I have felt sad and depressed over the past several days because of a change in my life that occurred last week. Though I tend to share specifics about my life on this blog, I do not feel quite comfortable writing about what that change entailed. However, I will say that I feel proud of letting myself feel sad – in my childhood and adolescence, I considered sadness unproductive because it did not help me escape my abusive home life. Now I am giving myself space to feel the emotion, such as by writing about how change has both hurt and healed me in the past.
When I think about change, I remember a time I visited an ex-close friend – before she became an ex – in a state in the northeast and first recognized that I would have to break up with her. During this visit, I got brunch with my ex-friend, her white boyfriend, and my ex-friend’s white childhood friend and her white boyfriend. During the lunch, my ex-friend’s boyfriend talked about his “talent” of asserting himself in various situations, such as when speaking on the phone with sales representatives. In that moment, I remember thinking to myself: honestly, it’s not that impressive that you can assert yourself if you’re a cisgender, heterosexual white man who’s never experienced racism, homophobia, etc. However, my ex-friend and her childhood friend immediately praised him for his assertiveness and said things like “wow, I’d never be able to do that.” While I practiced politeness and active listening during the lunch, internally, I felt the most uncomfortable I had ever felt in the presence of my ex-friend.
When I processed this situation with my therapist, she said that it made sense that I would feel sad or frustrated about that conversation, because my ex-friend and her friend praised my ex-friend’s white boyfriend for his assertiveness and acted as if they could never behave in a similar way. Their conversation served as a microcosm for the greater shifts that manifested in this ex-friend once she started dating her then boyfriend, now fiancée. Before, she would prioritize feminist independence, and afterward, she made him the center of her world.
From the time I met this ex-friend to when we broke up, I changed too. While I had always valued compassion in my closest friends, I began to prioritize close friendships with people who practiced both compassion and kindness as well as independence and more radical social justice, like my best friend Bri who I met in early 2014. For example, I grew closer to a friend who I will refer to as “Ocean,” who is so caring and thoughtful and also has various hobbies (e.g., drawing, martial arts, cooking, etc.) that bring her joy and fulfillment. In 2018 I met another friend, L, who is so openly critical of and passionate about destroying white supremacy, whiteness, and related forms of oppression; my conversations with L have inspired me to be more radical in all my endeavors and have helped me realize that if I do date a man, he will have to be a man of color. Toward the end of my relationship with my ex-friend, she at one point said to me “Thomas, there are times when I feel like you feel like I fall short when compared to Bri and to Ocean.” Even then, I think this ex-friend and I may have known, deep down, that we had both changed and had grown in different directions.
When this friendship breakup first happened, I felt pretty distraught about it. I listened to “Supercut” and “Green Light” by Lorde a lot, wondered if my standards were too high even though my close friends assured me that they weren’t, and feared that my remaining friends would eventually follow the amatonormative, heteronormative path like my ex-friend did. However, over time, I worked through these more painful emotions and thoughts and saw that friendship for what it was: a healthy, loving connection between two people who changed in different directions. Now, whenever I think about this ex-friend, I send warmth and well wishes in her direction. Though the intensity of love I felt for her is gone, I now love and show care for so many other folks in my life, like my current closest friends and the people I am in relationship with in other areas of my life.
I write all of this to say that even though I feel down about the change in my life that happened last week, I feel some hope that with time, I will come to make sense of what happened and how I can learn and grow from the experience. Octavia Butler once wrote that “all that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.” I am letting myself reside in the gray area of both certainty and change. I feel of feeling certain about my values of compassion and social justice. At the same time I am open to how the manifestation of those values may change, perhaps in ways that shine bolder and brighter than ever before.
How do you cope with change, especially if you’re someone who’s not super spontaneous? How do you process and handle feelings of sadness? I’m accessing my social supports, doing some artsy things like writing this blog post, and taking actions that align with my values like in my day job. Would also be curious about general reactions to this post. Until next time!