My dad’s mom, Conching, passed away during childbirth over 55 years ago. At the time, my dad was about 5 years old. Tatay was left to care for 7 children, ages ranging from about 14 to 2. Like their ages, what each sibling remembers of Nanay Conching ranges as well. Some remember the day she passed away vividly, some remember bits and pieces of isolated moments, and some remember nothing at all. Because my dad and aunt were the 2 youngest siblings, they heavily relied on the memories of their older siblings to get an idea of what kind of person their mom was.
From what I have gathered throughout the years, my grandma was a very kind and religious woman. She was the eldest of her siblings, and had a very nurturing personality. Every new piece of information lit up my family’s faces. Each story, memory, and photograph was like striking gold. My cousins and I wanted to know more about the woman that left such an impact on everyone that knew her. We have all wondered what our family would be like had Nanay Conching and my Auntie Merlinda survived. We’d probably have more aunts and uncles, more cousins, and a way bigger family – which is hard to believe, given that our family is already pretty large.
Since Nanay Conching passed away so long ago, and at such a young age, there are only a handful of photos of her that we’ve seen. I personally have only seen a total of 4 photos of Nanay Conching: a solo photo of her in a traditional Filipino dress, the picture of her and Tatay on their wedding day, a photo of my great grandparents (her parents) and all of her siblings holding a painting of her after she passed, and her and my aunt’s tomb stones in the Philippines. These are the only photos that the family has to remember her by. I’m sure that there might be more photos in the Philippines in the albums of very distant family members, but these are the few gems the family’s aware of.
My family is known to have a big family “story time.” We all gather in the living room – you know it’s about to be story time just from the vibe. They turn off the TV, everyone grabs a seat nearby, and it becomes a family group discussion. This usually happens when family from out of state visits the Bay Area – it would routinely happen during Tatay’s birthdays. I don’t know when these family story times started becoming a thing, but they seem to be happening more often as us “kids” start to get older. We feel more comfortable to ask the adults more thought-provoking questions on how they were raised, what they remember, and what life was like immigrating to a new country right after their mother passed away.
Each story told, each point of view shared, each memory ingrained in my aunts, uncles, and dad’s pasts, helps us understand their upbringing and how it has personally effected them as parents, partners, and individuals. Because we know our loved ones’ pasts, it brings to light all the unspoken emotions that their generation couldn’t find the words to express properly. Understanding our family’s generational trauma has planted the seed of change in my cousins and I’s heads. For me, love is many things, one thing that love is is wanting to try to understand. Trying to understand means that you not only want to listen, but that you want them to feel heard. Attempting to understand other people’s pasts and lives brings healing for them, and can connect the pieces in your own mind about why they are the way they are.
I’ve heard many sides and point of views of the day my grandma passed away. Some details vary from sibling to sibling, as time sometimes clouds the memory. One thing that everyone could agree on – regardless of what they remembered and how old they were – was the fact that my grandma’s death put Tatay in a frenzy. He was left widowed with 7 children to care for. Tragedy brought my family closer together and made the stitching of their bond to each other that much tighter. Because they lost a parent so early on in their lives, they cherished Tatay that much more, regardless of how flawed and irritable he was.
Now that Tatay has passed on, a lot of change has happened in our family in the last year. A lot of family are moving out of the Bay Area – something that I never thought would happen in my lifetime. For some reason, I’ve always believed that my extended family on both sides would stay in the Bay Area for life. Looking back now, I know that’s pretty unreasonable, but when I think of “home” I think of the Bay Area. As family starts to branch out outside of California, I think it’s important to try to maintain the closeness and bond that we are all so used to.
A few months ago, we took a trip to visit family that recently moved out of state. It was an amazing experience to explore a state we’d probably never think to visit otherwise. It was hands down one of the best family trips I have ever been on. When entering a home I’ve never been to before, I love to look at all the pictures that are up in the house. I feel like the pictures that are up in someone’s house says a lot about them and what’s important to them. I made my way around my uncle’s living room, dining room, bedroom, and anywhere with pictures up.
I analyzed all of the photos in my uncle’s home, each tucked away in a frame, some big, some small. As I admired the collage frame hanging next to the front door, I noticed some faces that looked very familiar at the top right. It was a photo of Tatay and Nanay Conching on their wedding day. But this wasn’t the wedding photo we were all familiar with, this was one I’ve never seen before. There in front of me was a picture of both my grandparents smiling ear to ear. It dawned on me that this was the first time I’ve ever seen a photo of my grandma smiling.
I immediately took pictures of the photo and sent it my dad and aunt who couldn’t make the trip. They also shared that they have never seen the photo before either. My aunt texted me, thanking me for sending it her way. Being the youngest sibling, my aunt was only 2 years old when her mom passed away. Her and my dad have no memories of their own of their mother. All that they have gathered about their mom has been stories passed down from their older siblings. She shared that this was the first picture she ever saw of her mom smiling, and it brought tears to her eyes. There is nothing that can fill the void of losing a parent so young, but a picture of both of her parents smiling was the next best thing for my aunt. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture left us speechless.
