Recently a friend told me that she realised, upon exiting a friendship group, that she didn’t like who she was when she was with them.
And as she told me about this I immediately recognised someone who was having pieces cut off them to fit a shape. An expectation. A way in which other people wanted them to exist amongst them.
Back in 2013, around a year after I left high school, I started to notice that I was different when I was hanging out with my school group. I had spent a great deal of that year working in the racing industry and my time in that yard had developed my personality. I was louder, more opinionated and frankly more fun. I took risks, I was dangerous but I lived. When I returned to the company of this group, I fell back into my demure role as ‘hanger-on’. I didn’t fit into any of the cliques, I wasn’t an essential member. I was quiet and passive again. The role they wanted me to play.
This part no longer fit me, of course. I noticed it so starkly one night that I messaged another friend to tell him just that. Because I had realised suddenly that I had outgrown this group.
Initially this truth was uncomfortable. These people were my friends and I didn’t know how to handle the moment. I wasn’t sure who I would be without them and I dealt with a great deal of anxiety about spreading my wings. But it didn’t take me long to realise that not only did other people feel the same way, it was an essential part of growing up.
Things change. In meditating I’ve practiced noticing how my thoughts change and do so frequently, flitting from topic to topic. Feelings too change, when one ends another simply begins. They even co-exist and do so varyingly and never in the same ways. It now seems so obvious that relationships change. Of course they change, the people in them grow. I had experienced personal development that took me away from my ‘school days’ safety net and that was just being human. A perfectly reasonable and average human.
To have stayed in this group was to allow them to cut essential pieces off me. School was not a happy time for me and in stepping into a new world, I had developed aspects of myself that I enjoyed. I enjoyed being loud and proud. I enjoyed partying. I enjoyed me. I didn’t like any of those things back then. But they were a huge part of me now.
I have seamlessly grown into and grown out of relationships in the three years since that first moment. These things come and go and shouldn’t be forced. Just as we shouldn’t be forced to fit a role.
All the pieces we are made up of are uniquely us. We can’t ever be happy in a relationship that demands we lose them. And we work far too hard on ourselves to allow that.