entitled, “An Open Letter to the Friends that Walked Out of my Life” and I realized I was one of them.
If you didn’t feel like reading it, it pretty much says that friends who don’t make an effort aren’t worth having and although the author used to be sad, mad, and hurt, now she just doesn’t care anymore. Fair enough if my ex-friend feels that way, but I don’t.
The letter upset me so I took some time to deal with it. I treated myself to some chocolate and apple cider, I reminisced, and I tried to put my thoughts in order.
Eventually, I felt better.
I didn’t stop caring like the author of the open letter and my ex-friend claim to have done (although, writing something about an ex-friend or even reading that something and connecting to it enough to share it on social media both seem to suggest at least a modicum of care). I don’t feel the need to stop caring.
It’s like how I have a pair of my old baby shoes, obviously not because I expect them to fit again someday, but because they remind me of the time when they did. I care about my ex-friend because she’s an ingrained part of my life and we had lots of fun together. That doesn’t mean I miss her; I took the time to reflect and I know that I’m better off without her. We’re not compatible anymore; we grew out of each other and that’s totally okay.
If at any point you turn around and find that someone important has faded out of your life, you don’t need to ignore it. Just because that person wasn’t your lover, that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to mourn, take your time, and move on in any way you please.
Just remember that a friend break-up means that you’re both changing and evolving in your respective ways; all things considered, that’s not such a bad thing.