On friendship (p. ii)

There are some things that I inevitably have to learn the hard way. Friendship is a tired door always moving and I am the hinges which is to say I am always at a point opening and closing. Too prideful to move, too stubborn to accept anything less than extraordinary, transformative, move-me-to-tears kind of friendship. Zora Neale Hurston said “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I suppose if there’s anything 2020 is teaching me, it’s that there are never enough questions, never enough answers, never enough belonging in the lives of people who have meant the most to me for so many years. I’m tired, y’all. Perhaps we all are. Always waking before our alarms and traipsing our way through our days, going through the motions. Through this, the one thing I’ve wanted to rely on has been in question: friendship. True, authentic, inspiring, hopeful friendship. The get-on-a-plane kind of friendship. The friendship that we never questioned. The friendship we always did.

I’m hoping to stay open long enough for you to see my heart in all of this. The other thing 2020 is teaching me is that life is too short, too precious, too easily altered in a second’s time to not be surrounded by people who are excited to see you, to hear from you. Too short to not want to talk about big things with the people who are supposed to be folks that you can talk about anything with. Too precious to not sit on the floor and cry tears of joy, tears of pain, tears of wonder with. Too short to wear a (figurative) mask around people who are willing to show up for us, letting them bare it all without ever giving them an inch.

Life is too short to sit inside of longing for friendships that will never be what you want them to be. Too short to dwell in that discord for so long that it takes you away from others. I asked someone I trust recently if I have high standards when it comes to the relationships of my life. Without hesitation, they said that it isn’t too high of a standard to want the people you love to love you back, to at least attempt to mirror the effort in their own way. I suppose this is what love looks like to me.

There’s no manual on any of this. No real way to mourn the friendships that I’ve outgrown without feeling it all. No easy way to tell someone that they aren’t showing up for you in the ways you need them to.

I once wrote about friendship–true, authentic, unconditional friendship–in a way that described each person as one of the loves of my life. What I meant was that there are people that we will meet who feel familiar, like a soul’s warm bath. We see them, and they, us, in new light each time we come together. What I meant was that our friends are those that we are connected to despite hope, despite despair, and we are undoubtedly meant for one each other, even if only for a little while.

What I meant was that these are people who rise to the occasion, meeting you where you’re at, even if that’s a thousand miles away. These are the people who are going to be relentless in the pursuit of your heart because they know how much that matters in a fragile, heartbreaking world. They are the people who make you feel beautiful when you feel the farthest from it, to help you as you grieve the loss of all the versions of yourself that you wished were still here.

That is to say: we change. Sometimes that change is without others. Sometimes that’s a necessary part of this life. Not everyone was meant to stay. Some come as questions, some as answers.

This is an open letter of me letting go of the people who are no longer willing to meet me where I’m at. I don’t want to take steps in a world where I’m surrounded by people who are committed to misunderstanding me. I no longer wish to keep the company of people who aren’t willing to be a soft place to land. No longer hoping to hustle for people who never reach out. No longer subjecting myself to lazy friendship.

It’s worth noting: I am imperfect in my pursuit of joy in every corner. I fail to show up. I miss the mark I set for myself time and time again for the friendships that matter. I will fall short for every love of my life. The difference, though, is that good friends know how to get back up, to keep fighting for the hearts involved, to insist on ways to be better for others. When that’s lost, so, too, is the essential part of thriving.

This is the part of life nobody ever tells you about. Letting go the people who you love deeply. It hurts like hell. But I’ll take all that hurt and carry peace knowing that I’m staying as true to myself as I can be, and I’ll rest—finally—by laying down this mask of mine, opening up, letting the flowers bloom again.

Published by Robbie Williford

Writer from Flint, Michigan. Partial but slowly becoming. Educator. Storyteller. Bashful. Paying attention to the quiet.

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