It was a nice surprise to discover that photo that day. Especially with so much change happening, it’s nice to get those signs from the other side that they’re still around. Or at the very least, a reminder of the people that started it all. Sometimes discovering a photo that you never knew existed could really move you in ways that are unexplainable. For me, the smiling photograph filled my heart in many ways.
As a writer, having writer’s block is a regular occurring thing for me. To the public, it looks like I just push out these blog posts every week with grace. But behind the scenes, my ass is going through a constant rollercoaster of anxiety and stress. I work on a piece throughout the week on top of my 8-5 job, and once it hits the weekend I feel a sense of relief because the work week is over. But then I have that sense of panic because I know it’s grind time to put the finishing touches on my blog post. Sundays are when my procrastinating ass starts to feel more pressure. But once it hits Monday after 5 PM, it is straight to the laptop I go. That’s when I know it’s time to put in work because it’s blog post day. The adrenaline kicks in, Will I post it on time? What should be my pull quote? Do I have a visual? How will this post perform?
Once I press that “Publish” button and share it across all my socials, I feel a sense of relief and peace. I made it through another week. All that hard work was not for nothing. Good shit. Once everything is posted and up, I finally chill out. But that brief bliss is short lived, as I know that the next day, the same cycle will continue. However, Tuesdays are a different kind of stress because Tuesdays are the days I have to start from scratch and figure out what I’m going to write about for the upcoming week. If I’m being completely honest, I’m almost 3 years deep into posting consistently every week, and I’m surprised that I haven’t ran out of shit to write about. Each time I hit writer’s block and think that I have written about every fucking topic already, I somehow push through with a new post. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing and everything that comes with it, but when you’re trying to juggle your day job and passion at the same time, it can get stressful.
When I hit writer’s block, it’s usually when I’m overthinking a topic to write about. When I literally can’t be writing because I’m at work, doing something else, or trying to sleep – that’s when my mind runs wild. I get all my best ideas when I’m not sitting in front of my computer thinking, “What am I going to write?” It’s so annoying, but that’s what I have found to be true. I have tried to make it a habit to document my idea on my notes on my phone so I can at least revisit it later. This has helped greatly because it allows me to dig deeper into that topic at another time.
I have a list of topics on my phone to write about, but when Tuesdays come around and I have to make an executive decision to pick a topic and roll with it, suddenly I think everything on the list sucks. And if I’m being real, some writing topics have remained on the list for over 2 years because when the time comes, I just don’t have the desire to write about it anymore. It obviously interested me at some point since I wrote it down, but when it’s time to pick a topic, I tend to over think what I’m going to post next really hard. Ironically, 9 times out of 10, I end up writing about a thought or idea that came out of the blue and wasn’t even on my list. It’s not uncommon for me to be working on a piece throughout the week, and on Sunday, scrap it all and start from scratch on another story. It all depends on what I’m feeling. If I’m not pleased with it, I’m not publishing it.
And I bet you’re wondering – Is what she’s writing about relevant to her personal life at the moment? And the answer is yes and no. It all depends. Most of the time, if I’m feeling something very intensely that doesn’t really involve anyone else, I’ll try to write about it in the moment. It’s a great way for me to sort out my thoughts and emotions because a lot of the time I don’t know where to begin to process what I’m feeling. However, if it’s a topic that involves specific people, sometimes I’m on the fence about posting or sharing my take on a situation or story because I don’t want anyone to feel bad when reading my posts. Especially if I’m writing about someone’s present situation that is still unfolding. It screams “too obvious” and shady.
But like most artists, I can’t help but pull inspiration from my personal life. Usually conversations with close friends and family will inspire me to write a piece. But unlike Carrie from “Sex and the City,” you won’t find me putting my close friends and family’s business out there so blatantly on the table. I respect people’s privacy, but also know that these are topics that so many people can relate to. If I’m drawing inspiration from those around me and what they and I are going through in our personal lives, I try to write my post as tastefully as possible without having anyone feel like I’m secretly at-ing them.
Recently, conversations with family and friends have drastically changed throughout the years. As it should, as we are all experiencing different and new stages in our lives. A lot of the conversations I’m having with those around me focuses on our past, how we were brought up and how that affects us as adults, how we process feelings and emotions, how we express our love language and our communication styles, cultural differences, dreams, goals, healing, and bettering ourselves overall. The emphasis these last couple of years have been being more self-aware with how we react to things, handle stress, and what we can do to heal our inner child and be good people for ourselves and to others.
That all sounds nice, but it isn’t all smiles and rainbows. Realizing a lot of these actions and patterns can be a very disappointing journey. Especially when you are aware of these unwanted traits, but can’t seem to progress as fast as you’d like. It’s that constant back and forth that gets people down sometimes. In the age of social media, there is this belief that everyone needs to project and present their best selves at all times. But that’s not how life works. Nobody is perfect. And it only seems right to document those small hiccups in my life, and the experiences of others in a tasteful way.
