Just Go With It

Like so many young people, I struggled in adapting to life after college. Not so much in the economical or career sense, but in the social. I had spent several arduous years cultivating a tight-knit group of female friends that seemingly easily dispersed post-graduation. It would take me years to understand that the commitment of those friendships didn’t change, just the physical exposure to the people. But I was young, dumb, and lonely.

I was also dealing with 24 years of unresolved emotional issues, which landed me in therapy. Easily this was the greatest rock-bottom of my relatively short life, because therapy forced me to question myself in every conceivable way. One of the many results of this was an identity crisis. When my therapist challenged my concept of self, I realized that I could, actually, be anyone I wanted to be. I was elated. And horrified. But mostly I was scared to try anything new with people who already knew me.

Enter Fe, Fi, and Fo. These three people would ultimately change who I was as a person by forcing me into a situation of choice. Their first impressions of me were entirely different than anyone else in my life. They may have saw me as naive, most people do, but they also saw a purpose in me that I didn’t recognize at the time. They were friends, long before I came along, but we somehow quickly morphed into a four headed monster of a friendship.

This was my chance, I thought. This was my blank slate. Most people spend their adolescent years trying on different personalities and lifestyles. I was too busy assuming the burden of responsibilities that weren’t my own. I didn’t get to experiment. I never let myself. But suddenly, at nearly 25, I felt the freedom to do so. And I got carried away in this world were these people looked at me like delicious, damaged fruit. My bruises made me juicier, and we would sit around the table, pouring drinks, smoking weed, and comparing scars. They made me think my issues were charming, that my neurotic behavior made me special. Who doesn’t want to feel special?

From an outsider prospective, it was easy to see that the relationship was beyond unhealthy – it was diseased. Fe and Fi were married, happily or unhappily – it depended on the day. Their relationship was rife with miscommunication, guilt, and secrets. I know because they each told me different things. Fo was a friend of theirs, nearly 10 years their junior. Later on, Fe, Fi, and Fo would form a sort of ménage a trois. They were “challenging society’s concept of monogamy”. I was slightly nauseous.

For the solid year and a half of our intense relationship, my mantra remained “just go with it”. I said it after my first, second, and consecutive hits off their blunt. I said it as I mixed my benzodiazepines with alcohol. I said it as every moral line I held was crossed, and every ethical bridge I had built was burnt. I said it after all of these choices led me to an incapacitated state, and I came to being violated by the people who called me special.

I wanted so badly to see if I could be someone else. I wanted to believe I was a part of something so special that other people couldn’t understand it. But even as it does in those formative, adolescent years, the sheen of excitement wears off and you’re exposed to the grime underneath. After almost two years, I came up for air and didn’t recognized my surroundings, but I finally recognized myself.

And I walked away.

These people hurt me in ways I’m still deconstructing. But they aren’t bad people. Fe is an unhappy person, trying everything in their power to make themselves, Fi, and Fo happy – no matter what the cost. Fi is a narcissist, without question, but with enough charm to fool the Pope. Fo has borderline personality disorder, and is one of the most exhausting people in the world to be near. Individually they could stand a chance – together they’re a masochistic Cerberus. They devour one another. For a while, I made their toxicity okay. I was a common denominator. Until I didn’t want to be that anymore.

To anyone on the outside, I’m an asshole who abandoned their closest friends. I’m Judas. I’m the person who left their friends for a romantic partner. I’m the jerk. I’m the villain. I’ll gladly take that title. I’ll be the villain in their story as long as I’m the protagonist in my own.

The Casualties of Authenticity

My journey to self-discovery has been 2.5 years and several thousand dollars in the making. Being both impatient and rather frugal, it hasn’t been the easiest road. And yet I wouldn’t trade that time or resources for anything: because here I am – nearly 27 and finally an authentic, albeit rough, version of myself.

Anyone who has struggled with self-esteem, mental health issues, an identity crisis, or has gone through a general personality change, is probably aware of the occasional loss of friends, partners, family members, etc. that sometimes happen. Not to negate their pain or struggles, but in the end these experiences are routine with growth and development.

It’s sometimes difficult to identify the exact point where you recognize that your individual paths start veering in opposite directions. In 2.5 years, I’ve parted ways with a handful of people; friends and partners. Sometimes it happens naturally – a gradual drifting apart without comment or recognition. Other times, it’s more dramatic – it’s a falling-out, an exclamation or accusation made in anger, or the burning of a bridge.

Both are sad to me. Both result in the ending of something, and I’ve never been particularly fond of endings. In the past, I had two coping mechanisms for this: avoidance and ignorance. Neither worked particularly well. I always felt it was my responsibility to fix things, or to make amends, often while sacrificing my own authenticity in the meantime.

I did no one a service in my actions. I put band aids on leaks in dams that burst anyways. I ignored my own needs to try and keep peace, only to end up being a terrible friend or partner because I wasn’t being myself – and therefore wasn’t happy. I avoided situations that turned worse without attention.

But the beauty of mistakes is that you can learn from them. I’m not always proud of the way I’ve reacted, but I am proud of learning to recognize my own needs and growth. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world isn’t to be honest with other people – but to be honest with yourself.

Sometimes, others’ perceptions of you will remain stagnant despite personal growth. Often what is apparent to us internally isn’t obvious to others. That’s okay. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the nature of relationships. If something is broken, it may just need time and space to heal. Or it may be something that shouldn’t be repaired. Honesty with ourselves is integral in finding the appropriate action for the situation.