This unintentional radio silence was brought to you by an accumulation of factors, but mainly, my inability to take myself off cruise control. Once upon a time I would set the speed on our rusty 1993 Subaru Legacy to 100km and see how far I could get from Central Otago to Wanaka without touching a pedal as a cheap thrill. Dangerous? Yes – have you driven that road? Now, it’s a way of life I’ve adopted to avoid adversity.
I guess that’s the difference between being 17 and 27. We all start with the mindset that everything is possible. That the hurdles we do encounter are a challenge made to be overcome and shared with our friends. Trophies, if you will. Just like a 4pk of Smirnoff Black we once forced one of our older (legal) friends to buy us to get us blackout drunk next weekend. God, those really got us good. And so we lived – life was a game to be played together with the mentality that rules were meek suggestions. We’d always win with our ability to hustle as long as our friends were by our side.
NA-KD Shacket (similar here)
Vehla Sunglasses (similar here)
Vintage Jeans (similar here)
Naked Vice Bag (similar here)
We had it good back then – we appreciated every part of the journey for what it was. I don’t know about you, but rolling up to a party at midnight alone in an Uber doesn’t get me excited. The arrival is nothing without the elaborate story about camping by the lake with your friends so you could ride a motorbike to a meeting point. Then, be picked up secretly by a party van just so you could get to the party on time. Back then, the journey was always the most exciting part, the main event – that was only an extra. Followed by a 5-day debrief of what unfolded, of course.
Those stories – they’ll haunt me forever. Not because we couldn’t do that now, but because we are allowed to. The thrill of it all is dead in the water.
Adulthood is filled with endless possibilities bound by societal pressures, and I don’t know about you but I think it’s made people bitter and out of touch.
So that brings me back to my point; it’s safer living adulthood on cruise control. You set your speed, settle in and get comfy. People get to know you at that pace – they expect it from you. You become agreeable. Avoiding confrontation like a disease. Consistency is a value that, as an adult, is respected. Just like a 5-year plan and a KiwiSaver total that would make our parents eyes water equates to having your shit together, so does consistency. It signals to the rest of the world that you know what you’re doing.
But what if you want to pull the breaks and change the pace? Admit that you’re lost, still travelling with your foot flat on the accelerator, asking yourself why you keep going? That’s when I hit my biggest speedbump.
See, I’m usually the consistent friend. I admit I’m terrible at replying and change my plans often, but I’ll show up when it counts (or at least try to). I’ll take that call and sit until you’re feeling better. I don’t judge – I have lived enough years to know that life often colours outside of the lines society has drawn. I’ll postpone work to spend time with my friends, even if it adds stress to my plate. I know time is precious and my priorities are always the people I love. It’s not a noble way of living – it’s truly selfish. I never want my overactive brain to look back at my life and see all the times I haven’t shown up. The only time this doesn’t happen is when I’m struggling – which led me to this decision:
I pulled the hand brake and stopped spending time on two of my oldest friends.
It all started when I sat watching MAFS one evening. Feeling completely burnt out and confused, I sat watching John Aiken calling out James Susler for gaslighting his partner. “What we mean by this is you start to deflect and dodge and put it back onto Jo. We watched it for hours and it’s toxic”. I thought, “hold up, this sounds too familiar”. That’s when I realised, I was being (less aggressively) gaslit by two of my oldest friends.
There’s a lot of pressure that comes with these types of friendships. A big obligation to keep them alive. You invest so much in them, it would be a waste to let them go, so you never consider it an option. There’s also this expectation that they know you the best. So when you’re having issues you trust they will give you the right advice. So when I was told “you just need to be more positive”, I thought, maybe it’s me? Maybe, I’m the problem? That nothing is actually wrong while my brain was screamed, “YOU’RE NOT OKAY!!”.
I had started to feel crazy. Like my version of reality didn’t line up with what I was being told. Reaching out to my other friend only exacerbated the problem. She continued to retaliate with a list of her own issues, as though I was blaming her for the way I felt and I was just being dramatic. Even worse, she tried to pass me off to one of our mutual friends to deal with. I really did convince myself that A. my feelings were stupid and B. I didn’t have a right to feel the way I was. My life on paper was fine, right!? So I put my life back on cruise control, pretending I didn’t feel what I was inside just to keep the peace with everyone around me.
It wasn’t until I saw that episode of MAFS, and after some heavy reading, that I realised maybe the problem wasn’t my feelings – the problem was these friendships.
The thing is, as I did at 17, I love the journey – life was never meant to be spent in cruise control. One speed doesn’t work for all. I believe you can’t appreciate the highs if you don’t feel the lows. The struggles you go through are a test of strength. They show you how far you’ve come and when you finally get what you want, you can look back and realise it was all worth it. You should never feel like you have to be okay all the time. So I expected my oldest friends would be there to help me through a rough patch, the way I have for them.
Everyone deserves to be heard and their feelings validated. That’s the lesson I’ve learnt from all of this. Time spent doesn’t guarantee empathy in return. A healthy friendship should allow you space to feel sad and talk about it. Good friends won’t hijack the conversation with their own feelings like it’s a competition. They won’t tell you to get over yourself. If they truly care, they’ll listen and try to understand, despite what they’re going through.
So where am I going with this?
In the end, and especially as we grow, friendships can be toxic. Just like relationships. They can be one-sided, self-serving and not worth your time. It’s not that they’re bad people. Sometimes you grow apart. Sometimes they’re just too used to you being okay all the time. Maybe they can only handle you at your best. So if you feel this way (or like you’re going mad), let them go. No matter how much history you share. That’s what I did. I stopped hanging around my unintentionally toxic friends. I made room for people that truly showed up the way I needed. New friends, in fact. Ones that stood by me and supported me through my whole journey, not just the silver-lined parts.
So for now, I’m living with my life without cruise control, and it feels fucking good.