A few years ago, a good friend of mine went overseas for a few months. I’m notoriously terrible at staying in touch with people when they move countries – I’m not a FaceTime person, I hate talking on the phone and while I’ll happily stay on top of their social media posts, liking and commenting on everything, if they’re not very active online, we usually end up drifting apart.
With this particular friend, I thought the drift would be a temporary one. We were pretty close and had been for years, and even at the best of times, we weren’t the kind of friends who kept in touch all the time. We’d hang out maybe fortnightly and text sporadically. So when she returned from her time away, I figured things would go back to how they were.
I was wrong.
Within weeks of her return, I’d reached out. “You’re back!” I texted casually. “Want to get brunch asap?”
I didn’t get a reply. I tried again a few days later. “Catch up soon? I’m so glad you’re back!”
I’m aware that I probably sound like a terrible friend here. I’d basically disappeared from this person’s life for months and now I wanted to just hang out like nothing had changed. But for me, it hadn’t. It’s not like I ghosted her while she was overseas; I just suck at maintaining contact with odd timezones and awkward FaceTimes. I barely even call my own boyfriend when I travel without him!
I can understand why she might be pissed that I was just leaping back into her life. But was that grounds for ending the friendship? Then, she got back to me.
“Sounds good!” she said. No date planned. “How about Saturday?” I offered. She couldn’t do Saturday but didn’t offer a new option. “Ah ok, what about Sunday in 2 weeks?” That she could do. Except then, a week later, she cancelled. Again – no alternative options.
This time, I left the ball in her court. I’d been through enough romantic breakups to know that if they want to see you, they’ll make an effort. She didn’t, and our friendship fizzled out completely.
It’s been a long time since then, but I still think of this friend often. I really missed our friendship but so much time had passed, I didn’t really feel like there was a reason to reach out.
Then, as luck would have it, I came across her name. While travelling, I came across a magazine this friend writes for occasionally. I flicked through the pages and started reading an excellent article. I checked the byline and it turned out to be her piece. “This story is so well written, pal,” I texted her, attaching a screenshot of a paragraph I loved. “Hope you’re doing well xx.”
She read it almost instantly and I saw the typing bubble pop up. I was so anxious, it felt like I’d texted a toxic ex, with that feeling of immediate regret afterwards. (Not that my friend was toxic; it was just the same gut-drop of “Oh no, what can of worms have I opened up?") I was worried about her response and whether I could handle it.
To say that her response was anticlimactic is an understatement. “Thank you!” she texted, adding that she’s always surprised when people read her work (same, lol). She then said she was doing well, and that she hoped I was the same. It was all very finite – amicable, but a door that felt firmly closed.
I could have pushed harder, asked if she wanted to catch up after all these years. But as I read her response, feeling slightly humiliated, I knew that this road had reached a dead end. For whatever reason, she didn’t feel a need for me in her life anymore, and as much as I firmly believe that if you want something, you should go after it actively – I don’t think that applies to friendships when you’ve pursued one with no response multiple times.
If she wanted to see me, she had an opening. The fact that she didn’t continue the conversation was my answer. I don’t think this makes her a bad person – I wasn’t a great friend to her before, and even if I was, she has no obligation to let me into her life again. I think it just shows a friendship that’s run its course.
But of course, despite knowing this, it hurt. Just like when I went through that first friendship fizzle, my stomach sank and I felt small. She would never have intended that, but the expectations I’d put on this text message had not been realised, and I was left with the raw vulnerability of rejection once again.
We often look back on failed relationships with wistful, nostalgia-tinted glasses. We remember all the good times like they'll never come again – or worse, we fail to see all the good times we’re having right now, maybe with a different set of people.
I'm lucky to have wonderful friends. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss this lost friendship, but it does mean that I should look at what I have, not at what I don’t. I wouldn’t say I regret reaching out to this person, but I also don’t think I needed to. I think the emotional punch it delivered was something I could have done without, and if I was in a more fragile state of mind, it would have really broken me. Why do that to yourself?
Yes, being the bigger person is great. Being vulnerable is something we tend to avoid in this modern age, when really we should lean into it a bit more. But vulnerability and making the first move are still risky activities, even for the strongest among us. We have to exercise a little caution, because taking the leap and falling is not exactly a self-esteem building experience.
If you’re missing a friend you've lost touch with and are thinking about reconnecting, I support you. I just think you should first acknowledge the wonderful people around you who love you, who want to be around you, and also consider whether you’ve exhausted your attempts at rekindling this friendship. I know it's not easy but sometimes, we just have to let people go.