We're Not Friends Anymore, but I Won't Let that Destroy Me
“Maybe I am fated to always be alone, Tsukuru found himself thinking. People came to him, but in the end they always left. They came, seeking something, but either they couldn’t find it, or were unhappy with what they found (or else they were disappointed or angry), and then they left. One day, without warning, they vanished, with no explanation, no word of farewell. Like a silent hatchet had sliced the ties between them, ties through which warm blood still flowed, along with a quiet pulse.”
― Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
You know that moment when a book reaches out its hand to you, gently cupping in its palm the broken glass of a mirror into which you see yourself, and whispers, “Yeah, I see it, and I see you. I’ve been there too.”? That’s how I felt when I read The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, a novel which follows the silent devastation of Tsukuru, who is struggling with a twenty-year long torment of never understanding or knowing why his friend group exiled him and shut him out of their lives. Whilst it’s not the most popular Murakami novel, mainly for its lack of famed magical realism and arguably vapid characters, I was dumbstruck by it all to the point of tears.
When such a friendship is lost, I become obsessed and tormented, wracked with guilt and shame, but I never know why I feel this way.
It hurt and relieved me so much to read. I’d been that child, teenager and adult who never understood why people left me suddenly. I’m surrounded by numerous friends from all areas of life: from acting partners to work colleagues, bookish friends and fellow writers, but for some reason, their beautiful and kind friendship doesn’t overshadow the brutality of those small few which were terminated silently. There were no fights, nasty words exchanged or vicious betrayal; all friendships I have lost were abrupt and unexpected, which perhaps made them more painful than one which was built up from both sides. I’m not a fan of surprises.
When such a friendship is lost, I become obsessed and tormented, wracked with guilt and shame, but I never know why I feel this way. My shame and guilt go unassigned to anything particular other than my general existence. I spend hours upon hours of my day trying to work it all out: reliving experiences, reading old messages and tracking through personal histories to figure out what I did wrong, what I said wrong, or how I was wrong. I’ve even formulated a word-document feedback form asking those who have left or acted hostile towards me to please document what I did wrong to them, or how I was that irritated them. That way, not only could I compose a sincere and reflective apology, but could also cease enacting said way of being and stop the cycle from continuing. Don’t worry: I’ve never sent it out, although it is awfully tempting. All I ever want to know is what I did wrong, and tell them how horribly sorry I am for it. The trouble is, I’m entirely ignorant each time, and I’m not sure if that’s due to selective memory or ignorance: I just wish they’d tell me.
It’s been around three years since I read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and three since I ironically shared my passionate and emotional review of the book with someone who would cut me out her life one year later. She, and all the friends that came with her. I don’t think I’ll ever never know what I did, or how I was, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing I did or trying to figure it out. It’s been a painful two long years; I cry on a regular basis about it, their ghosts still haunt me, as does the shame, guilt, embarrassment and frustration, all of which have no assigned reasoning. I can only assume that I am disgustingly faulted, that I am inherently wrong and that I’m not a nice person. Maybe I am some self-absorbed snot who isn’t good or generous enough like I’ve always feared I am? What makes it worse is that I still care for them, root for them, and don’t have a bad word to say about them. But they apparently do about me, and for that, I have hated myself. I tried to reach out, but was deflected and brushed off so many times that I gave up a year ago. No one wants a desperate person trailing after them, so I decided to disassociate myself on all levels. It was too painful to follow them and watch them bloom knowing they didn’t want or care for my support and well-wishes. They didn’t want to know me, so I’d remove myself.
I wanted people to stop seeing me: the thought of putting myself out there makes me want to crawl inside myself.
The not knowing has destroyed so much of my passion and sense of security; I don’t trust myself to be around anyone anymore. I’m scared to make friends or communicate, so I pull back and pull radio silences for months, sometimes years. I stopped enjoying reading, studying, bookselling, writing and reviewing. I wanted people to stop seeing me: the thought of putting myself out there makes me want to crawl inside myself. I didn’t want to tread in their spaces in case I upset them further or got in their way. I didn’t want to be associated with them, not through dislike or disrespect, but in case I make a further fool of myself.
I wanted to become invisible, move away and go where no one knows my name. Delete the internet, delete everything I’d worked years building up by myself all because the shame of being me was too much to bear. I still do, in a way. I’ve overshared my life with people, online and offline, and I regret it to my core. Despite how much it may have helped others, my oversharing has ruined me. I let people in when I was vulnerable, and when vulnerable I’m hardly my best self. How can I be a good friend to others when I’m so cruel and vicious to myself? I can only assume I let people down in some way, and for that, I lose people and became more vulnerable than before. Friends and strangers alike have abused and used my weaknesses, and only I am to blame for my predicament. I should stress this now before anyone assumes otherwise: I am not a victim.
