I am writing this because of two reasons. The first is that earlier this month, Tolu said we should talk more about failure. I have never been one to shy away from failure. I even embrace failure sometimes but her tweet reminded me of what needed to be done. The second reason is that I received many messages and a few emails after my last blog post about my friendship with Faith. Most of the messages were from people who were amazed at our friendship and wanted to know how it’s done. How do you keep a friendship alive for seven years? How do you handle the distance, the differences, the fights?
It felt strange that I received these messages. I did not know it was this hard to maintain adult friendships. I had an idea quite alright and I even wrote a Twitter thread that blew up last year based on that idea. But even that did not prepare me for the messages I received. That was when I knew I was going to write this. My post about my friend, Faith, had produced an unintended result. It had made people believe that I knew the magic code to successful friendships. I did not. I do not. In fact, if anything, what I know is the code to failed friendships. So in a bid to write more about failure as Tolu has admonished and to let you know that there is no secret to successful friendships and if there are, I do not have them, here is to the friends I lost, the ones that did not work out, the ones that blocked me, deleted my numbers, ghosted me. Here’s to the ones we do not talk about because to talk about them is to remind myself of how terrible I am as a person. To talk about them is to remind myself that I failed again, at friendship, that I may also be a horrible person.
I remember, for example, a doctor friend I ghosted in early 2021. I honestly do not know why I ghosted them. I think it had something to do with them sending messages and me not replying for a while and then feeling guilty for not replying. So I did not reply to them for months. This was someone who was quite close to them. We knew each other’s secrets. I told them when I was having issues in my past relationship. They also told me when they were breaking up with their ex. We cried on each other’s shoulders. We laughed together. We ate together. We did video calls, a lot of video calls. And I ghosted. Last December, I decided to enter the year clean and mud-free so I sent them a long message acknowledging how much of an asshole I had become. I promised to do better, to call, to send text messages, to be in touch. This is April. I have not spoken to this person in months. They may as well be in India right now eating pork and onions, I wouldn’t know. Why have I not been in touch? I honestly do not know. It just feels like a lot. Apologizing, promising to do better, updating them on all that has been going on in my life, only for me to ghost again? This is one of the many friendships I have lost or hopefully, just on the verge of losing.
And then there is one person who has been my friend for about three years now and they were there for me through the muddy waters of December 2020. And then all of a sudden, I disappeared on them last year. Or we disappeared on each other. I sent them a book as their birthday gift last year, a weak attempt to revive what was already dying. They were in town last month and I did not even know until I saw it on their WhatsApp stories. I felt horrible. This was someone I knew in every way humans could know each other. And now, I don’t even know they are in town. Wow…wonderful. I reached out on Twitter and we started talking again about two weeks ago. I apologized. They apologized. They told me what I did that hurt them. I told them where I was then. I apologized. We are talking now. I just hit them up while typing this at 12:01 am on a Sunday morning and they replied. This one was almost lost but we have salvaged it, for now, hopefully forever.
Earlier this year, I made my Instagram account private. I just wanted to know the people who were checking my pictures. There was this friend I had moved on from about two years ago. Their presence in my life was causing more harm than good so I decided to let them go. They wriggled themselves into my life last year and we were doing on and off but I finally cut them off later in the year. It felt surreal to me that I had joined the WhatsApp group of people who now use the phrase “cut them off.” But I did it. I did not hear from them until they requested to follow my private Instagram account. I felt uncomfortable about this. What are you looking for? We are bad for each other. If you want to read my writings or follow my reading journey, you can check my Bookstagram. I am not so comfortable letting you into my private Instagram account. I do not post anything private there actually but I just do not want to feel you are closer to me than you actually are. And so, that way, this once blossoming friendship died a rather silent death. Its death brought peace. And another one bites the dust.
I sent out two emails to two friends about two weeks ago. One was a friend I thought I had lost and went to their DM humble. Then they said I did not have to ever feel guilty to come back home. The second person was an old flame. We talked, they were in a relationship now. It felt heavy for me; my heart skipped a beat. Really? Relationship already? How much time has passed really? Have I been so far away? So detached? So removed from their life? Sure they told me when their love was in an embryonic stage but now that it had become solidified, I did not know. I did not feel bad that they did not tell me because we were not talking. It would not make much sense to just barge into my DM and say, “ I am in a relationship now.” Still, it got to me. It’s hard to know if it is because of our old flame or because I was afraid to lose my friend. But then, they send me a message saying: “You’re still a big part of my life and even if we only talk once in a while, I cherish those moments.” That sealed it for me. I wrote them a long-ass email telling them all that was happening in my life. They have not replied yet but I am not in a hurry.
I know the importance of having people around you and I will not deny it: I am lucky in this regard. I have friends who are present. My oldest friend has been with me since Primary 2. I have a circle of close male friends. Then I have other friends, not in this circle. Then I have female friends. Then there are acquaintances. Then there are people I know. Then there is the general public. For me, the progression is always from the general public -> someone I know -> acquaintances -> friends -> close friends. But what you may not know is that I have only made one close friend this year. Most of my other attempts have either died at just the friendship level or fizzled away. Some started as honest attempts at pure friendships, morphed into romantic interests, and ended there, like a phantom limb, not growing, not dying. Because anything romantic is not something I want to explore throughout this year.
If after all these, you still want tips, no problem. Cars are parked at owner’s risk.
Do not push it. You do not want someone who does not want you. Do not rush it. There is no hurry really. Also, be clear about what you want from the start. Do you want friendships or someone to cuddle when it rains at Yaba? Unspoken desires can destroy friendships. Be honest about what you want and then about who you are. If you do not like calls like me, tell them you may need some time to warm up to picking calls from them. Let them know that once you warm up to them, they will be the ones begging you to stop because you can stay on call for hours. I was on a call with a friend recently and I told them I was feeling sleepy. And they sang me to sleep. This is someone who does not like calls.
Find friends with common interests. I think it is easier. I may be wrong. Try not to cross boundaries unless you both have discussed it. Also, try to be understanding. This is the magic of friendships for me . The fact that I have been off WhatsApp for about two months now and my friends understand. Or that I may change tomorrow. I may stop believing in some things and the certainty that my friends will stay: that is golden. So be understanding. Lastly, lastly and lastly, I’m sorry to disappoint you. There is no last tip. May the force be with you. And remember, you are not a bad person because some friendships failed or had to end. No one has a perfect record. If you think they do because of what they post on social media, then know that what you see is half of the story. So you’re not that different from us all. We all struggle to build genuine friends and we all lose friends sometimes. Ultimately, what matters is this:
When the cold descends, everyone will return to their friends and family for warmth. May you not be the last one standing, alone, cold, terrified, shivering, friendless.