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Sometimes all it takes is one week of absence and anger to ruin a friendship that has been built up meticulously over a whole year. A group of friends I was in (still am sort of, kind of, I don't know what) were set to move out of a house, the week before the house moving everyone had party to say farewell to the home, and I was invited to the place.

A week later and three of the people at the house are no longer speaking with me, and barely speaking to each other. Nothing really bad happened at the party between us, I just had to leave early. Every day since there have been arguments, hassle, and stress, with people bossing each other around and it feels like everyone is being torn apart. Scratch that they are. The people in the house were all set to move into a new flat, but now two of them (a lovely couple, German) don't want to live with the rest. Another guy refuses to pay bills and is leaving the country in a few days, and there is a sense of darkness, despair and gloom about the place.

Sigh.

This leads me to think carefully about friendships in general. I mean a week ago these people were getting along so well, and now they can barely speak with each other, or me. I thought everyone cared for each other, and now I think that it was all, well, an illusion. People run scared from things when they get hard, a lot of what we know about each other now is surface detail, and the inner workings we give to each other happen only in areas we know that we can free ourselves of easily. I have done what I could to try and fix things, but I don't think I am ideally placed, and what strikes me most is that the sheer closedness of everyone to everyone else. Its as if they really don't care. And I am left thinking... how odd.

It's as if it was all about convenience, and show, not the heart.

Anyway, enough griping, time to node seriously. The case above outlines how easy it is to fool ourselves that our friends need us, and that we need them. Or even that we want them at any deep level in our lives. In the case above the only rational explanation I can think of currently is that people use each other, especially friends to define good impressions of themselves, and bask in the positive reflection. When that positive reflection is gone, then if a superficial attempt to fix things doesn't work, then simply forget them and move on to another mirror. After all, if this situation had occurred a few months ago, would people be quite so ready to let things continue? I don't think so, it would have been incovenient. Also what are the chances that everyone will start speaking with each other again after they move out? Limited, I think they will all want to make fresh starts. Is it in the nature of friendships to be transitory? Or do we need time to learn to develop them properly? Are they really real when push comes to shove and people have to reveal their true selves? Not themselves in exceptional situations, but in normal ones, like when they are irritated, or annoyed, or just angry, or just gone for a while. In these situations it feels like there is no friendship, just a flux of emotions.

The true test of friendship is distance with a side of illness and the occaisional flaring of emotions.

I left the first group of solid and caring friends I had 10 months ago due to illness and a disagreement with the university's administration. Less than twenty-four hours passed between the time I was informed (perhaps strongly suggested) that I should take a year's leave of abscence and the time I finished packing up my dorm room and left (Housing gives residents one day to get their stuff out and leave). In that time, two of my friends that found out first from me were able to get out the word. In less than six hours we (well, mostly them) emptied my room in an orderly fashion, took everything downstairs, hopped in a cab with my father and left for an indefinite and constantly growing time.

By the end of the day that I left, a few rumors had spread through the dorm (pop. ~80) that, 1), I had a terminal disease (partially true), and G-d knows what else. At that point I found out who really cared. People emailed and called. Three months later, people were still emailing and calling. Today, those two friends who found out first and mobilized as soon as they could remain in close contact, as do people with whom I cultivated a greater friendship after I left.

My friendships have even survived rightful anger. Due to infatuation and self-deceit, I deluded myself into believing that one of my friends really cared, when, in reality he just communicated and spent time with me when it was convenient for him. At one point he asked my friends how I was doing as if he had better things to do than call or email me to find out for himself. He constantly apologized for his lack of communication, but never tried to correct his behavior. Despite this, I spent much time with him during the one weekend I visited my friends a few months ago instead of being with the people who had put so much time into planning the amazing surprise party they held for me and who had been there for me since I had left.

A few months later, one of my friends was having a really bad day when she answered my email and let me know exactly how she and some of my other friends felt about my behavior that weekend and my blind feelings for him. His words hollowed out with time and my desire to make him a priority in my life, and therefore enable him to hurt me, waned. I decided that abusive relationships (there were more than hurtful words) had no place in the forefront of my life. It took my little sister, who had no idea how my friends felt, and a friend who was the object of an infatuated ex to make me realize the truth.

And you know what? All those people who stuck by me and became angry with me are still my loyal friends. Not only did they stand by me, but they completely disassociated themselves from him. I never asked them to do that. They did so as they saw the way in which he treated me and they slwoly lost respect for him as a peer and as someone who deserved the attention of a friend of theirs.

So there it is. Friends:

  • Don't give up;
  • Don't give in;
  • Love you as a family member and will do whatever it takes to keep you safe and sound, no matter where you are;
  • Stay close to you when you are thousands of miles away;
  • Stay close when you are five blocks away;

Discovering who is and who is not your friend is one of the more painful things we will go through in life. In a way, it is like putting an impure substance in a fire to burn off the impurities: The process is painful and the wounds will take time to heal, but you are much better off afterwards.

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