John

We met our Freshman year, in math class as I recall. We got along really well for a while. We were in the same friend group, had a lot of the same classes (drama included), and were interested in some of the same things. Over the course of the school year, however, things changed. He got distant and ignored me when I spoke. If he asked a question and I answered, he would ask the question again until someone else answered. He ran into me (literally) in the hallway once and didn't say anything. Soon, it became clear that our friendship was coming to an fast end. 

To protect the privacy of those involved, let's call him John Doe. Like I said, John and I were both in drama and had a lot of the same friends. So when it was seemingly revealed that we weren't getting along, the rest of our friends were confused. In talking to a few of them, I learned that John was angry with me, but I couldn't place what I had done. I spent days wondering what on earth had happened to make him treat me differently. Eventually, we talked and everything seemed okay again, until the next couple weeks went by and he, again, wasn't talking to me. I wondered what I had done, what I could do to change things, and blamed myself for how I was being treated. This cycle continued for the remainder of our Freshman year.  By the end of the school year, I'd given up hope of reconciliation. 

Our Sophomore year, everyone in the school went on a weekend retreat, and while on a night hike to see stars, John and I talked and our friendship seemed to resume- for real this time. The next few months were relatively normal, until around October or November (I honestly can't remember anymore). This next part of the story is where I start to look bad, and I was definitely at fault this time. One afternoon after school when we were waiting to be picked up, he mentioned to me that he was starting to like one of our mutual friends. He told me not to tell anyone, and I said I wouldn't. He then said I couldn't even tell my mom, and I said I wouldn't. I have a feeling you can guess what I did when my mom got me and we drove home. 

I also told our mutual friend, and when John found out he, with good reason, got distant once again, from me and her. I apologized, we talked it over, and everything seemed to be okay with us and also with him and the other girl. Soon after this, however, things got worse. He ran (literally... again) into me in the hallway and didn't say anything, he told his friends (that I didn't know very well) things about me that weren't true, and continued to do the things he'd done in the past. It got to the point where a mutual friend of ours actually came up to me and told me that John had told her he was angry with me and didn't ever want to speak to me again. Since I had apologized for messing up four months before and we'd talked it over already, I assumed it was something different. As it turned out, he was still upset about me telling his secret.

My best example for how toxic this friendship was is the time when he told me he was switching schools. This made me think about how I didn't want him leave with us not getting along, and I tried extra hard to be nice to him. As it turned out, he wasn't moving, and when I found out that he'd lied, he broke down into tears and started telling a story about his childhood to explain his behavior. I must admit, this made me angry. I felt manipulated, and I had no idea why the brunt of his rollercoaster behavior was directed towards me. The rumors continued to be spread, John continued to ignore me, and it all got to the point where my mom suggested that I talk to one of my favorite teachers so she was aware of the situation. 

When I went to my teacher to tell her what was happening, her response was "Do you think maybe he likes you?" I swallowed my comments of "why is that the thing to focus on?" and "even if he did, that doesn't excuse his behavior," and simply followed with "No, I don't." Nothing really came from that conversation, in fact I don't think my teacher was paying that much attention anyway. Nothing changed with John by the end of my Sophomore year, and when I moved away I learned that things had actually escalated, even with me being 120 miles away. 

In this friendship, I did mess up. I take complete ownership of that just as much now as I did two years ago. But that slip up that I made still does not excuse the way I was treated before and after. I would go to school with a knot in my stomach because I was worried about which John I would be greeted with- the John I was friends with or the John who, quite frankly, hated me. I haven't told many of our mutual friends this before, but the way I was treated truly did affect me, even after I moved. I would play it off like it was nothing. Like I was totally okay and he could think of me however he wanted because, hey, I wasn't there anymore so why should it matter? But the truth is, knowing that there is someone out there who doesn't like you for reasons that you still aren't totally sure about is difficult. 

I need to make myself clear about something: I do not share this story to throw blame at someone or make it seem like I do everything right, but rather to show that my friendship with John wasn't really a friendship. We had those few good moments, but real friendships don't revolve around one person feeling angry one day and the other worrying that she's never going to make it up or live it down. Real friendships are a give and take. Real friendships include owning up to your mistakes, forgiveness, and trust that after having the hard conversation you won't be thrown under the bus every time you hit a bump in the road. Since moving, I have collected many real friendships. Friendships that don't make feel like I'm constantly walking on eggshells or that I have to apologize for an imagined offense. 

There is a big difference between a friendship that involves a disagreement and ends in a constructive conversation and a friendship that is flat out toxic. My friendship with John was toxic, and it has taken me a while to realize that. This does not mean that he is a toxic person, but rather that he was not a person that I should be friends with. Sometimes people aren't meant to be friends forever, and that's okay. Sometimes friendships go south and there really isn't anything you can do about it. Sometimes you can do all you can to fix something that you've broken, but you can only do so much before giving the other person the chance to accept your apologies, solutions, and even your humanity. And if that person chooses not to accept, then you have to be able to let go.