When I moved home to Toronto after eight years away, I expected my best friend and I to pick up where we’d left off. We’d have our usual brunch dates, ’90s movie nights, and cooking parties (that involved mostly wine drinking) where we’d bare our souls, share naughty jokes, and laugh ourselves silly.
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Melissa* and I had met in high school at age 15, and we clicked instantly. Kind, funny, and quirky, with a knack for finding the dramatic in every situation, she was my soul sister. We shared some of the best times of my young life together, from glam nights out in the city to slumber parties where we giggled all night long.
My airplane’s wheels had barely touched the tarmac in Toronto when I received an epically long email from Melissa, detailing the myriad reasons why she not only thought our friendship should end, but also why I was such a terrible human being.
I was shocked. I was so numb that I didn’t even cry. At least, not right away.
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Melissa’s email listed almost every secret that I had confided to her, which she used as reasons to not continue our decade-long friendship. In her opinion, my emotional scars were so ugly that they were not just simply unforgivable, but they were also a reflection of the kind of person I was: selfish; arrogant; blunt; and a magnet for drama.
I read her eight-page (!!!) character assassination, completely dumbfounded. What had happened? We had just been planning a night of Christmas cookie baking only a few days earlier. At the end of her email, she told me not to bother contacting her regarding her email. If I did, she would simply delete it. I followed her request, and then promptly deleted her email.
It took me a few days to cry, but I did. And as I cried, I wondered what was wrong with me. If Melissa’s intention was to make me second guess myself, including wondering if there was something inherently unlikeable about me, she succeeded. Yes, I was throwing myself a pity party. But during those dark weeks, I also took the time to reflect.
I admitted that Melissa was somewhat accurate in her accusations. I can be selfish and self-involved at times. Maybe I had unknowingly hurt her because I was too into my own life. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Melissa and I had already been growing apart.
In fact, I had known this two months beforehand. After one of our last phone calls before my return to Toronto, I remembered thinking that I wanted to keep some distance between us. It wasn’t that Melissa was a bad person, but it was because we no longer had anything in common.
We had met as two giddy teenage girls who were both obsessed with tarot cards, soap operas, and boys. But since then, I had moved to New York City and Vancouver to pursue a career as both an actor and a writer, while Melissa had stayed in our hometown and gotten married to her high-school sweetheart. As grownup women, our friendship was now mainly rooted in the past.
Though I had wanted to keep Melissa as a casual friend, the type who you see over a cup of coffee a few times a year, she was actually right to put an end to our friendship. Why kick a dead horse?
Friendships are sacred to me. As an only child, I view my friends as my family, and unlike family, I get to choose my friends. I value quality over quantity, and I’m no longer interested in collecting friends and holding onto them for the sake of filling up my birthday party guest list.
Holding onto friendships because you once had a time together, such as high school, summer camp, or college, doesn’t serve anyone. Friendships, just like romantic relationships, grow and evolve. And just like a relationship, if the two people involved aren’t growing together, then it’s time to move on.
Since Melissa’s breakup email, I, too, have broken up with a number of friends mainly because, after a few incidences, I thought, “What’s the point?” If someone isn’t respecting my boundaries, only talks about herself, or is constantly competing with me, then they aren’t a friend of mine.
No one likes confrontation — I know I don’t — but there is something liberating about breaking up with someone who doesn’t love and respect you for you, so that you can make space for someone who will.
I can honestly say now that all of my friendships are rich, fun, and so loving, and I’ve never been more grateful to have these wonderful people in my life as my friends.
So thanks, Melissa.
*name has been changed