When I draw inspiration from the situations of those around me, I make it a point to let whoever know that I’ll be referencing the conversation / their scenario without giving too much detail as to who they are. Though I am a writer and creative, I first and foremost want to make sure that my friends and family feel comfortable talking about things with me without fearing that I’ll write about it without their knowledge. Trust is so important to me. And as a writer, especially as a journalist, I don’t want to lose sight of the relationships and trust I have with people for the sake of a blog post.
However, those around me are very supportive with my blog. When I suggest that I may write about someone’s current situation, feelings, or predicament, I am almost always met with support and encouragement. The people closest to me know that I will never throw them under the bus or make their business so public to the world, especially if it involves other people besides themselves. These are heavy topics. But I think it’s important to keep the conversations going because so many people can relate to it.
Since I talk about really raw and real situations, a lot of the time as a reader, you can’t help but make correlations and mental notes from your own life. I have had people tell me that my posts made them reflect on their own actions or how they perceive and go about certain situations. There have also been a handful of times where people have asked me if my post was about them. The times people have asked if it was in reference to them, the answer was genuinely a no. But when confronted with the question of whether or not a post was about them or not, I think in my head:
Well…. if the shoe fits….
It’s therapeutic to continue talking about subjects that keep coming up in conversation in your different circles. Recently, I’ve noticed that my writing has heavily focused on personal growth, healing, and tons of self-realizations. And that’s because I’m continuing the conversations I have with those close to me, by publicly posting my thoughts through my blogs. I think it’s important to keep the conversation going because it gets people digging deeper. When people relate, they are consciously made aware of their own actions and behavior.
I know I write about the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. A lot of the time I share my own personal downfalls and short comings just to show a different side of social media. Not everything is perfect all the time, not everything about you has to be a fake curated version of what you think you should be. This is real life. So if the shoe fits, and a topic I write about resonates with you, just buy the damn shoe and own it! People can be reading the same exact story, but interpret it in completely different ways, leaving with different meanings. Please take what you need from it.
I feel like my posts are going to get more personable and realer real quick. I used to somewhat hold back on what I wrote about because I didn’t want people to think I’m referring to them or sneak dissing anyone. That’s not my intentions at all. There may have been an inspiration to some posts, but a lot of the time I try to point out the bigger picture. So chances are, my posts aren’t about you. But again… if the shoe fits…
Per my last post, I have definitely been in the position where I had to forgive others without an apology I felt entitled to. In the past, I have let the absence of apologies control my inner peace and the ability to get closure on certain topics. I would, and sometimes still, get so passionate about feeling entitled to an apology that I cling onto the thought for some time. But I’ve also been on the other side of the situation where I owe someone an apology and can’t find the words to say it. Yes my friends, surprise surprise, there is some hypocrisy and double standards present. Nobody is perfect, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not. If I claim to keep it real, I have to keep it all the way real. This is the opposite side of last week’s post, the other side of the coin, not being able to apologize.
Growing up, apologies weren’t given in my household. And when this topic was brought up with cousins and close friends, I realized that my personal upbringing is not too far fetched from the experience of others. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, a generational gap thing, or what it is, but it seemed to be somewhat the same talking to others about their family dynamic. I can only speak for my own personal experience and the experiences of others that I have talked to, but it seems to be the gap between first generation Filipino Americans with their Philippines-born and raised parents. We have a lot of similarities with apologies and not being able to admit wrong doing through the generations.
Growing up, and to this day, apologies are not common in my family. That is not to say that apologies were never called for – because ohhhhh they definitely were – but they simply were not normalized in my household. I don’t know how “normal” or “not normal,” that is, but it seems to be a common experience for first generation Filipino Americans and their parents. There was no saying sorry, and if there was an apology being made, it was very rare. So rare, that I can’t even think of a specific time where I received a serious apology from someone in my immediate family without it being said in a silly downplayed voice. My parents rarely apologize to us, we rarely apologize to them, and my sisters and I don’t apologize to each other. This may be weird to some, but that’s our family dynamic.
So you’re probably wondering, how does your family move forward after an argument or after hurt feelings? Great question. The answer is this: you’re salty for a couple of days, or however long it takes you to get over it, and then you make up for it by either over compensating with food, or acting like nothing happened. There’s no conversation after to talk over your feelings, there’s no taking ownership of your part, there’s no acknowledgement of what transpired. You suppress that shit until the next time you explode. Yes, unhealthy, I know. But that’s the reality of it all. I’m not saying it’s the right way to go about things, but it’s how we go about things.
