To the “friend” who let me down

I know walang connect sa pic! Pero kiver na!

As I was writing this piece, the famous lyrics to Justin Bieber’s song “Love yourself” hovered in my mind. “I didn’t wanna write a song, ’cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care I don’t but you still hit my phone up. And baby I’ll be moving on, cause I think you should be something I don’t wanna hold back.” 

Too harsh? That’s what you are to me as a friend. And recently I have been silent and forgiving, giving you the benefit of the doubt and hoping that we can fix our friendship. But it seems to me that you have stopped caring at all. It hurts to have a lump in your throat and today I am getting rid of it.

After many years of being friends, the two of us have fallen apart. We have finally called it quits. Yeah, I know. It’s so damn sad so tell me about it (insert eye roll emoji here). I wonder what took us so long? And I keep asking myself why it took me this long to realize that you weren’t actually my friend. In fact, you were never a friend to me. I have realized you were actually forced to like me because I used to be an indispensable part of the food chain. You were just there because you thought that I belong in your circle, or that we have something in common. It turns out we do have a lot in common but our commonalities weren’t enough to cover our differences.

Don’t get me wrong, I was willing to set aside the differences but you chose to play the silent treatment card on me. Thank you for making me feel like I was nothing because it actually helped me get a clearer view of who you really are. So you can play your silent card on me all you want but it’s been awhile and I have a life to live.

Ever since you ditched me, I took time to look back and reflect in all the times we have shared together as “friends.” It surprised me to realize that we have actually shared more memories together than some of the most genuine friends I have in my life. What made it worse is that some of my most treasured memories were spent with you. That is why I really thought you were my friend. The series of unfortunate events recently however, have led me to believe that we are never going to turn our closeness back. Our friendship is so broken that when I looked into it I can only see nothing but shattered pieces of something that was once beautiful –or so I thought.

In a nutshell, I’ve also realized I could have spent more time with you had you not been so fake to treat me well when we’re together and talk behind my back when I’m not around. I know what you have been up to all these years. You were talking shit about me and painting a bad image of me to our friends. In fact, you have been so professional in faking your stories that I think they actually believe you now.

I cannot blame them for choosing to sympathize with you over me. They have never heard my side of the story. Not that they gave me a chance to air it or that I care to clean my name. You know I was never a kiss ass to everyone. And I have always believed I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my actions because I have always been an open book —honest and true. Oh, it must be hard for you to understand what that means because it’s everything you are not. I was never the “people pleaser friend” who does anything to keep being friends with our well-off acquaintances. I cannot blame you either –fake people only respect people with power. I do not have the money or the power to help you when you need something.

It’s funny when you had your son’s Christening two years ago. I was invited yes. But I quickly noticed that everyone of our friends was selected as “ninong” or “ninang” except me so I opted not to attend. Please don’t get me wrong, it was fine but to expect me not to react and just understand your choices would have been a violation of the unwritten constitution of our closeness. Every single close friend of yours had a special role in the ceremony and I was just an spectator, a regular audience, an outcast. Of course I was hurt knowing you have set my feelings aside. Of course, I sulked about it because had it been my own son or daughter, I would have automatically put your name on my list without hesitations. Did you really expect me to just sit there like an outsider while everyone close to you gather in front to have an official godfather/godmother photo with your baby? It made me question what am I to you. Am I just a distant acquaintance? Am I just a common friend? You knew that things like that are like privileges bestowed to close friends only. You didn’t think we were that close because you were just faking your friendship with me. You deliberately crossed my name out in your list of sponsors because why would you choose me when you can opt for a richer friend for a godfather to your son, all right?

