Friendship has been on my mind a lot recently.
I moved last Saturday, leaving behind the first place to ever really feel like home. (I was never myself when I lived with my parents, and the place I lived in for the first year after coming out belonged to a family member, so I felt more like an intrusion than at home.) I had found a new flat just a couple blocks away from the old one, so moving shouldn’t have been too difficult.
Still, I had to carry my stuff down from what is essentially a fourth storey, out to the moving van, and then into the new building and up into a fifth storey to the new place. As I thought of how much easier it would be to move with help, I was reminded of a friend who moved a few years ago, and who we helped with the move (we being a group of friends.) This led to me wondering which of my friends here in Bogotá could possibly help me move, which of course reminded me of the fact I probably don’t have more than maybe one friend here.
I’ve never been much good at making friends, so loneliness has always been a constant part of my life. However, things went from bad to worse after I came out. Most of the very few people I considered friends disappeared.
There was the best friend I’d grown up with, who I love (I still love him) immeasurably, who I had too many sleepovers with to count, and who was my constant companion on adventures, whether that meant climbing up a massive tree and haphazardly building a makeshift swing, or exploring a creepy abandoned building.
He never said a thing after I came out publicly, and a message I sent him trying to reach out a few months after went unanswered.
And there are most of the other friends in my life. Someone I’d known for years and years, someone I considered my best friend at the time, and a few others. People I thought I would always be able to count on, but who did not want to be a part of my life after coming out. They slowly inched away from me, and now they feel as distant as the miserable person I used to be, once upon a time.
The first year or so after starting transition was TOUGH. I can easily bring to mind mental images of me crying alone in the women’s bathroom because I’d been reminded of someone’s final words as they left my life. I remember many, many times I just sat at my cubicle during my lunch break, hiding under a jacket, and crying for an hour straight, because it felt so UNFAIR that people I loved and trusted could hurt me so much. I can recall the days my happiness at being myself were interrupted by random memories of being with a friend who had made it clear they no longer wanted anything to do with me.
Back then, it was easy to just label people as “friends” and “horrible people” depending on whether they respected my identity as a woman or not (or at least respected me enough to use the right name and pronouns, regardless of private beliefs.) It helped deal with the pain, so I went along with it for a while.
However, now that my life has settled a bit after transition, and my self-confidence has grown a few times over in that time, I’m able to look at things more complexly, and I’m honestly at a loss. The truth really does resist simplicity.
When I think of individual people who I had previously lumped under the “horrible people” category, I end up remembering how much joy they once brought into my life, and how they made things better at a time when I felt dead inside.
I think of Person A, and how despite the fact they cut me out of their life completely, and we haven’t spoken a word to each other since the day I came out, they gave me some of the precious few happy memories I have of life before transition. I know they’re not horrible people, and that they really tried to see me as Lily, but were just not capable of adjusting.
I think of Person B, and the many times we had a good time together, and how even though we were never close, I was able to count on them to do something when I felt particularly alone. I’m able to recognise they’re not horrible people, even if I think their reasons for distancing themselves from me are pretty horrible.
And so on. Some close friends, some distant, who didn’t adjust to me being me for different reasons, but who had undeniably been a positive part of my life up to that point. I don’t mean to excuse their transphobia in the slightest, it’s still awful, but I just don’t feel capable of solely seeing them as horrible people anymore.
After all that gloomy consideration, I got to thinking of all the other friends in my life.
There’s my best friend, who lives in the US and is busy all of the time being the best student ever (I’m not joking, she regularly gets graded higher than 100% on examinations), but who still makes time for me if I ever need it, giving me a call, or doing a Hangout, or just messaging for a little while.
She might live far away, but I know she loves me as I love her, and that she has my back. She’s already proven this by making the (successful) effort to adjust to me presenting female after we’d already become friends.
There are also a few other friends, who are not so close, but are still deeply valued by me. They’ve also proven their love over and over through many little things, and by sticking around when so many other people have left. They’re not a big part of my life, and we rarely talk, but they’re certainly a big part of my life, and have earned my loyalty.
Aside from them, there are my Internet friends. I’ve previously mentioned a lovely facebook group I’m a part of, which is sometimes stressful but often a work for good in my life. I’ve met many people through this group, among them a few folks I like, who’ve visited Colombia and whom I’ve gotten to meet in person, and others who (amazingly) invited me to stay with them, and are the main reason I’m travelling to Europe in April.
I was very sad and lonely last Friday night, sitting alone in my house, knowing there was no one here in Bogotá for me, and thinking about all the people who’ve left my life, and how much losing them has hurt.
But throughout this week, I’ve been reminded of the people who are still around, and how wonderful they are. Some have randomly messaged me, as if they knew I needed a pick-me-up, and others have just continued to be a constant force for good in my life, like they’ve always been.
As is the norm for my personal posts on this blog, I don’t really know why I wrote this. Mainly, I think, I just wanted to express my sadness at losing friendships I’d always thought would last longer. But also to express my appreciation at those friends in a small way, because they’re truly special.
I’ve always been a lonely person, lousy at making new friends, but even so, I had some. Nowadays I can count my real friends on one hand, but I know that these are people I can count on, who won’t bail on me when it’s not easy to be my friend.
It’s good to know who you can count on.