In my Filipino household, we express our love language in different ways. Just because there was an absence of apologies, didn’t mean we were never sorry. We definitely felt bad, reflected on our actions, and regretted poor choice of actions or words. Our problem was never lacking empathy, it was expressing that empathy verbally. So, instead of facing conflict head on, we learned to express ourselves through acts of service and food, completely ignoring and avoiding the real issues. I didn’t get it until I was older, but it’s a cycle being repeated. A cycle that we are not so proud of as we are aware that there are better ways to deal with post-conflict. But I get it, it’s how my parents, and their parents, and my grandparent’s parents (and so forth) were taught to behave. It was different times then, and I come from a long lineage of strong individuals who endured even the roughest of times with grace. They handled their shit because they had to. In their times of struggle, they had no time to communicate their feelings, they had to keep it moving and be strong. But times are different now, and maintaining that strong persona and not expressing emotions properly has it’s repercussions. I can appreciate and admire my ancestors’ resilience and strength while simultaneously analyzing how harmful these coping mechanisms can be.
Culturally, Filipinos are taught to be strong, respect their elders, and never speak out against those superior to you. However, this way of thinking pushes the notion that some people are entitled to apologies while others are not, completely disregarding someone else’s reality due to pride and status in the family, relationship, or setting. Filipinos are taught to never disrespect their elders, and a lot of the time, that meant disagreeing or articulating your stance on a topic. This creates a damaging cycle that enables an echo chamber of beliefs that are not necessarily true or correct, but more so upheld to keep the peace. And that generational gap from first generation Filipino Americans and their parents / family members is a significant shift of beliefs. First generation Filipinos are in that awkward position trying to juggle two cultures with very conflicting beliefs when it comes to standing up for what you believe in, standing up for what you think is right, but also respecting the cultural differences.
This cultural difference was more apparent, for example, when I would watch some of my favorite family sitcoms like Full House, The Cosby Show, That’s So Raven, Boy Meets World, The Parkers, and many others. Anytime there was a scene that got too sappy with the characters expressing their feelings, I would lowkey cringe. And if I was watching it with my sisters, we would comment and make fun of the characters having a moment with their parent or people close to them. It wouldn’t be uncommon for us to say things like, “Ew,” “Yeah right,” “Haha, hella ugly,” while watching these moments on TV. To us, it felt unrealistic, just because our upbringing was so different. We didn’t have sappy moments where we expressed ourselves to be vulnerable. In fact, we used to label is as an “American” thing – we weren’t brought up to communicate those difficult feelings. For us, we kept a mental note and kept it moving.
This is where it gets confusing, because in my personal relationships and friendships, communication is key. Accepting and taking ownership of your own actions is key. Being open about what I feel and what I like and dislike is key. But that’s not what I’m accustomed to. It’s ironic that these are things that are important to me, but at times I am unable to do them myself. Now that I’m an adult and know what characteristics I want in a partner, friend, and future children, it also makes me reflect on what kind of characteristics I need to have as well to make it successful. It comes so easy to me as a teacher, teaching the kids to express their feelings, validating them and letting them know it’s okay to feel the way they do, and that I hear them. It’s important to me talk things out with kids and give apologies when apologies are due so they know that just because I’m an adult, it doesn’t mean I am above making mistakes. I have no problem setting the example for the youth, but find it very difficult to take my own advice and express myself to others.
You never really know your flaws until something happens and you reflect on why it happened the way it did. For me, that self-realization moment was when I realized that I have a really hard time apologizing. For the record, I have no problem apologizing to people when I’m completely in the wrong, being an asshole, or messed up in some way. I can admit and own up to my shortcomings if necessary. I also know that my sense of humor can sometimes be high key banter, so I can acknowledge when I cross boundaries with others. The scenarios that I’m talking about where I persevere with my pride, are the times I’m arguing with someone to make a point, to express my opposing point of view and reality, and any scenario where there is arguing involved. Those are the times I push on with my stubborn ways and find it difficult to apologize to others.
Deep down I always knew that I had a lot of pride and found it difficult to apologize to others in an argument. My excuse used to be “that’s just how I am,” and rolled with it. Obviously being young and immature, I didn’t care to reflect on the “why” behind the struggle to say “I’m sorry,” to others. It wasn’t until I started dating and being in relationships did I realize that my unapologetic nature could be more than a minor complication. It wasn’t that I was remorseless, because I am a deeply empathetic person. However, when I think I am right in a situation, I stick to my guns.
I am very confident in my opinions, and I got the time to hash it out. When I get upset, I can say the nastiest things. My goal is to win – whether that be spitting facts, saying the better come back, or just saying the most hurtful things. And it takes a lot for me to verbally apologize. On the inside, I could fully articulate how I feel in my head, even through text. But when it comes to verbally giving apologies, I just can’t do it. And when I do, it takes an insulting amount of time for the words to fall out of my mouth.
It wasn’t until my current relationship did I realize it was a problem I had to change and fix. In the past, I was aware of the problem, but just took it as a slight personality flaw that could be tucked under the rug. I soon realized that there was no rug big enough in the world to tuck this shit under. It was no longer “cute” or acceptable to have it be that hard to give an apology, especially when an apology is owed. This wasn’t just petty arguing with my immediate family anymore. This time around, it was with someone who is choosing to be with me, but definitely doesn’t have to stay in my life. It was with someone who was willing to work with me through my very ugly moments in hopes that I would grow and learn for future reference.
