Letting go of a toxic friendship

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Letting go of a toxic friendship

It was 8 years in the making.

When we met in high school, the world was different – we were different. Naive, young, and filled with ambition. We were unlike any of the others. We both knew what we wanted, how we wanted it, and how we would get it. In many ways, it seemed like a perfect match. Despite the obvious differences we shared, I always felt we were far more similar than we were dissimilar.

It was a unique friendship. Somehow, our interests intersected in a way I’d yet to find in another person. We shared a passion for righteous human interests and the protection of those less fortunate. But, our creative minds were just as keen, just as cunning. It wouldn’t be long before we fell into a rhythm. Our friendship would be dictated by those things that made us different. It was never about being together because we liked one another, each finding a kindred spirit in the other. It was always about how you easily and effortlessly stuck to the rules that held you, unconcerned with how those guidelines kept our friendship from ever growing as mature as we had become.

In university, we both hit a stride. You excelled at every class you took and I watched, struck by your sheer grit and determination, as you took on twice as much work as I did. It was okay though, because we’d both find our dreams. In a lot of ways, we pushed each other. Seeing your grades climb, the admiration you earned from professors, made me want to work hard – to be better.

“I don’t agree with homosexuality, but I tolerate it.”

Letting go of a toxic friendship

That day on the bus – a cold day in our city – was the first nail in the coffin of our friendship. I hadn’t come out to you or anyone, but I very much knew who I was. I was seeking solidarity in my friend. I’d struck up a conversation with you on the subject of homosexuality, praying, believing, I’d find some comfort in the words of my friend. Unfortunately, the thing I heard was far from what I’d anticipated. The words slithered from your lips, twisting your appearance into someone I didn’t recognize.

Looking back, maybe your beliefs in the matter weren’t all that surprising. Still, I hoped for something more. Still, I continued to be your friend.

We entered the final year of our education, both struggling with our next steps. My interests had changed drastically from when I’d started my post-secondary education. You seemed as determined as ever to get what you had wanted all along. It was okay because those exact qualities you possessed – the ones that drove you to be better – they inspired me and they lit a fire under me. Too bad for me because your ambition, your hidden selfishness to think about yourself and your rules before the friendship we’d spent eight years building, is what finally tore down the castle walls.

The feeling of separation had lingered with me for a while. I’d heard from family and other friends that I had sunk myself into a toxic friendship. Like a virus, it was eating at me. It became clear, though perhaps too late, that the best way to deal with the toxicity was to snuff it out.

Still, I held onto what little respect I had for you, out of a dwindling respect for our friendship and all we’d been through. Unfortunately for me, I think I held on a little too long. There’s no point in gripping a life raft if the waves are crashing over your head. One way or another, you’re still going to drown.

And that’s exactly what happened. I was drowning. Quickly, my irritation with you spiralled into anger, until one day you did exactly what I’d been waiting for you to do. You became the kind of person we’d always laughed about being – joked, childishly and not-so-seriously, about becoming. You put yourself, your ambition, and your security over the ability to help a friend. You didn’t offer a solution or insist on helping and then ultimately failing. Instead, you simply didn’t try.

In the years to follow, and up until recently, I’d have dreams about our friendship. My subconscious seemed to be trying to tell me that the way I cut you out – immediately, completely, and permanently – was the wrong move. I’d waste minutes wondering if those dreams were based on regret, or simply a realization that what I’d done had been for the best, despite the way I’d gone about it.

It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.

In the end, the way I finally broke us apart showed me that a life with poison in it isn’t a life worth living and that has helped me avoid anyone else like you.

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