Letting Someone Go
Wordsmith prompt #6: Write about a time you walked away from a person.
We often hear the advice, “You are who you spend your time with,” or something like, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Instagram posts or spouts of wisdom like this often advocate that we eliminate or cut out toxic people from our lives; but unless you have actually had to do this, you have no idea how complicated and emotionally scarring this process can truly be.
What it asks of you is astounding: 1) Confirm that your relationship with this person is doing more harm than good.
2) Cut off ties with this person so their toxicity stops weighing you down.
Hmm. Two steps seems doable, but there’s no guideline or proper training on how to do this as gracefully and effectively as possible. Hearts are bound to be broken.
I had a friend (we will call her Paulina) with whom I hit it off immediately. We had ridiculous fun in the beginning of our relationship. After a while, I noticed that things went awry whenever I would bring up optimism, self-development, the beauty of life, or otherwise pursue any sort of deep intellectual discussion (i.e. the things which are most important to who I am as a person). What I was hoping would be playful and mindful conversation turned into heated disagreements. I was progressively understanding that we had severely conflicting values.
Eventually, things got to the point where I was not enjoying occasions which involved drinking or group settings with Paulina. Slowly, I began to feel mentally and emotionally drained; as if I had to censor or alter myself to make sure she would not erupt or shut down.
Dumbing down who you truly are is exhausting.
One day, I put the pieces together and reluctantly came to the conclusion that constant connection with Paulina was making my life harder; not boosting me up to be better. What the hell do I do, just stop talking to her? Do I sit her down and level with her?
I simply halted all attempts to go out of my way to spend time with her. If it happened organically, then so be it; but I would not willingly play into my own unhappiness. It became clearer and clearer to her that I was no longer interested in reaching out or spending quality time. I did not feel graceful or good about it at all, and still doubt whether I did it the “right” way or not. It felt like a zero-sum game: for one to win, the other must lose.
One thing was certain though: my mental health improved tremendously. At the end of the day, that’s the point of something like this.
Paulina knows that I will always love and respect her, and if she ever needs anything that I am here for her to reach out. However, being best friends with someone with violently opposing values is a recipe for an unstable and exhausting time.
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