No longer the best

Friends are so important. They help you through difficult times and they are there for you. Well, if you have friendships that you feel are slipping out of your grasp, be sure to chase them if they are worthy.

I spent two days with my best friend and realised not for the first time a sea of change and a real difference between us. We’ve been friends for over 14 years which is one of my greatest accomplishments. She is my longest friend and the one I considered my best friend to be forever. We met as teens in high school and instantly became fast friends. We have lifted each other out of the darkness one time or another. We are completely different – she is a scientist and I am a philosopher; in school she was in the top set and I was in the bottom. We couldn’t be more different, but what always united us were our shared moral values.

In friendships, it is not unusual to experience a feeling of distance between friends. We are always changing. But today, I discovered as I voiced my feelings of distance, that this time I was not wrong about this uneasy feeling that had crept over me. As a philosopher I needed a question answered before we parted company: “Are we still best friends?” Because the truth was it didn’t feel like it. The previous day, I persuaded her to show me her PhD acknowledgement section and I was surprised to see how very low on the list I was carted in with her other good friends; one whom I did not know about. Don’t get me wrong, I was honoured to be in the section, but I was shocked at how small my part played compared to other friends. It was then that I realised we had somewhere along the line separated. We no longer turned to each other as the first in line to help us with whatever was ailing us. Instead we chose different people, at least she did. I can honestly say I always turned to her first and still to this day. But the struggle of writing her PhD I realised, I could never fully understand. She asked if I was disappointed and I lied and said I was not; it was lovely. But in that moment I felt horrible, like I didn’t mean much any more. Later in the day, I asked when we would be travelling together like she promised, only to be told that she was broke and would not be doing so anytime soon.

As I lay in bed the previous night pondering it all, I decided that I would quietly let go and disappear from her life. I clearly was no longer the best, I was a stranger and she was a stranger to me. The fact that I didn’t know about the struggles she went through and the fact that I had tried to share my struggles but due to all her focus going on her PhD, she had limited time for me. We somehow lost the way to communicate. As with couples, the I becomes We. She was planning to visit me in Japan. Then she invited her boyfriend. I was mad, but I accepted it. Finally she cancelled her trip to visit me in Japan because of the PhD. I wasn’t surprised. I was relieved because I didn’t have to take time off my busy schedule. We had encountered this before. So many times she would cancel on me. So many broken promises. But it didn’t matter because she was my best friend. Well, not anymore. Today I lost a best friend. Or perhaps it was months ago.

As she answered my question, I understood the truth. We were no longer best friends. We had been utterly changed from our experiences, that our lives were no longer close to the same track we had been running on. We were close friends for sure, but we were not solely exclusively best friends. It was very sad. It was the cold, hard truth. It hurt. But it’s okay.

I realised that we are now of an age when we are no longer children, we are adults soon to marry, settle down and have children. We were going in different directions and there was nothing we could do about it. Maybe people shouldn’t have best friends – one best person out of good friends, it’s not really fair. I don’t think I could have another friendship like that again. But at least I have made some lovely friends. So I won’t disappear from this friendship and quietly fade into the background, but I won’t fight no longer being the best, because this time it’s a two way street. It’s a decision and not just mine.

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Be careful who you travel with

Let’s start at the beginning. Be careful when choosing who to go on holiday with. This is no joke and I would know since I am writing from experience – a whole lot of experiences and repeated mistakes. Unfortunately I never learn!! This time I think I will. This time it was the worst holiday I’ve ever had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing, and although it’s over, it was an important lesson. So two weeks ago, I went on holiday to the Philippines which was originally meant to be a solo trip, but my friend asked where I was going for Golden Week and I told her. She was immediately excited by the destination and asked to come along. Initially I was going to say no, but then thought company might be nice. What I didn’t count on was planning the whole trip and booking everything. My friend wanted me to book her plane tickets too but since I haven’t known her long I asked her to book those herself. We were meant to go to one of the beautiful islands containing several beautiful beaches! What we got was the city Manila and nothing else. Trust me you don’t want to be trapped in Manila for 8 days. I was meant to have the beach but instead got a fancy hotel. I’ll take the beach any day.

I won’t go into too much detail, but we missed our connecting flight so we ended up in Manila. It’s fine – I booked us a hostel for one night to decide where to go instead and move on. Instead, my friend hated the area the hostel was in – she was terrified. That was when I realised she was naive. It wasn’t a bad neighbourhood – sure it was a poor one, but at no point did I feel threatened. We all feel things differently so fair enough. But my friend was fascinated by their lives and was deeply sad about the difference between the rich and poor. It was like she had just popped her head out of a Disney film only to visit the real world mistakenly like the film Enchanted. If she thought what she saw was poverty – well she sure had a lot left in life to see. I’ve visited more countries and I’ve seen extreme poverty like in Sri Lanka, India, Turkey etc. But I’ve also seen poverty in every country – it’s not uncommon. I just couldn’t believe how bubble wrapped she’d been. Immediately we swapped the hostel for fancy hotel and I begrudgingly went for it hoping it would just be for one more night. Instead we stayed there the whole 8 days and spent 4 days of that in a shopping mall. I do not go on holiday to go to a mall 4 days in a row. By the 4th day I was going insane. Where’s my f***ing beach?!? It’s fair to say I never saw it.

