Once upon a time, I had this thing called friends.
HAHA okay I just wanted to sound more dramatic, but more specifically I mean to say I used to be part of this group of friends. We call this a “barkada” in the Philippines, and for the past four years my barkada was something I truly prided myself on.
It started with a lunch: my BFF Kim and I were tired of being friendless after spending the entire summer after Freshman year on each other’s couches 80% of the time. We decided that we should have lunch with a random selection of our former Freshman classmates and sent messages to Kat, Angela, Cole, and Louise, asking if they would wanna meet up at the mall on the Friday before classes were due to start again. We were only “classroom friends” with them at that point and so Kim and I prayed that they would actually agree and show up.
Fast-forward to a few years later and the six of us were getting ready to graduate together. Sometime leading up to our graduation day, I opened up my phone to never-ending notifications from our Facebook chat. Somebody named it “Tagaytay Pink Sisters”, which is a nuns’ convent in a town two hours away and I don’t think anyone really knew why, but it made us laugh. We talked about graduation and the four years we actually stuck by each other without being fake and having barely any drama, which was basically a miracle considering our school. In between that first lunch and the day we graduated, a lot of fun shit happened. When it comes to recounting my high school experience – honestly and kind of ironically – I remember the partying the most. I remember the drunken six of us. Accidentally flushing Kat’s retainers down the hotel toilet. Finding Louise in the pouring rain standing in the Jollibee drive-thru in her pajamas. Crashing a YG (“younger guy/girl”) party with Cole and taking over being the bartenders and DJs. Towards the end of high school, we weren’t making as much time for each other as we used to but we always made sure to spend recess and lunch together. We all prided ourselves in being able to call each other our group of friends, and made sure to post the cutest barkada photos on Instagram to prove it. Oh – and we called ourselves “the Hoez”. They were people I loved and tried my best for, even though we were all the kind of people who hated showing emotion. Being quite socially anxious, I used them as my crutch in social situations; I couldn’t move unless I leaned on them or at least felt that they were there for me to fall back on.
The five of them were planning to go to the same college, and I was the only one planning to move overseas. A few weeks after graduation, they dropped me off at the airport and I knew I would miss them painfully. I moved to New Zealand in April 2016 and before I could actually get accepted into any university in the country, I still had to complete the NZ version of a high school diploma (just because the school system here works so that there are 5 years of hs and 3 years for most uni degrees). Anyways, being the new girl at a snobby all-girls private school when there was only 6 months to go before graduation was not fun. I literally had 0 social life and the only thing getting me through those days were the plans me and my barkada were making for when I would come back to Manila that Christmas.
Then came our barkada’s annual Christmas sleep over. I wrote about this in another post so I’ll just put an extract of it here:
“Everything was just as they had always been for the past years. But by the midnight, the mean jokes, shallow conversation, and loud, cringe-y state of drunkenness felt tired. The only thing I could think of was wanting to get out of that room…I realised that the only thing that had changed was me. Everything else was the same, and it should have been exactly what I wanted, but what I had failed to realise earlier was that I had totally outgrown it all.”
The flip was sudden but expected, even though I wished I’d never have to admit that I could see it coming. We had always thought about the rest of our lives in assumption that we were never going to grow apart. After that night, I planned on letting the friendship die its natural death, knowing it would happen soon enough now that I had stopped caring. Most of the others had already stopped caring for a while and it was always me trying to keep up the group chats or plan hang outs. We always had this joke that I was “the spine” of the group, holding everything together and keeping it alive – which was a total joke but at the same time we all knew deep down it made sense. I flew out of Manila at the end of February 2017, with a slight sense of loss over knowing that nothing would be the same the next time I came back. I then realised that that would be a good thing.
The weekend before I left, I did something really destructive. I couldn’t tell anyone about it and had to pretend like it never happened. A few weeks after – on April 7 to be exact – that destructive thing I was trying to run away from ended up blowing up in my face. Long story short: I made a mistake and was told to hide it, people eventually found out, then my so-called friends crucified me for it the same way we had been doing to our other school mates for the last four years. Yeah it’s true that I fucked up, but it had nothing to do with them and they had no right nor purpose in involving themselves in the problem. They weren’t even concerned for me for what I was going through with the problem itself. To them, I was just the next piece of juicy gossip to get their hands dirty with so at least they’d have something to talk about over dinner. Backstabbing, talking shit, bitchy comments, spreading rumours, and keeping secrets were all in our barkada’s nature ever since the very beginning – ever since that first lunch. But what was new this time is that it was all directed against me. What was new this time is that I was just so fucking over this attitude. It’s true that some people just never leave high school.
