Why I Decided To Let Go Of Friend Guilt
Because I’m sick of living my life by your standards.
I stared at my phone, re-read the text and felt my shoulders slump.
It was the message I’d been dreading.
‘Still up for boot camp tomorrow?’
There they were; five words that made me feel exhausted and in need of a consolatory muffin just looking at them. I wanted to reply with a simple blast of honesty and say ‘Nope’. But, of course, I didn’t.
‘Sure. What time?’ I replied.
‘See you out the front of yours at 4:30am.’
4:30am? 4:30…AM? Was that even an actual time? I wanted to throw a childish tantrum but my fingers had more etiquette and found the energy to type a tiny ‘ok’. Two letters with huge implications. Torture before dawn to be precise.
The reality was just as gross as the dread.
After the class I worked a 12-hour day, got home, fell onto my sofa and called my mother. She found it hilarious – not that I’d attended boot camp; she knew I was prone to fad Fitness. What tickled her was the notion that I would force myself to do something I didn’t want, or need, to do.
“You never did what I told you to do when you were younger!” she laughed, bemused.
She was right (it’s a habit of hers). Why, filled with horror, was I agreeing to my friend’s terms, rather than doing what I’d done as a stroppy teen and simply refusing? Why was I allowing someone to make me feel so guilty, when I never even let my own mother do that? My mother had taught me independence and how to think, not what to think.
I felt like our friendship had been reduced to a power trip, with her in the driving seat. As time went on I’d found it easier to do as she directed. She was always in control, whether that was choosing the restaurant we ate at, the time we met, or setting our fitness routine. It was a battle every time we made plans, and it had become exhausting. I was sick of it; fed up of being bossed around, bored of being made to feel guilty, angry at myself for letting it happen time after time.
So with my mind made up, I turned down the next offer of boot camp, and the next and the next. But it was when I refused her 5am pick-up for a Saturday road trip that World War Three broke out, and I finally decided I needed to cut her from my life.
Enough was enough. Our fair weather friendship had turned cloudy, but I knew the storm would pass, and my eyes didn’t even rain.
There’s no place for judgement in a friendship. It’s not part of the job description. I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m a bad human being just because I don’t want to go out on Friday night if I’m tired and want to curl up in a nest on my sofa instead.
Neither do I want to have to justify why I drink Red Bull simply because my health nut pal has decided it’s bad for my health and feels the need to lecture me on it while hypocritically toting a glass of wine.
When I was in my twenties, I tolerated it. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve made a decree that I don’t need to live my life on anyone else’s terms. I have my mental checklist, my moral compass, my own budget. I know what goals I’ve set myself and I’ll be the one to judge whether I’m on track day by day. I just might choose not to start the meter at 4:30am. Ever. Again.
I’m aware that my life guidelines are different to plenty of people’s and I’m done trying to smoothly stay in sync. When I come to the end of the path, the pearly gates, or whatever door policy is after my eyelids close forever, I need to be able to say ‘I did the best I could.’ I don’t want to say, ‘I sometimes did the best I could, but often got railroaded into doing what other people wanted me to do so they could feel vindicated.’ My life, my judgement calls.
And you know what? It’s bloody liberating saying no. Who needs toxic friends anyway?
I’m very lucky to have close friends who are like sisters to me. They roll their eyes when I slip up, and we move on. They know I’m my own harshest critic. In the words of one of them, “I love you because you’re different to me. I love you even when you make mistakes. When you fall, I will dust you off and put you back on your feet because you do the same for me. That’s what forever friends are for.”
Amen to that.