I want you to think about all of the people you have met in your lifetime. Some will only be in your life for a moment, some will linger, and others will stay and make a lasting impact. What affects who stays and who leaves? There’s a number of variables that could affect this. Now let’s think about toxic people specifically. By this, I mean the people who negatively affect your life more than their positive influence. This could be a friend, family member, or significant other. When I think about this, two specific people come into my mind.
The one individual was a childhood friend. I wrote about her previously; she was an only child. We became friends when I was about four years old and we grew up together. I moved out of the state when we were mid-way through elementary school. We would see each other about once a year because it was difficult to get together when neither of us drove. In high school she started hanging out with the wrong crowd and partying regularly. It didn’t really bother me because it didn’t involve me, but I worried about her. Her grades were dropping and she was getting into fights at school. When I finally got my license (I was almost eighteen), I went to visit her. We planned to have a girls’ night and catch up, but when I got there she had friends over and told me that we were going to a party. She knew I had never been to a party before and that I wasn’t comfortable with it, but she wasn’t considering what I wanted at that point. I didn’t know any of her friends and it was just an uncomfortable situation in general. I spent the next few hours talking to her parents while the girls got ready and then we went out. I found the designated driver drinking right off the bat, so I confiscated her keys and designated myself as driver (thank god the car wasn’t manual because I would have been useless). So I spent the next five hours being the only sober person among about a hundred strangers in the woods while keeping tabs on all of the girls that we brought. There were fireworks, drugs, fights, vomiting,… and I was not happy to find myself in this predicament (although I was glad to be there because there wouldn’t have been a sober driver if I wasn’t). I had to play babysitter when we got home. We didn’t hang out again for a while. I tried to reconnect several times in the upcoming years, but she always had an excuse. The only time she invited me to hang out with her was when she was going to a bar with her friends, but my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I weren’t comfortable with attending – she was pregnant and would probably be drinking and that’s a hard no for me. When I invited her to hang out next, she said financially she couldn’t go for lunch. I said don’t worry about it, it’s my treat. She continued to have excuses and at that point I finally had enough. We had an argument and that was the end of our friendship. Honestly, it was such a freeing feeling. I no longer had to worry about being dragged into something I wasn’t comfortable with. I was holding onto the relationship because of how long we were friends. We had history, but that only goes so far. We didn’t even know each other well anymore, but she was a piece of my past that I didn’t want to let go of. She would only call me when she needed something, would make rude comments to me at times, and never had my best interests in mind. That’s not a friendship. It wasn’t healthy and it was nice to finely close that door.
I still wish her happiness and health. I hope that life is treating her well and that she figures out what she wants in life, but I am glad that I won’t have to be there for the journey. I thought that made me a bad person for a while. I thought I was being selfish, but then I realized that the relationship was toxic. And it’s okay to release the toxic people from your life.
I’m not saying to give up on all relationships and to push everyone away. Trust me, I have friendships that have needed work, but we both worked at it and put aside our differences. It wasn’t a one-way street with them. We both admitted faults and worked through them. Balance is key. And balance was something that I would never achieve with my childhood friend.
Love yourself enough to know when you need to let go and set toxic people free.