That’s when I realized it was a huge problem – when I realized that a small (but obviously big) action like apologizing was one of the hardest things for me to do. When I reflected on why it’s so difficult for me to do so, my upbringing was obviously one of the first things I thought of. But it was deeper than that. Giving someone an apology is acknowledging your faults, letting your guard down, and it takes some level of thought provoking deep diving into one’s own actions. As childish as it sounds, I grew up believing that saying “I’m sorry,” was a sign of weakness. Apologizing first meant that you’ve admitted to all the blame, you acknowledge that they’re right and you’re wrong, and shows that you’re the “loser” in the argument. That’s why in the past I never caved into giving apologies first. I refused to be vulnerable and express my emotions.
Vulnerability is scary and uncomfortable. Especially when you are not used to expressing yourself verbally, emotional vulnerability is nearly impossible. I feel like I’m a lot better with expressing my emotions and allowing myself to be vulnerable with others. I have to consciously make the effort and think it out in my head before I verbally express myself. But in the past, it wasn’t easy at all. In arguments and fights, I avoided opening up. To open up back then, a huge argument where unkind words were spoken would have to happen first before there is any emotions being expressed. There was no way around it. You want me to open up? You have to weather the storm with me first – see me at my absolute worst so you can get the apology or clarity you need from me.
It’s not that I can’t apologize period, but that I can’t be the first one to apologize. I can say it in return, but being the first to apologize was as rare as snow in San Francisco – possible, just highly unlikely. I preferred the other party to initiate reconciliation, and I’m very stubborn about it. There were plenty of times where I simply did not budge at all. “There is no way in hell that I’m admitting to my faults before you do. That would be asking too much of me,” I would think to myself.I needed the other party to be the bigger person and let their guard down first. How can I possibly let my guard down when my defensive walls are built so high? How does someone even attempt to chip away at the thick emotional barrier I surrounded around my hurt feelings? Opening up that dam of emotions first was a sign of weakness that I simply couldn’t show.
That right there – not wanting to come off as “weak”- was the root of it all. The satisfaction of someone else apologizing first and me just following their lead was a game that I couldn’t play for long. At one point, I had to give in. And not because I had to, but because playing mind games to be the winner only made me the biggest loser in the end. It only brought hurt feelings, invalidation, and resentment. It wasn’t worth it. Pride can be an ugly emotion. It can drive you to act a certain way that is completely different from what you feel inside. It no longer felt good or like a victory to push others to their absolute worst. I would feel horrible about myself and hated the way I went about conflict and confrontation. I hated that I found it so difficult to apologize.
It seemed I could only healthily communicate my hurt and my frustration through text message. No matter how many times I rehearsed a conversation in my head, it would never turn out the way I had anticipated. Once I vocalize my emotions and how I feel, the flood gates open up. It didn’t matter if I was sad, mad, or felt any other difficult emotion, the simple act of verbalizing that emotion brought my inner bad bitch bad ass to her fucking knees. And that was a feeling I hated – being vulnerable. That vulnerability would have me in a crying fit of rage, aggravated that I had to express myself. It’s so much easier to be upset and angry than it is to express your emotions. But no one is a mind reader. And your point won’t be understood until it is made.
Growing up not expressing frustration, hurt feelings, or anything that will stir the pot is probably a big reason why I write. It’s not that I don’t have the words to verbally communicate my feelings, it’s more so that I don’t know how to control my emotions to make sure that my tone lines up with what I’m feeling and thinking in my head. A lot of the time I go into defense mode because I feel attacked. Sometimes it can be because I’m actually being attacked, but others times it’s because I’m not used to being confronted with verbal expression. As a little kid, I turned to writing to fully express myself, mostly through fictional stories where the main character resembled me.
But even as an adult, I find myself dealing with conflict by writing. Most of the time that means through text. I have the ability to think out what I want to write, sit on it, read it over, and make sure I’m getting my point across in a mature manner. Communicating my hurt feelings verbally is something I have yet to master. For me, it can go south really fast. The moment someone responds in a way that wasn’t what I expected, I can lose my cool when I have promised myself to keep my composure. Writing allows me to reply on my time, and take time to cool down. It allows me to pick and choose my words wisely, and set the tone for the conversation at hand.
This is still something that I am working on to this day. I know I usually write about things as if I have already figured it out and mastered whatever topic I’m writing about. But a lot of the time, that’s just me being self-aware and adding onto what I know is the right way to handle things. We are all a work in progress, and I know I have a lot of healing and relearning to do as an adult. I know that I need to nurture my inner child and dig deeper as to why I have difficulty in some scenarios. It is okay to know what the “healthy” thing to do is but still choose old ways of handling it. It’s okay to take 1 step forward and 3 steps back. It’s okay to still be learning. Nobody knows it all, and nobody is perfect. Apologizing and owning up to my shit is still something that I struggle with. This is still something that I’m working on. And that’s okay. The first step is being aware and attempting to better your ways. Like everything else, it will take baby steps.