The only good thing was nothing was stolen, but it was still officially the worst holiday. So I can only say – be wise, stay strong and if things don’t go your way – it’s okay. But don’t make the same mistake twice because then you really are a fool. Don’t travel with a friend who you think you know, but don’t know well enough until you go on holiday with!

What I’ve done

So it’s not been the best of starts to 2016, but there have been some notable adventures worth mentioning. Let’s start with the positive:

  1. I visited Mt. Fuji which was just incredible – there’s nothing like looking at a beautiful snow-capped mountain and knowing your problems are minuscule in those blessed few hours. Unfortunately it doesn’t last, but the exquisiteness and memory will constantly seek to remind you.
  2. I met some great people on New Years but then there was a falling out between my best friend and one of the girls because of her passive aggressiveness and rudeness. Made things complicated, still the positive memories are worth holding onto.
  3. I returned back to school knowing I was wanted at least at my favourite elementary school. But I wonder whether I can do this for another year.

It’s only been 8 days so that’s all I have but intermingled with the positives are the negatives. Since 16th December 2015, I have been facing some challenges and going through a period of extreme loneliness despite being surrounded by my family. I suppose it happened when they started to leave to go back one by one until only one was left standing. We parted ways yesterday and I don’t know when I’ll next see them. It could be 7 months or it could be a year or even a year and a half and that’s if I decide to stay in Japan for another year.

Living in Japan comes with many amazing opportunities and moments, though as with living anywhere life gets in the way and tries to smack you down just when you think your confidence is increasing. That is until life reminds you it’s not you’re just living a lie.

Last year the thing I feared most when driving happened and I hit a child on a bicycle. He’s okay, but I wasn’t. Within that moment I thought I had taken a life. Oh how quick it happens, how everything can change in a moment’s notice. How horrifyingly scary and yet I immediately stopped the car and shaken walked over to the kid. He protested that he was fine, I spoke to his parents later and they assured me he was okay. It didn’t help that I couldn’t effectively communicate in the same language, but I am grateful he was okay. No matter who was in the wrong, as the driver I am still responsible and it is my fault for not spotting him until it was too late. Blind corners are the worst, but I am haunted by the memories and although I still drive, I am afraid history will repeat itself. It was an accident, these things happen I am told, but what if something worse occurred? I don’t think I could live with myself and thus began the consistent questioning ever since. Can I live this life? Can I stay here? Will others be safe from me? Will I hurt someone else? I could easily leave, but I’m not sure that’s wise. I think I’ll be forever running fearful to continue. I can’t live like this and so went my confidence down the drain. That’s the start of when my world decided to crumble. I’m not happy. I’m always angry. I hate myself. I hate that there are some things I can’t control. I hate that I get jealous when there’s no need. I hate that I have let people drag me through the mud. I hate that I don’t have the confidence I need. How can I teach others when I am completely lacking myself?

I am trying to deal with this coupled with my shaken confidence, my low self-esteem and low self-worth. I get angry so easily and it builds up inside. I let it go when I visited Mt. Fuji, but now all that remains is Facebook and it’s jealousy. Why is everyone having a ball and I’m left standing in a freezer? Why does it look like everything else that people are doing is more fun? Why do I continue to compare myself? Why do I hate myself so much? It is a bad habit and one that Facebook does not help, but instead perpetuates. It’s as if I’m looking from afar into the interesting lives of others, but I can’t reach them. I’m the outsider looking from the window but not participating or even a part of the group. The truth is I don’t like them, I don’t want to be a part of it, I just want the adventures with friends, the fun and I want a set of friends to travel with. But the world doesn’t work the way you want it to and you don’t always get what you want so I am dealing with it. I am dealing with loneliness and the fight. It’s a constant battle and sometimes I think it would just be easier to surrender and take the easy way out, but something within me can’t, because that wouldn’t work either, I’d still have the same problems.

There are too many memories that have the power to either control you or haunt you, but that’s if you choose to let them, so it’s a tricky game. They are not just memories to look over fondly or dispassionately, they are a part of you and your past whether you like it or not. They made you the person you are today.

It’s decision time soon and the clock is ticking. Will I stay or will I leave? Will I hide or will I face those ugly demons? I don’t know yet, but only time will tell.