Last year I made the best decision I’ve made since starting my book Sunday back in 2008. I decided to self-publish and I noticed a discernible shift in myself. I was motivated to write, to navigate the world of publishing, to move to another state. I was back in love with sharing my work. My eyes were wide open, and I was seeing a world of opportunities and planning out how I would take full advantage of them. I’d changed–for the first time in a long time–for the better.
But when your eyes are wide open and you’re changing, sometimes you can’t help but see how others respond to it. I had a friend, a beloved but utterly toxic friend, who also made a decision. She chose to lie about how supportive she was while slowly pulling away. She became less and less interested in the goings on of my life, whether it was the publishing or the move. Where other friends were excited to see the cover art or hear about reviews coming in and my plans for grad school, she was suddenly extremely busy. Too busy to talk in any medium available during this, the technological age.
I knew what was happening and it bothered me, because during a similar transition for her I was there. It was my first time coming face to face with what can happen when things begin to fall in place for you. It isn’t always a contagious euphoria that others will share. Sometimes it simply exposes the parasitic link between people that have grown accustomed to using each other. That’s not friendship, and when it’s tested it won’t last.
I’m not crazy successful as an author. I’m doing well for a newbie, but I thought this sort of thing was reserved for those that “made it”. I’ve just begun my journey, but even still, I was conscious of not talking too much about my work, of not alienating my old friend. I shared my life because she said she wanted to hear, because that’s what we’d done since the beginning, but sparingly, tentatively. I made an effort to seek her out when she became distant because I wanted to show that I cared, that in the fundamental ways I was unaltered and would be understanding while she battled demons she wouldn’t share. But time stretched out and the gap was filled with silence after I shared what would become the last draft of #1 Crush. We always shared our work, but now it was like I’d left a submission in her inbox.
She never did read it and we never did truly speak again. Over a month passed and then I realized that I’d been passive aggressively dismissed. I didn’t rail, I didn’t ask why. I already knew what had caused the rift and so I decided to let go of something that was no longer able to be salvaged. And in the process I opened myself up to friends that were nothing but supportive, that were excited for me, shared their writing and life with me. Whether they were writers or fellow students, or family, they were so happy to see me happy that feeling betrayed was no longer a priority.
This year I started grad school, I visited England and I’m preparing to publish my fourth book. But there was a time when I was at my lowest, and this person wasn’t there for me during that time either. They popped back in when I was settled after being dealt a shitty hand by life, but only with happiness and movement forward was I able to see the pattern. I was a tool, I was an ego boost, I was a boredom blaster, an editor, a sounding board. But I wasn’t a friend and neither was she. Friends don’t use each other, and they don’t begrudge you experiencing highs and lows. They ride the wave and they don’t just say they care. They show it. I learned about the ways I needed to be better and the ways I need to expect better, and for that I’ll always be grateful for the experience.
I share this because it’s easy to look from the outside and think a person is so lucky. I do it all the time. I marvel at my fellow authors and their hustle, their creativity, their grace as they manage families, work, school, social lives, friendships, heartbreaks, the Muse, and good and bad reviews. But I’d be willing to bet some of the ones I admire the most have had to let go of a toxic person that couldn’t be happy for them.
But if you have the right friends by your side—when you treat yourself as your own best friend—you can get through the thick and thin of life. You can say “goodbye” with grace. And you will get lots of wonderful opportunities to say “hello”.