When I was younger, I was a bit of a dick.
I was never outwardly mean to anyone or intentionally set out to hurt people; I think I was just a bit selfish. Which is weird really, considering how selfless my parents are. I somehow grew up to be someone who would cancel things last minute (although, thinking about it, this might’ve been down to a bad case of undiagnosed social anxiety); I would simply stop talking to people without warning when I decided I wanted the relationship to end and I would expect my friends to fall out with someone I had crossed paths with, just because.
This probably sounds like typical teenage girl behaviour, which it was; pretty much everyone behaved like a dick at that age, but I think there are plenty of us who don’t grow out of it until much later than I did and I have a very good friend to thank for that.
In my second year of university, I received a message from her on Facebook. She was at Nottingham; I was at Exeter. The message wasn’t from the girl I hated at school, nor was it from someone I’d recently fallen out with. It was actually from someone I’d spent my gap year with just a year previously; someone I was really close to and someone I had probably taken for granted for just a little too long.
I could see as soon as I clicked on it that the message was a long one which, at twenty years old, meant weeks of drama was certain to follow. I don’t remember the exact reason she sent the message. I actually can’t bring myself to trawl back through years-worth of Facebook to find out either, for fear of what I might uncover, but I’m going to assume I did something to prompt it. The essence of the message was something along the lines of: ‘you always expect people to make an effort with you, why don’t you try with everyone else once in a while?’.
At the time, I was appalled that she had sent me such a message. I couldn’t believe that someone would speak to me like that. I phoned my mum. I text my friends. I spoke to the girls I lived with about it. My boyfriend at the time said she was completely out of order. Everyone around me agreed she was a bitch. I uninvited her from my 21st birthday – the ultimate snub at the time – and we stopped speaking to each other. All the while, deep down, I (and no doubt everyone around me) knew she was sort of right.
As I was growing up, there was always a little voice inside me that willed me to stop cancelling things, to pick up the phone and call people more, to go above and beyond for friends, the way my mum always had. I was a good person with all the best intentions, but when it came down to it, I would seem to get the little things wrong.
The Facebook message didn’t end our friendship; she’s still one of my closest and best friends. It merely halted it for a fixed amount of time. The perfect amount of time, in fact, for me to heal and accept my wrongdoings and enough time for her to admit she was perhaps, a little harsh. Harsh or not, though, that single message sent to me in my early twenties has only served to strengthen the bond between us and has had a positive impact on my relationships ever since. Her honesty has not only meant that I am a better friend, but it has taught me the importance of being honest with those around me when they need a reality check of their own.
The reason I wanted to share this story was to prompt you to be a bit more honest with those around you. Next time a friend asks your opinion on something personal or when you think someone could do with a nudge in the right direction, don’t smile and nod or agree with their nonsense, tell them what you really think. Give them a straight, honest and open answer, even if it might not be something they want to hear. Yes, it might hurt them and they might not talk to you for a while, but if you think it will make them a better person in the long run, or prevent them from doing more damage to themselves than good, then just say it. It’s sort of your duty as a friend.
Just remember to be careful with your words. When used carelessly, they can cause a heck of a lot of damage.