Last night, I met up with one of my best friends from elementary school for dessert in the evening when I got into San Francisco. She had seen me post years ago about losing my brother to suicide, and given we both spent a lot of time at each others’ homes growing up, we also inadvertently knew each others’ brothers pretty well. At the time, she had sent me a heartfelt message about his passing, and since then, has loyally donated money to my AFSP fundraising drive year after year. I never expect anyone to donate to my drive, especially people who are that distant from me, so it’s always been a very heartwarming and touching surprise for me each year. Facebook has certainly allowed for a type of connection that everyday people would not have normally had in my parents’ generation, and I was happy to meet her this evening. Without Facebook, this definitely would not have otherwise happened.
I wasn’t sure how much time we would spend together, nor was I sure if we’d even still feel a connection to each other, but as soon as I saw her, I immediately felt comfortable and like we genuinely were old-time friends. We ended up chatting nonstop for over three hours about everything: school, work, moving (me), our families, now-husbands, our living situations, San Francisco, travel. But as much fun as it was to catch up, I realize that in leaving her tonight, I actually felt a bit sad.
Her family life seems pretty bleak: she lives in a cramped, rent-controlled apartment with her husband, and it was passed on to them from his family, who originally lived in the place when they immigrated from the Philippines. The house is dilapidated, filed with junk to the point where no one wants to do anything to change it. There’s barely even 12 square inches of counter space in her kitchen, so she feels like she can’t even cook or live properly in her own apartment. She has a brother of the same age as Ed, but they are pretty strained in their relationship, as there’s been a lot of verbal abuse in the past that she hasn’t been able to navigate. They’re constrained by money and dysfunctional relationships.
I can definitely understand the dysfunctional family relationships part, but I guess what made me sad the most is that even though we’re older, some of the things that bugged me about her are exactly the same now as they were then. I started remembering what really caused us to drift as friends, and she openly admitted she still did the same thing: since then, she pretty much has made zero friends because she’s spent all her time with her boyfriends, one guy after the next, and so whatever friends he had, she’d gravitate towards, and no one else. I remember the time when we were in high school and I tried to have her come to some events with me, but she refused because she said she’d rather spend time with her then-boyfriend; this was for my birthday that year, too. I was so angry then; we hadn’t seen each other in months, yet then, even though she saw her boyfriend every day, she’d rather blow me off to spend even more time with him. I gradually stopped making an effort to spend time with her, and because I was the only one making the effort, we drifted in our own directions and away from each other. We occasionally reached out to call, email, and then Facebook message, but that was it.
I guess the other thing that made me sad was that it was clear from the lives we lead exactly how different we are. She seems like she has been paralyzed into indecision and thinks she is fully unable to change all the things that have made her unhappy. I feel like I’ve made massive strides in improving a lot of things to ensure that I’m making progress in my life, emotionally and mentally. Here I am, back in San Francisco on work travel, clearly privileged in so many ways, and she’s never left even San Francisco (and has zero desire to and said she wouldn’t know what to do with herself) and is struggling to make ends meet with her rent-controlled apartment payments.
While it was fun to catch up, I don’t think seeing her again regularly would be the best idea for me. I really need to make an effort to spend time around people who exude positive energy, who are confident enough to take control over their lives, and sadly, she is not one of those people.