If you would have told me a year ago that my life would look the way it does right now, I would have been dumbfounded, but now I am relieved.
I definitely couldn't have anticipated the drastic changes that I've had to endure or the magnitude of who I once was compared to who I am now. When I step back and disassociate from myself, I can't help but feel like my life has been turned upside. Luckily for me, though, it definitely was for the better.
It's known that time changes people and situations. I had plans of what I expected this year to look like and who I would spend it with. I spent the last three years of college building up to a moment, and this current moment looks nothing like that dream.
I expected to be friends with the people I had around me since freshman year. I expected to live in the same apartment I had slept in for the past two years. I expected parties, daily hangouts with friends and I imagined this blissful senior year picture marked by wine nights and pillow fights with the girls I had loved most.
But life has a funny way of slapping you upside the head giving you whiplash from time and expectations.
I don't have those freshman year friends anymore. I don't have those girls who I thought would be my bridesmaids in my life anymore. I don't live in that crappy apartment, have those daily hangouts or live that life of anticipated bliss. I've had to come to the difficult realization that plans don't always follow through, but I have grown thankful that mine didn't.
Recently, I looked back on those three years and realized how much of it was a lie. When I first started going through the changes, I convinced myself that I had the time of my life during those prior years, but then I realized it – I was equally as miserable as I was happy.
For every good day with my friends, there was a bad one. It's easy to forget and block out all the terrible memories because you don't want to believe they actually happened. In my head, I would play a supercut of all the best moments and leave out all of the terrible scenes that made me feel miserable.
I forgot that feeling of needing to walk on eggshells to preserve the feelings of someone who didn't care about mine.
I forgot the endless battles of bending over backward for friends who wouldn't walk an inch to help me when I was in need.
I forgot the constant crying and heartwrenching confessions to my mom of how badly I would feel secluded when these friends would show they didn't value my friendship anymore.
I forgot that instant ache I felt in my heart the moment I realized I was replaced by someone else.
I forgot a lot and I believe I subconsciously did it on purpose. I tried to save my heart from reliving those painful memories and years of working tirelessly for nothing. I wanted to blame myself for everything that happened in hopes of finding any type of answer or conclusion for why it all took place. It was easier for me to rest it all on my shoulders than to blame the people I thought would never want to hurt me.
In my 21st year of life, I've had to actually come to the conclusion that people aren't what you expect them to be. Just because you paint them as the epitome of sisterhood does not mean that is what they are. Holding someone on a high pedestal only makes you lose sight of the dirt on their feet and their eagerness to use you for all that you're worth.
Just because you grow up doesn't mean they will too.
Some people have no desire to grow and instead find comfort in complacency. They settle into their belief of how their life is and their image of happiness. But just because they settle doesn't mean you have to too.
I settled for the happiness my friends thought they had. I never wanted to reach further in my life out of the fear of leaving them behind. I stifled my abilities and goals to make sure we stayed on the same page and to make them feel loved. I didn't fight for my own happiness just to avoid the possibility of hurting them and making them feel anything less than adored.
Ultimately, I realized I made myself unhappy to make them happy.
Although at times I want to regret the mistake I made in trusting people who didn't my back in the long run, I've grown more as a person in the past few months than I have my entire life. I've had to learn how to pick myself up and move on, literally. I've learned to expect less from people and accept them for not only who they are but also what they're not.
I can't force people to be what I imagine as the perfect friend. I've worked on not putting all my cards in the hands of a few people and have instead spread them out into a community. I don't measure my happiness by what three friendships in my life look like anymore, but instead, how much joy I have experienced in learning from more people around me. I've opened my eyes and have stepped out of darkness, no matter how badly I wanted to stay in a cave of isolation and pain.
As much as I wanted to hate the people who failed me, I can't. I realize now that part of the problem was that I actually wanted more. I chose to hold myself back to protect people who didn't correspondingly care about protecting me, and that's what I hated most. A lot of what happened was my doing because even if it was subconsciously, I was trying too hard for people who weren't doing the same for me, and I felt disappointed. I put my eggs all in one basket and when that wicker bin dropped, I felt like every last shell shattered. The problem was that I was the only one holding that basket up and eventually, my arm got tired and gave out.
My advice to you is to pay attention to the signs. If you find that your friendships are equally as frustrating as they are rewarding, get out. Don't convince yourself to stay when you too begin to play the compilation video in your mind of all the best moments. You need to decide what is best for you before you feel like your friendships have run dry and like you have nothing left.
The grass is greener, I promise you. As someone who felt stuck living in a wasteland, I've climbed to the mountaintop and can finally breathe the fresh air. You can too.