Skip to content

Nostalgic Friendships

I don’t have a ton of IRL friends. I’m not much for group settings, so I usually make my friends at work, where I’m forced to be around folks and eventually become comfortable enough to open up. In my current job, I work alone in the office, where I am the only male in the agency surrounded mostly by women twenty years my senior. So, there aren’t a lot of friend making opportunities here.

But that hasn’t been a problem, because I’m one of those people that I’m hard to lose contact with. You will really have to put some effort into cutting ties, because in my mind once we’re friends, we are friends for life.

Of course, I had a rude awakening when MySpace hit the internet and suddenly I could track down all my lost friends from over the years bouncing from school to school. I learned quickly that most people don’t value friendship or maybe more accurately view friendship the way I did/do. Friendships come and go, and when they go, they are usually gone forever.

Of course, there have been times when friendships have just faded away in my life, but only once have I made a conscious decision to end a friendship. My best friend in high school had ceased to be a friend not too long after he joined the Navy. After sixteen years of nonsense and disrespect, I cut ties. It was hard for me, but I knew it was for the best. I didn’t need that sort of inconsistency in my life.

I’ve always been pretty open and aware of my mental health. I started chatting about it with my friends years ago. I wasn’t on a crusade to normalize it, but I guess I just wanted to let them know I was happy to talk about the hard, serious stuff if they wanted to. Like most guys, they clammed up and didn’t say much, nor did they offer any support. But as the years have gone by, and the stigma around mental health has died down, these same friends started showing up in therapy, becoming medicated, and the like. One friend, just two years ago, was ranting about how terrible therapy is, is now extremely reliant on it and of course, he wants to talk about it now all the time.

I’ve tried to be open and not hold a grudge. I mean, I took a lot of abuse/neglect from dealing with my mental health, and I know they didn’t know better. They lacked the knowledge and empathy to support me and that was okay, but it definitely takes me a moment to react when suddenly, they are looking for that empathy and support when I spent years trudging through my crap by myself.

Within the past six months, I’ve been asked by two different friends to be their “support person.” Their therapists asked them to find someone you can rely on to check in with each day. I was honored at first, but neither of them were serious. The check-ins lasted exactly two days for both of them, and then I started checking in with them and then nothing. It was just a waste of my time.

I was discussing my concerns with another friend, and he pointed out that it seemed like I was always there for people, they were rarely there for me, and they only showed up when they needed something (mainly emotional support). At first, I was taken aback, because I didn’t see myself as someone who could fall into the trap of being used. I guess, I just try to see the best in people, especially my friends, but the more we talked and the more I started looking back, and suddenly a pattern emerged.

I decided to go quiet. I stopped reaching out to a few people. I stopped instigating conversations and checking in. Instead, I focused on people I did have a reciprocal relationship with, and figured I’d see what happened with the others. It’s been about six weeks and I’ve heard nothing.

It’s been a bit disheartening to realize you were just the guy they vented to. Just someone to witness their martyrdom and feed their narcissism. I feel a bit like a sucker, because these friendships go back decades.

The friend who brought up that I seemed like I was always there for people, had asked me a question that really made put things into perspective at the time. He said, “What does your friendship consist of it? It seems like it is all based on nostalgia.”

And that was the line that really put everything together. I didn’t have a friendship with these people. These were people I was friends with twenty years ago. Now they are acquaintances that show up when they need something and because of nostalgia, I’ve given them all the benefits that come with being a friend. Mainly, my time, my attention, my respect, empathy etc.

You know what is the worst part of all of it? The two people I’m mostly referring to… were both cons. Both guys lied all the time about things and caused huge drama in their personal lives. For some reason, I convinced myself they wouldn’t lie to me. What an idiot…

My emotions shift from anger to frustration quite a bit. I think what really irritates me the most is my wife threw me a fortieth birthday party a few months back. I hadn’t had a birthday party since the 2nd grade, so it was super nice and very thoughtful. It had this whole 80’s theme, which was right up my alley.

Two people showed up.

It was kind of like having one of those embarrassing childhood birthday parties where no one from your class shows up, except now you’re ann adult and it’s even more embarrassing. I probably should have started thinking a bit more about the quality of my friendships back in November.

I mentioned being disappointed the other day, and without a doubt this plays into it some. Part of me is relieved, because I’m big on authenticity, but I’m also a bit hurt from it all. I think mostly because I feel like I fell for it. Ugh, but what can you do? I know now, and I can move on without the baggage and focus on better things and better relationships.

Published inSelf-Reflection


  1. I wish you lived closer, man. I’d hang out with you! I have a few friends that I see on occasion but mostly it’s just me and my wife doing things together. When I’ve been involved in groups like my 12-Step home group, cycling club or activist organizations, I’ve had a much busier social life, but all of those things aren’t super active parts of my life these days.

  2. Your post reminds me of the many friendships I formed online through Usenet back in the 1990s and Slashdot & DeviantArt in the 2000s — of those, only a few survived the transition away from those original places to the big social networks, and fewer still are those who I’m still occasionally in touch with now that I’m no longer attached to those networks.

    Yes, nostalgia played a big part in most of those. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that so many of those relationships fizzled out over time. People change with time, or are changed by the path they choose to follow. In a few cases, it catalysed into “wait, who is this person, why are they on my timeline??”

    The most ironic part? I’ve made more, and deeper, friendships with the people I’ve met virtually in Second Life than I ever made on any of the online spaces I mentioned above. Yes, there are plenty of trolls out there, and worse. But there’s also freedom to be different — case in point, I’m a big blue alien. 🙂 It’s not for everyone — in usability terms, it has a learning curve even steeper than the old Usenet newsgroups, and it can be a very expensive hobby — but I’m glad I took the plunge in 2015.

    • That’s fascinating. I’m so surprised the friendships varied based on where they originated online. Then again, I guess certain groups attract certain types of people. I’m so glad you made some good friends out of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *