Remembering ended Friendships Positively

Remember how when a friendship would end in primary school, you’d be upset and then probably be friends again by the end of the day. Then school ends, and now when a friendship ends it seems to stick. There is a sudden permanency that these endings didn’t have before. I’m currently in my third year out of school and have been navigating the time of letting go of friendships that no longer seem to serve either side. But no one ever talked to me about how hard it can be to remember this friendship in a positive way. For a long time, I’ve simply been focused on the final part of the friendship, the part when we grew apart; forgetting all the good and supportive times. The friendship wasn’t a toxic one, and as such I should have been able to remember it positively. But, for quite a long period, I could only recall all the things that had gone wrong towards the end.  

The way the friendship ended wasn’t with a bang, but a slow fizzle out over an entire year. We both left New Zealand a few weeks after high school and ended up on opposite sides of the world. The two of us know that we would change a lot, but were hopeful that we’d still be in close contact and could pick it back up once we were in the same city again. The first year out of school is a weird new time for everyone. You’ve been given complete freedom and suddenly you can’t see your friends every day with ease the way you could if you were going to the same school. Suddenly, friendships ebb and flow, requiring both parties to put in the effort. Friendship becomes far more work once you’re out of school, and sometimes people don’t want to put in the work. This is what ended up happening; we both changed so much that we couldn’t see eye to eye anymore, and the ebb and flow stopped. Being back in the same city wasn’t enough for us to pick our friendship back up and it ended.  

One of my biggest crutches was constantly thinking about the friendship that could’ve been. I continually thought about what scenarios would have led to us still being close friends. Attempting to be more mindful about the negativity in these thoughts has been key for me. Remembering what could’ve been isn’t positive or productive in the slightest. At the end of high school, each leaving student wrote a letter that was placed in a time capsule. I remember writing about how important my friends were to me and how much I cared about them. Although many of these people aren’t as important to me now, nothing has changed how important they were to me then. Just because our friendship didn’t adapt to our new lives doesn’t mean that I should disregard everything good that had happened in the past.  

To decision to unfollow or to continue following someone on social media is tricky. For a lot of us who are between 18-22, unfollowing someone on social media is a big step. I know some older people may scoff and even laugh at that, but continuing to see someone on your timeline or feed makes you feel as though you still have some part in their life. You’re still seeing it roll out in a similar way that you did before. Unfollowing someone can be a healthy choice for many of us, but the decision is ultimately personal and unique to each person. If you think it’s best for you to unfollow then it probably is. Contacting to see an ex-friend out of usual social settings can be difficult to wrangle. Having mutual friends is tricky also. My only advice is don’t air your grievances about someone — saying something negative about someone behind their back is never a good idea because you’ll almost always be far more critical of them than you would be if they were in the room. Don’t say anything about someone that you don’t want them hearing.  

When you’re sixteen you do think you’ll be close friends forever, and I’m not saying that all friendships from that age end but they can only really continue if everyone changes and adapts similarly. Without that, you lose the mutual connection you had before. Although ultimately the paths of myself and many of my high school friends diverted in such a way that meant we were no longer compatible as close friends, I will continue to remember these old friends as people who were there for me throughout the somewhat turbulent last few years of school. I don’t have any magic cure or solution to start getting over an ended friendship, but always listen to the closest people around you; if they think that someone isn’t good for you then take that into account. Remembering an ended friendship positively is difficult and still something I have to actively strive for. I haven’t made it yet, but understanding its importance is hopefully helping me get to that place. Just because we’re not good friends now doesn’t mean that we once weren’t.  

By Lily Mirfin