In seventh grade, I met a girl whose influence would shape how I saw friendship.
We had quite a few mutual friends and I’d always heard her name from other people. She was a year older than me and all my friends, so like all preteens, I thought she was super cool. We exchanged numbers one day and from then on we both began an unforgettable friendship.
She soon became my very best friend. We told each other every single thing, we talked all day every day, we did basically everything that we could together. Despite going to different high schools, we hung out once or twice a week.
I considered her a sister.
She always gave me the best advice and I felt like she was one of the only people who truly had my back. She was basically a part of me. Everyone knew us as this inseparable pair of best friends.
But things quickly changed as the both of us matured over the course of high school. She was being exposed to boys and alcohol before I was, and before I knew it, I felt like I had turned into the older sister in our friendship.
The tables had turned and now I was the one guiding her through her life, which at the time was filled with high school drama, numerous conflicts with her parents, and of course, boys.
I kept convincing myself that she was a good friend, and she wasn’t trying to turn me into someone I was not. But the truth is, she was a horrible influence in my life. And I don’t say that because of her life choices, I say that because of the way she treated me despite my efforts to be a good friend to her.
She would call me over the phone bawling and then I’d convince one of my parents to drive me over to her house where I’d spend hours comforting her. Anytime she needed me, I was there. Whether it was the time she almost attempted suicide, to the time she was heartbroken by her first true love.
I’m really not the type to get influenced easily, which is one quality I’ve always loved about myself. Regardless of who I surround myself with, I have the ability to stand my ground.
I would never judge anyone for how they decide to go about their life.
Despite what my best friend was doing, I always had her back and tried to support her in every way possible.
Do you want to change into more scandalous clothes at school? No, I won’t tell any of our other Muslim friends.
Do you want to go hook up with your boyfriend? Yeah sure, I’ll cover for you if your mom calls me to ask where you are.
But as time progressed, I started to get a gut feeling that something was wrong. I felt sad, constantly. I was always worried about her and giving her all of my attention. I barely ever talked to my other best friends, the ones I had been friends with since birth.
And then I began to notice little patterns of behavior that made me realize what this friendship was really about. It wasn’t a two-way effort.
It was me taking care of her, and her wanting attention.
As soon as I would talk about myself or how I was feeling, she didn’t care. When I was going through some really personal things in my family, she was nowhere to be seen. I’ll never forget the way she treated me when something major came up with my life.
Our text conversations began looking similar every day.
There was always something she didn’t like about me. The way I responded with a two-word answer while I was studying for my AP Bio midterm. Or the way I would advise her from my perspective, but then she’d automatically think I was judging her.
There was no way to get through to her, and all the fighting made me depressed. I really didn’t know who to count on. She would toy around with my emotions, making me think she’s mad at me one minute but loves me the next. The worst was when I’d try to tell her that I needed some space.
She would get offended and then give me an ultimatum, “We’re either not friends at all, or we’re best friends – there’s no in between.”
I would convince myself her actions weren’t worth staying mad at, so I would give in to her. She’d apologized to me hundreds of times, but she wouldn’t change.
There were so many times when I told her we’re done and that this friendship isn’t worth it anymore, only to have her beg for my forgiveness. She was all about her image.
She needed a best friend by her side at all times.
I eventually came to a point in my life where I realized that I needed to pay more attention to myself and that I should put myself before anyone else.
I was stern with her and I finally told her we couldn’t be friends anymore. The worst part was that it felt more like a painful breakup with my boyfriend opposed to telling my best friend that I needed time apart from her.
We had “broken up” countless times before, and it always played out like a typical couple’s breakup. We would get into a fight, take a break, try to talk it out three days later, and then decide it’s over, only to reach out to one another a week later begging for forgiveness.
This time was different.
I cut her off of everything. I even told my parents, and they responded with relief.
It was difficult knowing that things would never be the same with someone I was once so close to. I almost felt like I had lost a sister, but then at the same time, I felt like I didn’t know her at all.
When the drama stopped, so did the depression. I was no longer fearful of how she would react to my actions or how she’d blame me for her problems.
I saw her again a year later at a party.
Strangely enough, she did the same thing she did after we had fights. She came up to me, held my hand and told me how sorry she was for everything that had happened. She told me about how much she missed me and that all she wanted was her best friend back. We started talking for about a month, but then I eventually stopped replying in fear of getting too close once again.
I really miss my friendship with her, which was one of a kind.
But the minute that relationship began taking a toll on my mental health, I knew it was time for a change.
Now I look at it as a previous chapter of my life, filled with both good things and bad things. I know that maybe in the future, the two of us can get along better.
But for now, I’ll go about my life, living fearlessly and unapologetically.