If being an adult has taught me anything, it is that people are temporary. Now that I am approaching the ripe old age of 27, this lesson has proven itself to be true time and time again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Life has a great way of forcing toxic people out of our lives even when we are trying to hold on to them with a vice grip. Life also has an uncanny way of getting rid of people who aren’t toxic, too. Things just happen. There are many reasons why we wish to hold on to certain people: genuine love, hope for better in the future, the unsettling feeling that you’ve failed to produce a thriving relationship, or you’re just too comfortable to enact change. It is normal to do anything to attenuate the threat of pain, and consciously cutting people off can hurt, even if you’re the one doing the cutting. Everyone can probably think of at least one circumstance where they held on to someone too long, and we all have surely experienced a time or two when matters out of our control snatched people away through death, illness, etc. One thing that has often helped me cope with the loss of people I’ve cared about is the realization that it is usually not personal. Your 20’s are a time of self-discovery. During this time you are trying to find your place in the world, your purpose, and what you want out of life. Our journeys are quite self-centered in nature, and not everyone is going to have a recurring role in our life stories. When I think back on those who have come and gone over the years, it typically wasn’t due to some big fall out or dramatic event. The rift was slow and progressive, and before I knew it, we hadn’t talked in a week. One week turned into two, two weeks into a couple of months and so on and so forth. Adulthood and its many demands can make maintaining non-familial relationships remarkably difficult, and it is not uncommon for friendships and romantic relationships to fizzle out right before your very eyes. I have found it much easier to accept the demise of a relationship when it was nothing more than life doing its thing, but it can be a harder pill to swallow when you are fully aware that your friendship or relationship is breaking down and you know you must rip off the band-aid and shut things down.
Signs: They’re Everywhere
I remember in 2nd or 3rd grade I desperately wanted to be friends with this pair of girls in my class. I never really had many friends all throughout school, usually just one or two good friends that I was always grateful for. My best friend from the previous year had moved away, so I was stuck without a partner in crime for most of the year. I wasn’t as outgoing as most of my classmates, but these girls’ desks were near mine, so I did put in some extra effort to be friendly with them. Most of my efforts were futile. They would talk to me here and there, but they often left me out when it was time to form groups and play at recess. When it was time to go home, they would sit together on the bus and would often come back to school Monday morning reminiscing about the fun they had during their weekend sleepover. Talk about feeling left out. I kept trying to fit in with them until a new girl came into our class, and we hit it off right away. Of course as children we don’t realize when it’s time to stop trying to force something, but many of us grow into adults and still try to force relationships with people when the universe is clearly trying to tell us to let it go. I am convinced it is the ego that causes us to fight losing battles with people who make it blatantly clear that our presence in their life is not crucial to their happiness. Instead of just realizing it is time to let them be and move on, we become me in 2nd grade, wearing out our welcome and hurting ourselves in the process. Why do we fight so hard to convince other people we are worthy? Why is acceptance of others such a vital part to our self-esteem? It all goes back to the ego. If you take a step back and look at the situation, you will see that it is not the person you are fighting to hold on to per-se, just what he/she represents. Their rejection of you is a blow to your ego, and you will do everything you can to prove to them that you are indeed worthy of their affections. If someone wants you to be a part of their life, there will be no ambiguity. You won’t feel as if you are forcing the relationship.
The universe often blesses us with obvious signs that certain people are not meant to be in our lives, but we long to be that one case that is the exception to the rule. If we were able to reform that toxic friend or salvage our dysfunctional relationship, all the doubters have been silenced. Instead of releasing ourselves of the mental anguish of trying to make someone play the role we’ve developed for them in our head, a lot of people torture themselves just to prove a point. If they’re not fighting to stay in your life, why are you hurting yourself trying to keep them there? It is vitally important to realize that many people we encounter are just here to teach us something, and when the lesson is learned, they move on and so should you. I have never been one to believe that those who walk into our lives do so aimlessly, but you must have the focus to see things for what they really are and not the way you want them to be. Sure, that is easier said than done. It is quite difficult to break away from someone before you are emotionally ready, but your future self will thank you for it, trust me.
Sometimes, you just outgrow people. Wives outgrow husbands, friends outgrow friends, etc. This happens frequently when you connect with people when you are both young. The things you had in common in the early stages often don’t stand the test of time, causing people to drift apart. I witnessed this happen with my parents. Over their 20+ years together, my mom became wiser, smarter and full of depth, while my dad pretty much remained the same guy he always was. My dad is a great man, but eventually they stopped connecting on more than a surface level. One of my favorite song lyrics is from Jhene Aiko’s “Spotless Mind” that goes “shame on me for changing, no, shame on you for staying the same.” Don’t allow your progress and growth to halt because those close to you are content with stagnation. The point of life is to evolve and grow into the best you possible, and many people show disdain for change because they want to keep you down on their level. When they can’t relate to you any longer, they may start to resent you. Fear often keeps peoples feet planted into the same spot, causing them to become nothing short of a wastrel. It is easy to have a plethora of things in common with people as children and very young adults. Public school and college often forces you to be together, and you are united by a common institution. Life is still being figured out, and it is fun navigating new territory with your peers. As you age, however, you realize that many people still maintain that childish mentality. When I get bored at work and peruse my Facebook newsfeed, I see the same things. Fully grown adults blaming everything but themselves for their failures, status updates of people continuously creating their own storms them complaining when it rains, sharing the same tired jokes from 2011 and Snapchat videos of them riding around to trap music and blowing weed smoke into the camera. Several of these people I used to call good friends. Today, I would bet my year’s salary that we have absolutely nothing in common. I try not to be too hard on them; we all have our own personal path to walk, however, I was not foolish enough to continue forcing friendships with people I no longer have anything in common with. I prefer to surround myself with like-minded people, people I can learn from.
Don’t Be a Revolving Door
One thing that has always been difficult for me is allowing people to re-enter my life when they do not deserve to. I have always admired that I am quite good at not taking things people do personally, but this is a gift and a curse. I’m sure you can figure out why. When people we care about hurt us, we tend to make excuses for them to diminish the severity of their behavior. I’m much less tolerant nowadays, though. Once I am done with a person, chances are that ship has sailed permanently and I have burned the bridge to smithereens. Most of us do have a soft spot for one person, but that’s a post for a different day. Anyway, my point is that your presence in someone’s life should not be something they take for granted. A lot of people are mistreated because the perpetrator knows that no matter what they do, you will let them back in. Being a person of convenience does not garner much respect, yet you would rather take the crumbs someone throws at you than require a full loaf of bread. The bare minimum should not be tolerated, especially if you are putting forth full effort. Why allow someone to come light up your life with a radiant luminosity, take it away at a moments notice, expect you to accept their excuses, then come back once their current quests have fallen short? It’s not fair, and people like that deserve to stay gone for good. No matter how starved you are for love and affection, it hurts much more to let someone walk all over you just for a short-lived bout of happiness. I had to learn this lesson the hard way, but the lesson was the best thing I got out of the situation. When I look back at all the people who have walked in and out of my life, there was always one common denominator: ME. I allowed them to return without any accountability of their actions. I failed to communicate my issues with them. I allowed myself to be treated in a way I did not deserve. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness. Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a perfect world where everyone was kind and treated one another the way we wanted to be treated? It would be divine, but it’s not reality and never will be. The sooner you accept that people come and go, the easier your life will be. Let those who no longer fit into your narrative go on their way.