You can call it karma, I suppose. What one friend did to me wasn't quite the same as what I did to another friend, but I'm sure she's thinking that I got what was coming to me when I got dumped by someone I really liked.
I can't help but think that my tired, almost-37-year-old ass is way too old for this shit.
Several months ago, I had to dump a friend I'd grown a little too close to, Sharon*. This friendship was about two years old and born out of boredom, excess wine, and lots of drama. That probably wasn't the best foundation to build a relationship on, but it worked for a while. Then, things got toxic.
I have a hard time reading the red flags that people naturally have. Some folks wave them around like they just pledged allegiance to them while others tuck them so far away that you'd think they were hiding drugs from the TSA. When they finally pull out those red flags, it's too late. You are sucked into Best Friend Land, and you aren't getting out without a fight. (Well, that's been my experience at least.)
In this case, I got sucked into BFFland with Sharon and didn't set healthy boundaries in the beginning, before her red flags were revealed to me. This came to bite me in the ass when I started feeling like I couldn't breathe. Since I suck at said boundaries, I inevitably just put up a wall and shut her out. And so it was: I dumped a friend to protect myself. While I felt like I did what I needed to for my own sanity, I still have bouts of guilt for making the decisions that I did.
To make my guilt even worse, another friend officially ghosted me shortly after I ghosted Sharon. This other friend, Alex*, didn't just unfriend me on Facebook — she blocked and banned me from every single social media platform that we connected on, which was pretty much all of them because we are both in the business of online communications.
Why? I have no idea, but I feel like this shit is worse than high school. When I was a teen, we didn't have cell phones or social media, so when someone didn't want to be your friend, they would tell you, or one of their friends who knows one of your friends would tell you in a note. But hey, it's better than ghosting!
I met Alex right out of high school when we both participated in a religious program through an evangelical church. We weren't that close in the program, but we bumped back into each other thanks to the magic of Facebook about seven years ago. I was ecstatic to find out that she was also a writer and had her own blog. Writing has been my passion since I was young, but life happened and I didn't start pursuing it until I got older.
I was inspired by Alex to finally make a step into writing by starting my own blog. I felt like we had connected and developed a real friendship — albeit totally online, but I felt a connection. She definitely was more than an acquaintance. I actually did some work for her blog at one point, and I was always there to encourage her and cheer her on no matter what direction she decided to take.
I also really admired her as a writer and for surviving some of the shit she had been through. She showed a lot of grit and tenacity when expressing her recovery from spiritual abuse. Even when she changed course and decided to try something new, I congratulated her on her new venture just like any friend would. Was I pushy? Nope. I wasn't bothering her or liking every post. I wasn't that friend. I know what having an annoying Facebook friend is like.
So why would someone go through such great lengths to erase another person from their life?
It brought back the emotions I had when I dumped Sharon, but this time, I had a misplaced sense of empathy. I suddenly felt really bad for my ex-friend because what I did to her just happened to me, and it made me feel like shit. I cried on and off for a couple of days. I felt shameful because I might have done or said something to offend her, but I didn't know what.
Worst of all, I was riddled with guilt over hurting someone else.
I knew I didn't do anything directly to Alex unless, unbeknownst to me, I have another personality like Tyler Durden from Fight Club but where I black out and become an internet troll. But I think I would know about that by now if that were true. (Too bad — a hotter, sassier version of myself would be pretty awesome.)
I guess I'll never know what happened with Alex, but equating the two experiences is definitely lopsided. I realize now that the only person deserving of my empathy is myself. Sometimes you really do need to dump someone for your own sanity, but someone might do the same to you for the same reason. After I was plagued with guilt for a few days, worrying how I could have pissed her off, I realized that she might have shut me out for a reason that really has nothing to do with me.
I wish adult friendships didn't have to feel so much like high school, but sometimes there just isn't any getting around it. Some people fare better ending things in a "cut and run" fashion, while others are able to give an exact reason why the relationship can't go on any further. Either way, I respect Alex's decision to block me, and I also respect myself for making that same hard decision to cut off Sharon. A friendship should consist of mutual feelings; otherwise, it's just one person fangirling the other.