Era Singh learned a few facts about friendship the hard way. Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
One of the worst feelings of all is to be let down by someone. Especially by someone near and dear to your heart.
I know that is a very clichéd statement. It is the kind of thing you read in fortune cookies and hear in movie dialogues or song lyrics.
It is so true. And I learned it the hard way.
I just graduated from college; a little over a week ago. As I mope around at home, I have taken some time to reflect on my four years in college. It is almost amusing to look back and see how I grew and matured, to see the ups and downs in my academics, and to see how my career aspirations and decisions changed. What I reflect most on is my friends and the experiences I had with them.
If you asked me three months ago, I would have said that I had the perfect group of friends. My sisters would always ask me: "Are you obsessed with your friends?" I would be frustrated with that question but the truth is that they were right. My friends and I were indeed all obsessed with one another. We had every meal with each other, studied together, went out together and spent any free time with each other; to the point that sometimes I felt like I did not even have enough time for myself.
Our world was like this perfect bubble. These were the friends I would keep forever -- the ones who would come to my wedding and one day be 'uncles' and 'aunties' to my kids.
I realised that the real world is not necessarily like that. A guy may like a girl but she may not like him back and that may break his heart.
Friends may be there for you when convenient and drop you when not.
If you ask me today about my group of friends throughout college, I would say things are far from perfect. The last month and a half of college -- those moments that are supposed to be when you love your friends the most just before we all separate and move on with our lives -- was when that perfect bubble burst.
It was one of the most difficult times I have ever experienced it was a time of emerging secrets that broke relationships apart, of friends realising that perhaps there was more than friendship between one another, of choosing sides that defined friendships, of misleading rumours and lies, of emotional decisions and of selfish interests above the interest of others.
In many ways, looking back, I realise that this so-called 'perfect' bubble was just waiting to burst. Yes, we were all good friends who had great times together. But when it came to the things that really matter in friendship, we were far from good. We talked behind each other's backs instead of confronting one another. We were not always there for each other, even when someone needed it the most. We kept secrets from one another out of fear of being judged.
The last month and a half of college was a really difficult time for me.
Seeing the perfect bubble burst, right in front of my eyes, was disheartening -- everything that seemed right and good was falling apart and I did not know how to come to terms with that. It got to a point where I would avoid my friends -- the same friends I used to spend almost every hour with. When we went out, I would go, but almost always just not enjoy myself and come home early. Even when I was with them, I sometimes felt lonely or out of place. There were times when I did not even know who to trust or who to go to for anything.
There were nights I would just come home and cry about it. I was so disappointed seeing the mistakes that everyone was making. I, too, was a very large part of this. By no means am I excusing myself from everything. I made my share of mistakes that certainly contributed to the bubble bursting.
When graduation time came about, the thing that bothered me the most was that I was not miserable leaving. I was not sad saying goodbye to everyone.
When I used to think about graduation months ago, I always had this vision of a very sad scene and of me being depressed that I was leaving college.When my friends and I would talk, they all guessed that I would be among the ones who would cry the most. I did not deny it -- I was that in love with my friends; I could not imagine not being with them. When the actual time came about, I was almost relieved to get away. It was awful -- I was consumed with guilt that I felt that way and was so angry with myself for feeling that way.
Today, after having some time away from everyone, I have really made it a point to think through everything and reflect on what happened -- from when the bubble first burst to the sticky mess it created after. I realise now that the biggest mistake we all made as friends was not the things we did wrong, as odd as that might sound. In the end, we are all human and we all mistakes. Whether that is out of ignorance, emotion, misguidance or immaturity, we all do it. On the contrary, our biggest mistake was that when the people we cared for made those blunders, we abandoned them.
What used to frustrate me the most, while the bubble was bursting, was the things my friends were doing wrong (or at least, what I perceived as wrong). I realise now how mistaken I was to think and feel that way.
I have learned the hard way, after some time and after seeing multiple relationships fall apart, that the point of friendship is to be there for one another. It is wrong to abandon someone because they make a mistake -- the same way it is wrong for any parent to abandon a child when he or she commits a fault. On the contrary, a parent is supposed to guide his or her child in the right decision. That, too, is what friendship should be about.
Our perfect bubble burst because when people made mistakes, instead of supporting them and helping them correct their mistakes, we gave up on each other. Instead of understanding differing perspectives, we took sides and held on to our biases and substantiated them with another.
Looking back, it is almost disheartening to see how quickly friends of three or four years were willing to drop each other in just three or four minutes. Instead of forgiving, we all just wanted to forget.
I too lost some very close friends. As I write this, I tear up because it hurts when I think about how much things changed in such a short time.
However, the picture is not all bleak -- I did not walk away from all this with just broken relationships. I also walked away with relationships that remained strong despite the difficult times and ones that I know will sustain through time. Granted, I do admit that the group of friends who I thought would one day attend my wedding is much smaller. However, the friends who stood by me even when I messed up are the ones I can still see being 'uncles' and 'aunties' to my kids one day. And to me, that is what is important and those are the people who I want at my side both today and years from now.
After this whole ordeal, a lot of perspectives changed among all my friends. I know some friends who vow to never let anyone become that close and to be less trusting in general, so as to prevent being hurt like that again; I know others who just want to start afresh with a whole new group and forget the old. Both perspectives are fine and right in their own place; we all deal with pain in different ways.
For me, the pain is still there, but I remain optimistic about relationships. The bubble bursting was a reality check. Things were perfect for three-and-a-half years and things fell apart for two months.
Yes, those two months were painful, but that did not negate the good times and good friendships.
I have learned so much in such little time, and by no means was it an easy process -- it certainly took a lot of pain, tears, and time to come to this realisation and to be in a place where I stand stronger as a person. People make mistakes and people make incorrect judgments about others. I can today cry about the mistakes we all made and the things I regret, and I can lament over the bubble bursting. Or, I can learn from those mistakes, to make myself a better person and more specifically a better friend, starting today and moving on into the future.
Personally, I choose the latter.
Do you have a similar story to share, of a cherished friendship going kaput? Would you say that it was as painful as the break-up of a romantic relationship? Send in your experiences and opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: 'Losing a friend') and we'll publish the best entries right here on rediff.com
Era Singh is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.