Monday, July 26, 2010

faltering friendship.

Change is difficult, both to experience and accept. I believe it’s even harder when it’s a person who’s changing, something I've been struggling with in regards to my cousin. I usually talk about it in a forgiving way, where I defend her and hope that she’s just going through a phase. Recently, however, I’ve learned that I’m only hurting myself by continuously making excuses for her.

It all started just before her senior year of high school - in the summer of 2008 - which is when I could feel a significant shift in our friendship. It stopped moving and stopped growing – gone were the days when we spent hours together, baking brownies and having mock photo shoots in her back yard.

Instead, any time we had together was spent silently watching TV while she texted friends, which I tried to brush off despite finding it rude. I let a lot of things slide – I wanted to pretend things were okay, that our friendship wasn’t morphing back to being ‘just cousins.’ She would treat our time together like an inconvenience, both in the planning stages and while we actually hung out. Getting her to pin down a time to hang out was difficult and, once I did, I felt as though she really didn’t care to be there. Of course, there were exceptions – the occasional fun car ride around her town or visit to her shore house – but for the most part, our time together was awkward and forced.

I quickly made my way to the bottom of her priority list as time spent with her friends became more appealing. It was clear she found my company boring, something she once actually said to me via an anonymous ‘truth box’ on Myspace (yes, I know, Myspace is breeding ground for drama, which is why I deleted it soon after). I remember receiving the message and being so taken aback and hurt that she would ever outright insult me like that. It should’ve been the breaking point, but I continued to defend her actions in my mind.

Still, for a short while after that, our friendship was visibly fractured. We only saw each other at family events, at which point we barely said two words to each other. I saw her mother (with whom I have a separate relationship) more often than I saw her; she would walk in the kitchen to say hi before going out with her friends, even as I sat there helping plan her graduation party.

Last summer, I chose to confront her about everything in a series of Facebook messages, because I'm a coward and am terrible with face-to-face confrontation. Her first reaction was to be extremely defensive, claiming that she wasn't to blame for any of the issues I had listed. After a few replies back and forth, she eventually showed compassion and agreed that we were drifting because we were at two completely different points in life. She said that we just needed to give it time and that hopefully, in the future, things would settle back into place.

We eventually recovered from all the drama, but things haven’t been the same. I see her once every couple of months and we put on a good show both for the family and for ourselves, acting like we’re still as close as we once were. We exchange heartfelt picture collages and graduation speeches, though it mostly feels like we’re playing pretend. It’s emotionally exhausting to act like we’re still close when we’re not. My texts still go unanswered most of the time and there is literally no effort on her part to see me. The only communication I get that originates with her is an occasional enthusiastic Facebook comment about how much she misses me.

The hardest part of it has been that we were once similar people with similar interests. We were best friends, relying on each other and expecting our friendship to be there when all others failed. When she was still a sophomore in high school, she experienced a falling out with friends and explicitly said that she was glad she could always count on me. I expected us to remain close for the rest of our lives, being in each others' wedding parties and spending holidays together with our families. I thought she had those same expectations; now I'm not so sure.

Her life has morphed into something different than what it used to be – which isn’t in itself a bad thing. Whether I like it or not, though, she’s changed. Obviously she still retains some of her old self, which is the part I can connect with when we have our good moments, but there is too much newness to which she thinks I can’t relate. The most unfortunate part of it all is that she’s let the change in her life affect our relationship for the worse, seemingly without any regret or concern.

Sometimes I wonder why this shakes me up so much, why I defended her for so long and tried to make everything seem okay. It comes down to this: until college I never had many solid friendships, and my biggest fear is that any friendship I have is going to dissolve. Essentially, she perpetuated that fear. But it’s not just that she walked away from me as a friend, or that she changed, or even that she doesn't seem to care that our friendship is falling apart; it’s that, in my mind, she was the one person who was never going to do that to me. Our friendship bordered on sisterhood – I may expect friendships to fall apart, but not a bond between almost-sisters.

To have your ‘sure thing’ turn around and not be as sure as you expected is earth-shattering, which is why I still struggle to accept that things might never be the same. There will always be a part of me who hopes she just needs to grow up and that, in a few years, we’ll be laughing about all of this. I really hope that part of me is right.