They’ll never know the truth, no matter how much I spill to them. They’ll lap it up and abuse it, and abuse it, they did.
Of course, I did this to myself; whilst desperately attempting to demonstrate authenticity, I left myself exposed to brutal critical analysis, scrutiny and judgement. Because of my accent and education, people accused me of being a middle-class, Tory toff, so to stress my adamant rejection of such an accusation I told the whole world I was a working-class girl from Birmingham with no financial support; all of which is true, but it resulted in literally thousands of strangers scrutinising how I spent my money for years and years afterwards. I had to come out to people about my anorexia because others were accusing my skeletal appearance as the result of a heroin addiction, and I had to disclose my bulimia when everyone online started remarking at how ‘fat’ I was getting, and advising me to ‘cut down on eating so many snacks’. I had to disclose I was on anti-depressants because my videos became so happy, and then explain all the times I relapsed and had to announce to everyone that I left my job as a bookseller (having been one for five years). The last one was tough to deal with the backlash of, for without context of my employment situation, people called me entitled, foolish and ridiculous. Those in my life with access to the context, however, know such a move was one of the best decisions of my life, for both my mental health and professional growth. People who don’t know you only see your life two-dimensionally, just as you appear to them on their screen.
Note how I kept using the phrase ‘had to’ in the previous paragraph. Of course, I didn’t have to do anything. I chose to because of the scrutiny and pressure of false accusations; it was my attempt at countering the upset it caused me when people came to wrong conclusions about who I was and judged how I lived my life. I kept trying to put the truth out there, to prove myself to everyone when in fact I should have realised long ago the internet lacks context. I cannot be whole to people online, and that my truth can only reside in me, and it doesn’t matter what those people think. They’ll never know the truth, no matter how much I spill to them. They’ll lap it up and abuse it, and abuse it, they did.
If people don’t want to know me, if people don’t want to like me, then I’ll give them what they want. I’ll stay away.
One friend wrote about me. Two intimate anecdotes I told them in confidence about my mental health were published without my consent or knowledge, and they were far too acute to my detail, too random, too obscure and personal to have been coincidentally conceived by authorial imagination. I was mortified; I felt mocked, laughed at and abused in trust and confidence. I had been contorted into fiction to be ridiculed and examined. This friend didn’t want me in their life, but they wanted my stories. I felt used. But then, they had the audacity to approach me on the street with a welcoming hug like they hadn’t blocked me out their life years ago. As though I was supposed to feel grateful...which I suppose I would have felt so a year ago, but now I sensed the insincerity. I believe in being kind and respectful to everyone, regardless of whether or not you get along or like them. I never condone being rude or disrespectful: but I don't respect pretences, nor trust the charade of it all.
No, I'm not grateful, and I won’t let them hurt me again. If people don’t want to know me, if people don’t want to like me, then I’ll give them what they want. I’ll stay away, and I’ll keep out of their life as much as they want.
I won’t let those who ghosted me ruin my life anymore.
I could not be angrier with myself for it all. I wish I could turn back history and never say a word to anyone. Oversharing is a huge issue the internet age is dealing with, and I urge anyone thinking of ever conducting an emotional, personal post again not to do so. You’re probably thinking ‘hypocrite’: I’m doing it now, aren’t I? Of course, but I needed to to get over this hurdle. I needed to overshare this one last time to make a logical and grounded argument as to why I shall never overshare my life again.
My lost friendships made me want to quit the internet, along with my oversharing which lead to it all. It was my stories that brought people to me, to be my friend and trust me, but also why they left. Whilst I had decided to quit entirely, I’ve now decided I’m going to take time away for a little while, just whilst my life goes through some changes (as it is currently). My hobbies, my work life, my projects and my personal life, including my mental health, is now off the books. I will talk about my past to help others get through it, but anything from 2018 onwards is for my partner and I to know.
I’m staying off twitter, and never engage in sharing personal feelings or personal stories that disclose who I am or what I do ever again. I’ll create new content that’s depersonalised entirely, but entertaining and educational, and I intend to keep my network to those who I genuinely trust and love. I won’t let those who ghosted me ruin my life anymore. I have punished myself enough for what I may have done to deserve it. Should they ever like to reach out to me and personally vent their grievances, I shall gladly hear them and apologise profusely for what I had done to them, and maybe even hopefully amend and restore what connection we had. But without evidence of my wrongdoings, without constructive feedback about how I can improve as a person and what I should stop doing or do more of, I can’t do much more than work on myself and the friendships I have and give them all the attention and love they deserve. I’ll be the best friend I can be to those who are still here. To those gone, I wish you the best and the sincerest of goodbyes.