I always thought that I was able to differentiate “true friends” from “just friends.” Yet, an uncomfortable truth dawned upon me in grade eight, which made me realized that I was not able to.
Making new friends has always been one of my favourite things, despite the fact that I have struggled so far to identify “true friends.”
When I joined this school in grade seven, I spent half of my year with a diverse group of people. By the time I settled down, I was in a group of six people, including me — I was a newcomer in the group.
I enjoyed being with them, since one of the things that I was not able to do in my old school was hanging out with the people of the same nationality.
Excited by the fact that I was able to, now, my feelings lifted up. Yet, as I hung out with my friends, slowly, our friendship started to twist and turn.
One friend left us because she started to dislike three girls from the group. And not so long after, another too, left us with the same reason. I did not understand why they left us and me being excited, was blinded from the reason why they turned their backs.
In the end, I was left with these three friends. We hung out together. We walked up to school and back down to dorms together. We did this every day. But after some time, I noticed that something was off.
One evening, we cooked dinner and was sitting around, chatting. Usually, after school, we talked about what we should cook for dinner, but today, they never drew me into this conversation. They seemed excited about doing things by themselves only.
I could not ask them if I could join. Me being a person who does not initiate or broach conversations unless offered, kept quiet. “Oh, Daejoo, do you wanna eat with us?” they said, only when they felt sorry for me.
But, I am always the one that offers first. But, there were very few times when they invited me. But, when we are together, I offered my tuck, like Korean stuff, which I myself cannot get easily because I live in India.
Thoughts started to tingle into my brain.
Because of these incidents, a hierarchy was formed between them and me. From then on, our friendship functioned like a business. If they were the boss, I was the worker. They started to instruct me, asking me to do the things that they were supposed to do by themselves.
It has become a routine that whenever I go to get my gadgets, they would say, “Daejoo~~ (smiling) can you get mine also?” as people piled up on me saying, “Oh~~~can you get mine too?”
This was not the only thing that I had to go through.
By the end of each day, I start hearing familiar voices asking: “Daejoo~~~ Are you going to dorms? If you are, can you please do my laundry?” and then again, there went other person saying, “Oh! Even mine!”
What hit me the most was the fact that other people started to ask me questions like: “are you fine?” and “are you okay?”, showing how I was not the only one who felt that I was “working” for them.
I fell into a slump. No advice, no therapy could help me. I could not get out of this pit.
I decided that I will have to talk, so I did, with one of the three friends, asking what I should do when I feel excluded. “Just be more kind,” was her response.
I was shocked. I thought that until this point, whatever I did for them, was only for them, and for their good. Still, all I received was an advice that I need to be more kind. Left speechless, I was shocked, and terrified.
As the time of our semester stepped nearer to an end, so did our relationship. New students came in and I met people who were similar to me. We had a similar way of thinking, we got along well, we understood each other, and they made me feel comfortable staying with them.
I could not find any hierarchy or a business-like relationship but a kind heart, and personalities that attracted me to them. I started to spend more time with them than staying with the other toxic friends.
They saw the hierarchy relationship between me and them, they gave me advice on what I should say, and how I should act when they treat me like a slave. Slowly, I started to make my way out from the slump and proceed in my life, thinking and worrying about other things rather than toxic friendship conflicts.
I know I cried a lot while going through this phase, but after I was free, I was able to stop my tears and learn to smile for myself. This experience made me learn and think again before making friends or how to deal with friends. I am not perfect and I am still growing up just like any other teenager.
Now, I am thankful that I had this experience in my life. Because I learned a life lesson about the difference between “true friends” and “just friends.”
Edited by Victoria Lee