Learning to communicate is something you work on for the rest of your life. Acknowledging your own short comings and flaws is the first step to actually changing those habits. I know I have a tough time apologizing to others and verbally communicating how I feel, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be stuck in my ways. Breaking the cycle is not an easy thing to do, but it’s not impossible.
Recently, I caught up with a dear friend of mine over the phone. They updated me about their life, career choices, dreams, aspirations, the whole run down. I love that feeling of reconnecting, even though we send memes throughout the day everyday. You know, you have those designated people and group chats on Instagram that you send your funny content to, political memes, world events, maybe some gossip here and there, and you are fairly close. You’re technically “connected” everyday, but there’s work, different schedules, and life in general – nobody got time to give constant updates every time. So it felt good to catch up and talk about our lives and dilemmas. We got on the topic of friendships, loyalty, and letting friendships go that are toxic or drama-filled. We are usually on the same page, but we had opposing views on some aspects.
“You should write about this on your blog,” they said as we wrapped up the topic of cutting off friends, “Like, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but friendship edition!”
“Oh my god, yeah, I might just,” I said, even though I had never watched it. But, I got the gist. This is actually a topic I wanted to write about for some time, but was always hesitant because I didn’t want anyone to think I was @-ing them. But I mean, if the shoe fits…
Friendship breakups are so under-rated. Sometimes, it’s equivalent to a romantic break up because you can feel betrayed, hurt, taken advantage of, and conflicted about things ending. Unlike a romantic breakup though, we don’t really think of the possibility that things can end in a platonic friendship. It can be blindsiding, emotional, and a difficult decision to make. Other times, it’s as clear as day that the friendship needs to end, but just because what needs to be done is clear, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It can be very confusing as well if you’re on the receiving end of the cut off.
This phone call led to this question: How do you go about ending a friendship?
My friend vented about their current situation with a former friend. Long story short, my friend was on the receiving end of being cut off, but for no apparent or obvious reason. I’m very neutral and would tell my friend straight up if they messed up, as they shared all the possibilities of why the friendship could’ve ended. But, I honestly couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like it was a 1 way argument, but without the arguing and communication. Only that person knew why they cut off my friend, but never communicated any prior frustration or conflict. Throughout the phone call, my friend kept bringing up how they wished this former friend would just communicate what was bothering them, instead of just ending the friendship with no clear reason.
I agreed that it was weird for their former friend to just stop talking to them and cut them off. Especially since the former friend didn’t communicate anything that would even hint towards frustration or being upset. In fact, the former friend would just gossip to other people, and it got back to my friend, and only then did they find out why they were cut off, but still not having a definite answer coming from the source. It’s like the other person withheld information purposely so my friend could wonder what was going on, and decided to gossip about it and be fake in person. That’s what I thought was weird. It’s one thing to just drop someone without any context. But it’s another thing to drop them, talk shit about them, but still hangout and act like everything is cool in group settings.
“Yeah, that’s some weirdo shit,” I told my friend.
My friend wished they were aware of what they “did wrong,” so they could address it, communicate about it, patch up the friendship, and move on. They believed that it was weird that some people really suck that much at communication and would rather throw away a friendship than openly communicate about what bothered them. We got on the topic of “keeping it real,” with our friends, and went over the different scenarios and instances where we would have to check certain friends in the past. We both agreed that we had no problem checking friends when they’re in the wrong or doing something we don’t agree with. I agreed that in this specific instance, the friendship they lost was probably for the best since it seemed like the other person was pretty fake and liked to play that high school shit. You know, when you find out “your friend” is talking about you behind your back but acting tight to your face – the shit we’re clearly too old for.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in some instances, I was that friend – minus the acting cool to your face. In this specific instance – yes, I felt the one who ended the friendship should’ve communicated something to my friend. But I noticed in general, when I’m cutting someone off, I rarely give a reason why too. There has been very few friendships I’ve had that ended badly. But at the same time there are some friendships I’ve had that ended with obvious fights that resulted in the termination of said friendships. But for the most part, I’m the Homer Simpson meme disappearing into the bushes. My only difference from my friend’s former friend is that I don’t play it fake. You’ll know where I stand.
“Really?! That’s sooo weirdddd!” My friend said when I made this revelation.
I explained my reasoning. For me, when there is a clear fall out and fight, obviously I’ll communicate my side, say my peace, and if I can’t patch it up from there with time, then I just cut it off. But as much as possible, I try to avoid bitter endings with former friends. To be honest, there have been very few occasions where I had to tell off a friend right before I snip them. Very rarely will I be so done with someone that we fight about something for a prolonged period of time to the point where I don’t think I can continue with the friendship. If the friendship is worth it, and there is respectful communication, then I don’t cut people off. I don’t think I’ve had too many situations like that where the friendship was so over that I cut them off, deleted them off social media, blocked them, deleted their number, etc. It ain’t that serious.
