As an immigrant Latinx growing up in big town Appalachian Maryland, my pool of potential friends was limited and not diverse.
I grew up being that third grader that called my teachers racist for not checking my black friend’s head for lice after they had checked everyone else, told the school principal about my 7th grade English teacher for making fun of Hinduism in class, and would walk out of class to avoid a fight with the super privileged kids laughing about waterboarding in high school.
Nevertheless, several of my best friends were some of these white and privileged people. This town, being Appalachia, is super humble, but being Maryland, still has its very wealthy families. My best friend’s family, in particular, was well off enough to send her to a 50K+ school for undergrad and have her come out debt free.
However, she and I connected very easily in our empathy and want to better the world whether it be through science or human rights. I always felt comfortable voicing my anger towards the school system and other racist interactions I had to deal with on the daily. Throughout our college years, she would supply me with the “lingo” for things I already knew and dealt with my whole life, such as “cultural appropriation” “white savior complex,” but didn’t previously have language for. In my mind she simply “got it” and it wasn’t until we were both adults out in the world and away from the small bubble of school that I realized that she got it, but only intellectually.
She still joked about how her parents reacted when she told them about her new boyfriend, “so what’s the catch?”… the catch being that he’s brown. She didn’t get it emotionally.
This was all also happening during the time of the current 45th President’s administration and man, I was tired. I was tired of people around me disappointing me with anti-blackness, anti-LGBT+ness, with complacency and apathy. I was tired of working 60 hours a week and barely getting by. My mental health was taking a toll. I was no longer feeling much else but anger. I was constantly on guard and constantly crying. This led my mom to basically force me to move to Europe.
I decided to spend a summer in Madrid to see whether or not I would be happier in Europe. I plunged into dealing with my mental health. I found a therapist, a gym, made new friends, went for day drinks, and danced. A small amount of savings, all of the sacrifices my mother was making for me, and how affordable Spain is allowed me to do all of this. Even after explaining to my friend all of these reasons as to why I would be taking that job in the fall and moving back to Spain, she still treated me like I was being selfish and impulsive: “Why don’t you look for a job in our town?”
I couldn’t believe it. She had watched me and listened to me in my misery in this town when we were growing up and she wanted me to move back? On top of that she knew that my mom was in a miserable living situation, in order to save enough funds because this move was important for her to make too. However, I never got support from my friend in my move, and she would bring up all the “work” there was to do politically and in social justice. She would praise how amazing all the people who were doing “the work” were. These are all conversations I have had with all my friends, but with her there was always this tone of “look at what they’re doing and you’re running away from.” I already felt guilt about leaving and not staying to do more, but I was actually no longer mentally strong enough to be helpful and I had to remind myself of this for months. I didn’t need her telling me this, too.
The last time I saw her in person in January she raved about a podcast that compared Hermione staying with Harry and helping him defeat Voldemort to the people that are being directly affected by this new administration rising up and doing the work. I was appalled. I wanted to scream but she’s always been one of those friends that when you point out something they do that is hurtful, you end up being the one that apologizes and reassures them that they’re a good person. So I stayed quiet.
I started to find myself being more distant, I didn’t contact her as often, but I still loved her and missed her. Months passed and I started to tell myself that our friendship was too important to ignore. Then, she came to Europe for a trip- a trip that we had planned to do together for several years; but the worst part was she didn’t even bother mentioning it to me- I found out through her Instagram story. I was heartbroken. In the past, this was something that we could have worked through. But not anymore. This was too hurtful. I’m grateful I was in a great place of healing, and that’s what made it bearable. Eventually, I realized it was for the better, and looking back, I started feeling relieved, even. I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about not being Hermione anymore.