Best friends are one of life’s greatest joys. A best friend is the person you get to choose to let in your life, the person you tell your darkest secrets to, the person who will lift you up when you’re falling. But what happens when you realize the person you thought was your best friend never was? What do you do when you find out they never thought of you the way you thought of them? What do you do when your best friend wants you to fail? What then?
DISCLAIMER: all names in this story have been changed.
Charlie and I had been best friends since sometime in middle school. We were always doing everything together, practically attached at the hip. If you ran into one of us out in public, you ran into us both. We saw each other daily, even when school wasn’t in session. We vacationed together more than once. Life was great.
And then I started to pay attention to how I felt when I was around Charlie. The first time I really noticed it, it literally took my breath away. I had just recently grown close to a group of people from Twitter and I think Charlie felt left out. Maybe a little bit jealous. Fair enough, right? I started trying to include Charlie more in that part of my life, and it seemed like it was working. Charlie seemed better.
Things really started going downhill my second year of college. I finally knew what I wanted to do, I was discovering myself in ways I never had, I was coming out of my shell. But Charlie wasn’t doing any of that. In fact, Charlie started responding to my excitement with what I now know was contempt. Charlie acted like none of it mattered. All of the things I was learning about myself, everything I got excited about, everything I accomplished… nothing. Charlie wasn’t happy for me. There was no cheering me on. There was only silence. Indifference.
There was one time in particular when I had just come home from a trip where I got to meet some pretty cool people and do some pretty cool things. I picked Charlie up and I drove around and talked about everything that happened. I remember how happy I was. I was vibrating with excitement for my future. For the steps I had taken to make that future tangible.
And Charlie just didn’t care. I fought back tears for a while, through dinner, and then when Charlie left my car, I parked in an empty parking lot and cried. More like sobbed. Loudly. I was mourning a friendship that I knew I was about to lose.
All of those years, I had made Charlie up.
That is a terrifying thing to realize. The person I thought was my best friend never existed. Charlie was just a vessel for the person in my head. I turned Charlie into someone they never were. And someone they probably never will be.
There were warning signs that I ignored, sure. I was always the one who initiated things. Any road trip we took was my idea. Any concert we went to was my idea. Any meal we shared was my idea. It isn’t that I never gave Charlie opportunities to choose, in fact, I would often ask Charlie to decide on something. And they NEVER DID. That was one warning sign. A best friend will seek you out just as often as you seek them out.
Another one that I pretended didn’t exist was the fact that Charlie decided it was okay to talk to our mutual friend Sam about how annoying I was for being so excited all the time. How do I know that? Sam told me and I trust Sam with my life. That feeling I’d had in the back of my head, the one where I though maybe Charlie wanted me to fail, got louder and louder.
I gave it about a month. I let a month go by without contacting Charlie just to see what would happen.
Do you want to guess?
Charlie never contacted me, either. Not for anything. That’s when I really knew it was over. Not even over, so much as never existed in the first place. There was never a fight, I never confronted Charlie about this, nothing. I didn’t ghost them either, we still see each other from time to time. Charlie just doesn’t care that our “friendship” isn’t there anymore.
Once I got over the shock, I realized that I didn’t need Charlie. Why would I want someone that toxic in my life? I had an amazing group of friends from Twitter who supported me every single day. I had Sam who is the type of friend I hope every person has. I was fine.
I am fine.
But the whole point of this is that it’s totally normal for you to remove people from your life. Pay attention to how people respond to your wins and your losses. A real friend will cheer you on, they’ll celebrate with you, they’ll tell you what you really need to hear, even if it’s not what you want to hear. A real friend wants you to be the best version of yourself you can be, and they will do everything they can to help you get there. Don’t settle for someone who holds you back. Don’t settle for someone just because you’ve been friends with them since middle school.
The Charlie I made up in my head wasn’t the Charlie that existed in real life. But Sam? The friends from Twitter? They’re real. And I know they’re going to be cheering me on for years to come.
They’re my tribe.
I hope you have yours.