I’m open with all of my friends and tell them how it is. But when I start to notice patterns in friendships and in their character, I just take a mental note. Especially if that friend did nothing to me personally to make me mad or question the friendship, it wouldn’t seem right to call someone out on their character and decisions when it isn’t directed towards me. If it comes up in conversation or if they ask for my opinion, obviously I’ll say my peace, but when I notice patterns like selfishness, being untrustworthy, and things of that nature, I just observe and remember for future reference. There is power in silence, and power in moving differently towards them when you see them for who they are. But there’s no reason to end on bad terms.
And at that point, there is no point to bring up or confront people when you realize you don’t want to surround yourself with friends that move like them. To me at least, there’s no point to let it be known that, “hey, I see through your actions that you’re actually not someone I want to associate with.” It’s a waste of time especially if that person is living the life that they want to. It just doesn’t make sense to me to call someone out on their character flaws if I already made my decision in letting the friendship gracefully drift. I don’t want any tension, especially if there is no specific fall out that made me want to end the friendship. Nowadays, I noticed that I just distance myself from people I no longer want a friendship with. Not because they did something to me, but because I notice traits and habits that I don’t want in a friend. No bad blood, no hard feelings, no big fight to make the cut off official – just a mutual understanding that the friendship has drifted.
Friendship break ups can definitely hurt. Sometimes there’s obvious reasons why it ended, and sometimes there isn’t. I realize that my explanation for silence and distancing myself can be the same explanation my friend’s former friend had. Sometimes you can talk it out, and sometimes you will be returned with radio silence, so I guess to each their own. For me, I think silence and being cordial is the best way to go about it especially if they did nothing wrong to you personally and you just come to the realization that you just don’t want to fuck with them like that. However, if there is a specific problem or event that led to me feeling some type of way, I’d definitely communicate it to a friend before I start distancing myself.
Because let’s be real, in this cut off culture, anyone and everyone gets triggered and will snip you and broadcast why all over social media. It doesn’t have to be like that. Handling friendship breakups with class is key. But friendship break up’s shouldn’t be the answer to everything. That’s always a red flag to me, when people rotate their friends like the seasons, and have countless fall outs with a lot of former friends. At that point, you really got to sit and look at the bigger picture – who is the common factor. Some friendships can turn toxic real fast, and it’s okay to gracefully leave a friendship.
And just because the friendship is over, doesn’t mean all the great memories are now soured. That is what I took away from that phone call that night. When friendships end, it’s okay to look back and reminisce and be a little sad about the good times. Those memories don’t have to be ruined because the friendship is over. It’s okay to gather your information and realize that you guys don’t see eye to eye on certain things. And it’s okay to let the friendship naturally drift without conflict.
I’ve realized lately that I’ve been more detached and have adopted the “go with the flow” / “I really don’t care” attitude, which is a big improvement since I’m usually an over-thinker that exhausts every scenario and question in my mind. I don’t know if my aloofness is due to pandemic fatigue, getting older, being busy, or just not giving a shit like I used to. What I’m currently working on is realizing that I am not responsible for anyone’s actions and emotions, except my own. Yes, in theory, that seems like a given. But it is something that I’ve struggled more with in the past. I’m learning to set boundaries with people around me, and removing myself from people or situations that don’t make me feel good. Over the past year, this is the area that I have grown and improved in the most. Being aware of how I communicate and how I choose to react has helped me see what I need to improve. It has also helped me see the flaws in others, and not letting their poor communication skills, or how they choose to project their feelings, effect me.
It’s a no brainer that everyone – regardless of who you are- deals with their own inner turmoil and demons. I will be the first to admit that there are still so many aspects of me that need healing, more self-work, and reflection. I know I’m not perfect. Self-work is an emotional journey. It’s a mix of shame, regret, sadness, and hope that there are better days to come. It’s never a straight path journey. It can be a little discouraging when you are doing so well for a period of time, and then something happens where you say something out of anger, or act a certain way that you’ve been trying so hard to avoid. At those times I get frustrated with myself, thinking that my progress that I worked so hard on is suddenly down the drain, and instead of progressing and going forward, I took a couple steps back. I feel emotionally drained knowing that I start back and square one – or at least it feels like it’s back to square one. Being aware of your bad habits and communication style is step one. Trying to unlearn all the bad habits and re-train your brain to react differently is a lifelong journey. I can only control what I choose to do with my life and time. And that also includes how I choose to react, or not react, who I choose to let in my inner circle, and what I will allow and not allow.
