Again with this job, like the last retail one, I started off at a small store, moved to a big one. I always make the mistake of wanting to believe that my work friendships are more than they are, that they’ll last my leaving a place. I’m usually wrong. I thought that this time, it might be different because of all the hippie-dippie values and the bonding experience (war trauma?) of opening a store and becoming one big retail family. Turns out, not so much.
I know that it’s hard– people move on to different jobs, work is consuming, and you can like someone a lot, share a lot of laughs & good & bad times, bond over them, even, but once they’re not physically present, it’s not so much out of sight, out of mind, as dealing with the thing right in front of you. I know it. I just never feel it, so that I stop working too hard to keep things once they are past.
Add to that a desire to fix stuff, to find out what’s wrong, and I know I push things too hard when I am trying to maintain what I think is a friendship. Sometimes, it works. Often enough, people just have their own stuff and aren’t paying attention. Other times, they read something the wrong way and don’t say something and then everything festers from misread interactions. And then, of course, there are the people whom you thought were friends who do turn out to be fickle, catty and bitchy.
I’ve had a little bit of all three in the last couple of months.
First, there was someone who got weird on me even though we weren’t super-close, until I forced the issue because they still work with me and I needed to know we could at least do that (and also, damnit, it hurt). I don’t know if we’ll be really friendly again, but I think at least they’ll keep their word to be frank from now on.
Then, there was someone who I rarely see anymore, but with whom I really did go through the initial metaphorical wars and I thought I’d really bonded with– and who, it turns out, brushed me off in the winter without real intention, and then reached out last week for professional help. I would have given it, anyway, because of the respect I held for them the brushoff aside, but I womaned up (either that or decided in some part of my brain that fuck it, I might quit anyway so who the hell cares what bridges I burn) and said I was surprised to hear from them because the last time I had the answer had been terse and gave me the impression communication from me wasn’t of interest, they apologized & said they hadn’t meant it, didn’t even remember the moment, and were sorry that I had been hurt. That felt good– and again, I don’t know if I’ll try and resume the friendship– maybe just wait and see if they do anything– but it’s at least closure and I brought it out for myself, even if it was poking something potentially hurtful just to see if I could get it resolved. I don’t know, fully, why I decided to stir the ashes when I could have just given the professional help and left it at that– maybe trusting my better medicated gut that there was something wrong with the past interaction (or the way I read it) and it couldn’t be as simple as them not giving a shit.
And lastly, an issue that’s been ongoing but I’ve finally resolved inside my own head, someone I thought I was really close with, and it turned out they were– just as messed up as I was, something they told me in what I can only decide was a rare moment of passing genuineness I can’t expect to see anytime soon, because they’re a Mean Girl in lots of ways and can’t be bothered to engage or give a shit when specifically thrown a softball. I was really torn up about WHY their hair was full of secrets and WHY they didn’t want to be friends for a long time before just accepting that was how they were, and I didn’t need to play into that immature shit anymore. Acceptance, hah, after letting them give me the impression I wasn’t welcome in the store I opened, after them making catty comments and not working in the spirit of constructive feedback (if, in fact, I’d fucked something up, wouldn’t they think I should know so I could get better, if they were really my friend? Thus, my quandry with these half-hints and allegations and secrets.) I have just decided to deal with them on a solely professional level (they’re in my working group), and if they try to get under my skin I will call them on their shit because I don’t have time for it and they’ve made it clear, I’m not their friend, so let’s please move on to the actual work.
I suppose it’s some naivete lost, some ballsiness found. I haven’t decided if I’m staying or going in the larger scope of my employment, but I feel less despairing than I did a few days ago. In any event, I will do my best at the job while I’m there, because that’s what I do, but I feel like even if I don’t become besties again with any of these folks, I’m happy that I stuck up for myself actively with the two who in the end, didn’t mean it, and happy, in a sad way, that I could let go of the one who’s too occupied with their own problems, real or imagined (and I simply don’t know, because they don’t confide in me any more, because apparently office contiguity is a requirement for friendship)– because it’s not good for me to hold on, and it’s not like they care.
Learning to care less is a skill I haven’t found yet, but maybe– caring enough about me to just get brave and say “what the hell?” and move on if they’re not brave enough to give me an answer– maybe that’s enough of a thing in itself.