Gather up your words.

I learned something important about myself in the year 2013: it wasn’t easy, and it took a horrible situation to come to this realisation, but I’m sort of glad it happened anyway.  In hindsight of course, because hindsight is everything and oh-so-cliché, but who doesn’t love a good cliché? (I’ll tell you that I hate them, but I secretly love them. Oops, secret’s out.)

The point is I learned who my friends are and, in the same vein, also learned that I don’t have to be friends with everyone just because they may or may not cross my so-called social group. It’s a pretty freeing feeling, coming to this realisation, but it comes at a price and that feeling eventually goes away. You risk the chance of losing people you thought were your friends but that’s sort of the point, I guess.

Before I moved to Vancouver in April, 2010, I didn’t have many friends. Through no fault of anyone but my own for several reasons: being overweight made me insecure and unhappy with myself in so many ways; the idea of putting myself out there to interact and meet people was daunting so instead I clamped up and spent most of my time at home.  When I packed my life up in Kamloops and moved to Vancouver in a hurry, I wasn’t moving down to a plethora of friends to call my own, let alone knowing many people in the city as it was.  There were people that I knew, but it wasn’t the same and I wasn’t particularly close with anyone at that point.  I had to find ways to do that, because I didn’t move to Vancouver to be a total loner.

I didn’t have a hard time meeting people once I was okay enough to leave my comfort zone and do things I maybe wouldn’t have done before (for example, going to large gatherings and interacting with tons of people I otherwise would have never met, that sort of thing).  It took work, but I did it, and these kinds of things got easier as time went on.  Suddenly my social group included a lot of people, for the first time in my life no less, and it was more than I knew how to handle.  It was all a little overwhelming — exciting, but overwhelming — but since I’d never had many friends up until this point, I decided to go with it. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So there I was: finally, in my late twenties, I had plenty of friends and an active social life. I spent more time out than at home and the odd night I did spend at home was weird.  Those nights in reminded me of all the nights I spent at home in Kamloops, doing nothing, because I had no friends and nowhere else to be.  I didn’t like those rare nights at home, in my new life in Vancouver, because of that.  I wanted to keep myself busy, and essentially make up for lost time, because I’d spent the first half of my twenties as a giant ball of anxiety and depression (sort of literally).

Things were great and I was happy, finally living the life I felt like I’d always deserved.  I started to feel like me and with that came confidence that I’d never had before.  People actually liked and wanted to spend time with me! It was (and still is) a tremendous feeling.

And then last Spring I was thrown under the bus and blamed for something I didn’t do; something I wasn’t even aware had even happened until well after the fact, but I’d seen and read terrible things people had said — people whom I thought were friends of mine —  without fully realising the things they were saying were about me.  I don’t want to divulge in what I was blamed for, because it’s neither here nor there. The point is, I was blamed for doing something atrocious and people believed it without batting an eye, without even asking me directly if I had in fact done it. Ouch. Don’t people have their own opinions anymore?

It’s terrifying when this sort of thing happens, for a variety of reasons: who all knew about this thing I had done-but-not-really-done, and who was going to believe it? I couldn’t bear the thought of losing friends who were close to me, the ones who really mattered, just in case they did believe I’d done this.  It rattled my confidence because for so long people liked me and I got along with virtually anyone who crossed my path. I didn’t want to lose that feeling.

By this point, the social group had stretched out quite a bit and there were social groups within the social group; there were new people in the group mixed in with the usual suspects I had known for years. Luckily for me, the people who really know me – whether they were an older friend or even a newer one – stood by and defended me.  They knew, without a doubt, that I’d never do anything like that and I’d never been more grateful to have people that I truly care about on my side.  I decided it was time to shut myself down and make some decisions, such as realising I didn’t — and don’t — have to be friends with everyone, which somewhat transitions into adapting a zero-tolerance policy for being treated poorly.  Don’t get me wrong, it was fun to have a rather large social group and tons of people to hang out with; after that, I realised it isn’t quite as nice to have a smaller group of people I can rely on, who have my back and vice versa.

… which brings me here, the entire reason I’m writing this.  Since then I’ve become less of a people pleaser and focused more on myself, what I value in my friendships, and what’s important to me. It probably sounds selfish, but I’m okay with that; I’m lucky to be confident enough in the close friendships I have and the people I surround myself with — present (and hopefully future friendships) — to be in this position.

Better late than never.

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Author: Jocelyn Aspa

early 30-something. journalist. sports fan. puns. cats. mental health advocate. not taking myself seriously (most of the time)

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