Friendship surviving the transition from childhood to adulthood

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    I have been fortunate to have become very close friends with a person who is truly wonderful. We share many of the same interests, she is thoughtful and considerate towards others and has been my anchor, my rock through the very difficult times I’ve faced recently and although I feel I am lacking in many ways I try to support her as much as possible. However there is one problem I have been unable to offer her help through and in many ways I fear it has and will continue to take a toll on our friendship.

    A little while back she was engaged to marry someone from a very affluent and traditional family who insisted on her going to university if she married their son. My friend is highly intelligent but she has a good deal of self-awareness towards the fact that university is not an environment where she would feel happy or succeed in. Even so, she loved him and wanted to please his family so she had begun to make plans to go to university, even if it was against her better judgement. Unfortunately their relationship did not work out (for very different reasons I must stress, wholly on his part – which she is fully aware of) and she was very broken after it ended. Being the introspective person she is, she blamed herself for not being able to live up to the standards that his family imposed on her to the point that she almost ended up forcing herself into university following the break up, as if to prove herself, but eventually realised she could not put herself though it. I praised her highly for her choice as I truly believe that she is fortunate to be more than skilled enough to succeed in her field without formal tuition, something which I try to remind her of constantly. Understandably, she still has not fully recovered emotionally but her frustration has begun to morphed into a hatred of universities and most worryingly she reacts in a very self-defensive and threatened manner around people who do decide to go on to higher education. Herein lies the problems, as I myself am in university.

    We both experienced similar problems in school growing up and I more than understand her reasoning for not wanting to pursue a degree as very similar issues affect me daily. However, unlike her, the field I hope to get in to is not one that I could enter without training (law), and more importantly I truly believe it is a path I want to follow and I have struggled a good deal with my emotional setbacks to gain my place at my university. Unfortunately of us both me gaining a place at university and the aftermath of her breakup happened to coincide, and at that point I was aware that one of us would need to take a slight step backwards in order to not hurt the other. Naturally I believed I was the one in a stronger emotional position so I listened to and accepted her negative thoughts. However I made the mistake of allowing her negativity to escalate to the point that I began to internalise and even agree with them. She believed that there is an arrogance to many graduate and an air of self-importance, I began to fear turning into this stereotype in her eyes. It’s only now, looking back that I realise how much it took a toll on my confidence. Whilst feeling highly inadequate in comparison to others on my course I also felt ashamed at any small feeling of pride or success I’d have as I pictured turning into the stereotype of a self-obsessed law student and jeopardising my friendship and everything I believed in. This, coupled with my anxiety disorder and severe depression has led me into perhaps the lowest point of my life, one which I’m only now beginning to come out of. I feel so ashamed for allowing myself to indulge in my negative thoughts to the extent that my only options at this point is to resit my first year.

    I berate myself for still being in a very childish stage of friendship where I relied on her emotionally where I should have take responsibility for my own emotions and decisions. Even more so, I feel incredibly ashamed that I cannot shake my anger towards my friend, who is absolutely wonderful in so many other ways, for becoming victim to this insecurity fuelled hatred. Her insecurity has taken it’s toll on her friendship with another person, a very dear mutual friend, who is far more driven and ambitious than I am, and I believe this threatens her greatly – to the point that she refuses to allow her to even meet her new boyfriends for fear of being compared as she was in her previous relationship. Also very recently another close mutual friend confided to us that she intended to apply for university as she, like many other young people, has been struggling to find full-time work. My friend was adamant that she should not even consider university since it was not what she really wanted. This concerned me so much, not necessarily because of what she said but that I believe her reasoning was more to do with the fact that she did not want another friend <i>making her look bad<i> than a genuine consideration of our friend’s needs and concerns. It horrifies me to think that my kind and beautiful friend would talk someone into staying unemployed to avoid taking any further blows to her self esteem. It also makes me question the things she’s said to me whilst I have been at my most vulnerable, I feel awful to now distrust her so much because I do love her from the bottom of my heart.

    Perhaps it is childish and unrealistic to expect my friendships to all remain as they were whilst we were teenagers now that we are all moving in to our twenties. I’ve allowed myself to indulge in my depression to the extent that it has made me think in a very selfish way. My first thought is to distance myself from her, at least until I find the strength and focus to pursue my own goals, so I can be there to support her without blaming her for my own failings. At the same time I feel a great deal of responsibility for allowing this darkness to open up inside of her and I do not wish to become the kind of person who abandons their friends for the sake of my future career.

    I would be truly grateful for any input anyone could give me regarding this situation. I am still recovering from my recent bout of depression, so I do not fully trust my way of thinking to not be reactionary and I do at least partially believe that a part of me is using her as a scapegoat for my own failings, perhaps this may be more obvious from an external perspective. How does a friendship endure this passing of childhood into adulthood without succumbing to petty competitiveness? I’d be very interesting in hearing any stories others have to share of friendship that did or did not survive the transit through different phases of maturity.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this all,



    Hi Alexa,

    I am so sorry you are going through a difficult time with your friend, whom you love so much. I know exactly how you feel, as I’ve gone through something similar with one of my very best friends whom I also loved dearly. We met as teenagers and we were each other’s rock for many years. We relied on each other for emotional support and went through a lot of tough times together. We thought we’d be friends forever, but, after 18 years of friendship, in the end, we did not survive the transition to adulthood. In my late twenties, I moved away to another state and got married, and I believe that was when things really started to change and we were forced to learn to live without each other and grow up. For a variety of reasons, it got pretty nasty between us. To lose her felt scary for me and as if I was losing a limb. But, it’s been 3 years, and I feel so much better about myself and my life than ever before. I can stand on my own two feet. I don’t need her anymore. I don’t feel responsible for her anymore. I think that your friend is angry and bitter, and she is unfairly taking that out on you. She should be happy for you, that you are doing what you want, and need to do, in your own life, by going to university. She should be supportive of your choices, as your friend, and she is not. I think that you are right that you should distance yourself from her, so that you can pursue your goals. You are not abandoning her. I know how you feel about this, as I felt like I was abandoning my friend by moving away to start my new life too. It sounds like this has become an unhealthy friendship for you. You are depressed over it. You need to move on, at least for awhile. Be ready for it to hurt. Be ready for your friend to be angry. Just know that in the end, you are doing what is best for you. This is not selfish. You have to live your life for you and not for anyone else. You’ll be so much happier in the end, by getting away from this friendship. I just know it! 🙂 Good luck!

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