2020 was a bit of a shit show. But at the very least, it made me be more aware of how I communicate. When I really put my communication skills under the microscope, I felt ashamed and wanted to take the next steps to be a better communicator. It’s funny because in the professional sense, I am great at communication. I can keep it professional and say what needs to be said without hurting anyone’s feelings. But in my personal life, my communication is not that great. I’m very blunt, and I find it hard to cover up my annoyance, anger, and frustrations – it just results in being snappy and yelling. I’ve always said that I believe I’m a writer because I can’t communicate my emotions verbally without sounding like I’m all over the place. Writing it all out gives me the opportunity to revise my words, being extra careful to get all of my points across, leaving nothing unsaid, but at the same time giving the right tone. Verbally, I’m quick with my words, and I’ve come to realize over the years that my come back game is strong, but it can be very hurtful.
But I also understand that I can only control myself, and not others. Being aware of my own actions and trying to change my ways has forced me to see where others fall short as well. I reflect a lot on who I choose to surround myself with, and how certain relationships – whether that be with friends, acquaintances, family, and other people that I have to deal with day to day – can negatively impact me. Over the years, I have found myself cutting ties, letting friendships naturally drift, and setting boundaries. But it was not always that easy. It has taken years to finally set some boundaries for myself for what I will allow and will not allow into my life.
At this point in my life, I have tried to take more responsibility for how my words and tone can escalate a situation. Sometimes that even results in me staying silent to avoid an even bigger argument. Growing up, verbal fights weren’t over until there was an obvious winner or loser. This usually meant that someone said something so hurtful that the other person was in tears. You “win” the fight, but in the end you’re the loser for stooping so low. So now as an adult, I have to give myself constant reminders that a conversation can be had with disagreements without turning into a fight or argument. I try to apply this when I have a disagreement with my significant other, my sisters, sometimes even my parents. Like the saying goes, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” The importance of communication is undervalued, but I have seen instant improvements when I shift my tone or how I word things.
However, communication is a 2 way street. I can work on myself all I want, but I can’t control how others choose to communicate. How someone treats me is a reflection of themselves, and that is a pill that is hard to swallow. The truth is, not everyone will like you, and not everyone will be in your corner. How people act towards you when you are genuinely trying to better yourself is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I’ve learned to just let it go, cut it off, and remove myself from those type of situations. Everyone has had some relationship, it could be romantic or not, that has been very negative and overbearing. It can be a relationship with your parent, or sibling, or friend, or co-worker, or in-laws, that just drains you. It can be anything from talking behind your back, saying hurtful things on purpose to hurt you, ignoring you on purpose so they make you feel like you owe them something, things that just don’t make you feel good. It may be sad to know that you are not for everyone, but it is also an eye opener to realize that not everyone is for you. You don’t have to have a relationship with people who constantly make you feel bad about yourself.
Everyone is dealing with something, but it comes to a point where it can’t be an excuse for how you treat others. That’s when cutting off, drifting, or setting boundaries comes into play. At this point in my life, I don’t have time to wonder if people are speaking ill of me behind my back, I don’t have time to argue with people who refuse to see my side or even listen, and I definitely don’t have time for people who don’t have the best intentions for me. It’s good to set boundaries with others, but also with yourself. What you will allow, and what you won’t. At the end of the day, you can only control how you communicate with others. And if you don’t like how someone is communicating with you, unfortunately, you can’t force someone to fix something they don’t think is broken. That’s something that they have to want and do for themselves. You can’t force someone to realize that they can be shitty at times. At those instances, it is best to remove yourself from that situation, or break that cycle.
The lesson of communication has taught me that not every person is going to be along for the ride with you forever. There are friendships and people that you just have to leave behind to move forward. It can be pretty sad, but it does bring a lot of peace of mind knowing that you have surrounded and hand picked every person that you chose to be in your life. And dealing with toxic / problem relationships without cutting them off is another story. Sometimes we are put in situations where you can’t really “cut off” the person that is bringing you so much negativity. I have found a middle balance of keeping it professional, but also keeping it moving. My feelings don’t get hurt anymore if someone is being shady because I’ve literally learned to not give a shit. I’ve learned to look past my own hurt and not take it personally. If you’re treating me some type of way, I know that it is something that you are dealing with within yourself. Awkward silence is no longer awkward for me, and letting someone else’s mood affect my mood is only giving them the satisfaction – misery loves company, and I got other shit to deal with.
2020 forced these things to light. “That’s just how I am,” is no longer and excuse or pass. Nobody is perfect, and we are all a work in progress. But, being aware, and attempting to re-learn is what’s important. You can’t control how someone reacts, speaks, or treats you. You can only control how you act, react, speak, and treat others. Understanding this has made it easier for me to weed out who I don’t want in my life. Setting boundaries has made me set a standard for what kind of people and energies I want to be around. I’m aware that I’m not perfect, but being aware and conscious that my communication skills need to be improved. It has brought on a whirlwind of emotions, from shame, anger, embarrassment, and everything in-between. There will be times where the progress feels stagnant, and like you’re fighting an uphill battle. There will be times where you mess up and go back to your old communicating style, but it’s all a part of the lesson. Understanding my emotions, and the root of why I react the way I do, has been a journey on it’s own, “that’s just the way I am,” is something I’ve been trying to take out of my vocabulary.