And thats when a certain bitter truth grazed the roof of my mouth and slithered down into a lump in my throat: Oh Shit! I have no friends.
I honestly wasn’t hurt by what they did. I was just done.
So there I went, taking my metaphorical truckload of gasoline and metaphorical flamethrower and finally burning those damn bridges. Suddenly, my best friends weren’t my best friends anymore. The whole thing was pretty freakin dramatic but I won’t get into that because I’m still confused by it myself. But it was not just because of this one instance that I felt the need to escape such a toxic friendship. I had been wanting to leave the group ever since that night of the Christmas party, this just gave me a concrete reason to do it. Because I had realised then that they aren’t the kind of people I want to surround myself with anymore. And after the drama happened, there was literally no reason left for me to be friends with them. Like literally, they were useless friends.
It was a lonesome few weeks afterwards. ”Cut off toxic people from your life” they all say – but they don’t tell you that all you’ll be left with is yourself, save for maybe one or two guardian angels. But you shouldn’t be upset over it, as long as it’s progress. I had no doubts that I had done the right thing for myself and I’m honestly so glad “The Hoez” is no longer one of the things my life is made up of. Sure, I get a couple less likes on my Instagram posts now after I made it clear that the Hoez are out of my life. But that’s literally all I’ve lost.
From all this, I realised that you can be as disillusioned with friendships in the same way you can be with romantic relationships. Similarly to infatuation, I was so hung up on the idea of having this Group of Friends™ that I was settling for a substandard quality of human connection, because that was what we were comfortable with and that was all we allowed our emotional capacity to ever know. I’ve learned that the people in your life should be a conscious choice; you must avoid falling into default settings.
In high school most especially, you become friends with people only because you all fall into the same subset and subsequent comfort zone in the grand social scheme of things, without having much else in common. Yeah, The Hoez made high school fun because we goofed around a lot. But the only time we ever talked about anything that mattered was whenever we were in that special state of drunkenness where you can still access your deepest thoughts without being able to stop yourself from saying them out loud. Yeah, we weren’t as “fake” and didn’t have as much “drama” as the other barkadas in our school. But that’s because we consciously avoided those things even if it meant being ignorant and concurrently rendering the friendship superficial.
It was so liberating leaving it all behind. And I’m only saying that because having them out of my life has made me more comfortable with being myself. They were always my worst critics. Additionally, seeing how thoroughly we had judged other people made me overly self-conscious about receiving that same judgement myself. I always had to adapt myself to make sure I wasn’t going outside of what they were used to seeing me as. By doing this, I was just boxing myself in and hindering any personal growth. Now, I don’t feel bad about posting my crazy outfits on Instagram. Nor do I feel like a loser for spending Saturday nights at home anymore.
The truth is, this was probably the best thing to happen to me in terms of personal growth, self-love, contentment, and realising who is important in my life. I look back and I see a shadow of who I once was. Sometimes I regret the person I used to be, but for the most part I am at peace with myself just having accepted the fact that that’s not who I am anymore. It doesn’t mean I am a perfect person now, just a better version of myself. That’s what happens when the wrong friends aren’t your best friends anymore.
Different people played different roles in how the whole drama panned out, so I am actually still good friends with Cole because we were on the same page. He realised all the same things I did and left the group as well. The other four are still a group of friends with just as much backstabbing. Like, gosh didn’t they learn anything from all this??? Kim and I are very slowly mending, just because she was my bff and I meant it when I said forever. But I’m pacing it out just to make sure things don’t just go back to the way that they were. It’s been pretty complicated with her for a while even before this all happened, and neither of us are expecting things to go back to how they were in Freshman year. But she’s still my bitch. Things just wouldn’t feel right otherwise. I don’t know what will happen next, but we’ll see. Eventually.
*Names have been changed to avoid further drama lol