Navigating teenage friendships

I may only be 16 yet I have had a fair few ups and downs in terms of my friendships during my early teenage years.

The importance of teenage friendships is reiterated throughout your secondary school journey and your parents and family just want you ” go say hi” “be friendly”. Whilst this is the best advice they could give you, to step outside of your comfort zone and socialise with complete strangers who become “bff’s” is a scary and difficult transition to make from primary school where you were the ‘top dogs’.

I can’t complain really, during my early years at secondary school I had made solid connections with people in my class and had formed a best friend, and we were inseparable. I was secure in a little bubble of happiness and I loved school life. Of course they were petty arguments over small insignificant things that are the most important things for a 12/13 year old. “you stole my favourite pen” “you didn’t wait for me after lunch”. But power of the teenage girl and her friendships is a powerful bond and is something that is underrated.

In the words of one of my favourite bloggers/Youtubers, Lucy Wood:

Show me another part of society where friendship circles and best friends make each other feel invincible, like they can do anything when they’re together, like each other’s support can lift them above everything they’ve got to face in day to day life.

Teenage girls are often labelled as bitchy too, and although not so positive, it is equally as powerful a talent. Show me another part of society that have the power and the intelligence and the awareness to hit so specifically on one another’s weakest points with absolute pure venom.

I was never bullied at school but I was acutely aware of my place on the unwritten social ladder.  I was “uncool” because I was clever, I loved my studies and did any club going during and after school. For the most part it didn’t bother me, I had my friends and that’s all that really mattered.

Along came Year 9 – 10. Work became more important as the run up to GCSE’S began. New people joined our year and I made one of my best friends to this day. But the fear and apprehension in the face of teenage girls when there “bbf’s” strayed and formed new friends was apparent. Parties with alcohol and eventually drugs were the cool thing to go to, however this only exaggerated the divide and cliques that were established early in the year.

Fast forward to the start of Year 11, the beginning of the end of GCSE’s. Stress levels at an all time high and relationships strained and tested as people became progressively more tired and frustrated. It was interesting to observe the several different ways people deal with stress and the ultimate fear of failing. Then comes the talk of “moving on” “next year” and “college”. Suddenly having the comfort blanket teased away from you when you realise that next year everything will be different again. This is when my relationships were tested and I learnt the hard way who my true friends were.

One of my close friends I had already lost to the evil of popularity. Having welcomed her in and given her a leg up into school life, she realised where her position on the ladder was and spread her wings.  My first guy friend I had also lost due to the shadow of another friend.

But even after this I felt fine, I wasn’t crushed by losing these friendships – I truly believed that my two best friends would be friends for life. Until one of them ghosted me.  Ghosting — is the practice of silently ending a relationship by suddenly leaving all communication unanswered. It may be a particularly cruel way to breakup a relationship but is unfortunately a popular way of ending things.

It was only until after the friendship was over, or at least it had fizzled out to a bear minimum that I realised I had been ghosted. For a good few weeks during my remaining time at school I tried my hardest to keep the relationship alive. I just couldn’t understand or comprehend why she would suddenly pull the plug. Had our 5 year friendship meant nothing to her? It was only when some other girls in my year (who I wasn’t particularly close with) approached me and asked if I was okay – they asked me if my friendship was okay. I answered honestly. I don’t know. I have no clue. Are we friends anymore? “I guess so” I replied.

On one level, the appeal of ghosting is easy to understand: avoiding confrontation is seductively easy. But that’s only because the person pulling the disappearing act doesn’t have to witness the aftermath — the hurt, pain, and confusion that happen when a relationship ends without a real ending.

Having personally experienced this before here is my advice for other teenagers like myself:

  1. Give yourself time. Don’t feel like you have to instantly be okay. It will hurt and ultimately be very confusing.
  2.  Don’t go hunting for answers or …. an apology. It’s easy to fall into a spiral of second-guessing and wondering where you went wrong.  “You don’t know if it’s a ‘them’ issue or a ‘you’ issue” — and there could be a million different things going on in their life, all unrelated to you, that caused them to disappear. If you care about that person and likelihood is you do, then you will still want them to be happy and content with their life. But don’t waste your time and energy on someone who doesn’t truly value your wellbeing and feelings anymore.
  3. Force a positive spin on it. Just because the relationship faded, doesn’t mean it’s all bad. You are never completely the same person after a relationship with someone has ended. If you can reframe it in terms of what you’ve learned, you can move on stronger and more aware than you were before.

Despite this sad and unexpected ending to my secondary school relationships and having  made the tough decision to move on to a whole new ball game next year, I will look back at my time at secondary school and my friendships with joy and nostalgia. For the most part I truly loved my time at school, I was lucky to have never been bullied and to have been blessed with friends who at the time, genuinely had my best interests at heart. So my ending is bittersweet, and that’s okay as I look forward to a new adventure in the near future with new challenges and new friendships on the horizon.

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