Remember that one time when we were supposed to hang out in this new roof deck bar in Makati and three days before our agreed date, you went and visit the same bar without me? I was hurt so I confronted you and you told me I was being ridiculous. You told me I was being unreasonable and childish. “‘Wag kang mag inarte!,” you lashed out at me. I remember how you did not even bother to hear where I was coming from at the time. You just voiced out your feelings to one of our friends who generously sympathized with you even though he knew I deserved to get angry. We had a plan. You ruined the plan and decided to visit the place prior to our scheduled date and without informing me. You were not apologetic at all. You made it seem like I was at fault, like I did not deserve to rant because you can do whatever you want because you didn’t actually care whether I join you or not.

Remember when we were in Davao back in 2015 and we had an argument about our bed assignments? You knew that for years, I am known to be generous and quiet when it comes to backpacking rules. I never complained even if I was getting less this and that despite the fact that I paid the same amount you guys did. You never hear me get mad even if I was constantly given the extra mattress on the floor while the rest of the guys get the regular comfier bed. Remember when one morning you woke me up at 5:00 fucking A.M. because my “extra mattress” was preventing you from opening the door? You pointed out that I should have asked for another room instead. You told me that I should have made sure that I got a bed for myself as well when you knew that standard hotel rooms only had two beds and that it would cost me a lot if I booked a room of my own. That time, I was being nice and cooperative. I was being a friend to everyone and yet you somehow had the nerve to make it seem like I was a burden to the group.

I’m sorry to have disappointed you. I’m sorry that I was not the friend you thought I could be. I’m sorry that I could not afford to be there all the time especially when you need something. You never asked for my help either –partly because you did not trust me enough and partly because you would rather ask for help from your richer friends. I think that’s quite practical, isn’t it? Having said that, I understand.

What I do not understand is how you have managed to pose as a friend and talk all kinds of shit behind my back all these years when you could have rejected my friendship in the beginning. What I do not understand is how you are able to attend your Sunday masses and be the perfect con artist at the same time. What I do not understand is how you put the blame on me when you knew you were not a genuine person to me from the very beginning.

When I look back to the words you said behind my back, I feel like the piece of trash I am to you all these years. It makes me want to regret knowing you. It makes me want to just throw away that page of my life where you had been and move on. It makes me want to be angry at you for betraying my trust and everything we have had as friends.

But I don’t want to be like you, a hypocrite. Although I am not as religious, I do maintain a certain set of principles that I quietly and religiously adhere to. 

Justin Bieber’s song maybe the most inappropriate for this piece but I wanted to point out that as the song says, it is okay to let go of the toxic people in our lives otherwise they will make it rain on our parades forever. So I will choose what is best for both of us and that is to forgive and move on regardless if I was being forgiven by you in return. 

You may think that what I have presented above are petty issues that mature individuals who have deep love for each other could have resolved through a gentle conversation. You may think that I am being a needy or clingy friend and whatnot. You are free to have an opinion. But if someone who are best friends with you for many years treats you like this wouldn’t you get crushed and deeply hurt? And this is beyond the issues I have mentioned. This is something more than just an issue of not getting invited to a night out or losing an important role in your friend’s son’s Christening. This is about the trust and respect that real friends reserve for each other. This is about the courtesy you always give your friend because you two have been through a lot together. And if I cannot trust you with petty things such as keeping my secrets and protecting my image like I did as your friend for many years, then I surely cannot trust you with bigger things. You suck, you don’t deserve me and vice versa. And I wouldn’t wish you as a friend to anyone.

I am done letting you disrespect my boundaries. I will not allow you to judge me again based on your biased interpretations and selfish ways. I will not allow you to spread false accusations against me anymore. I will not tolerate your fake friendship in my life again. Lastly, I am not going to let you put me down, nor will I allow your friends to belittle me and make fun of me ever again.

I don’t lose people, people lose me

They say that as you grow older you lose your false friends and keep the best.

LIKE THE SCATTERED SHELLS and stones by the seashore, friends come and go. But when you find the good and genuine ones, you keep them. Photo circa 2016 in Samal Island, Davao Del Norte

Understand this. I am no angel and I know I’m not the best friend anyone can ever have. But my friendship is always genuine and I have learned the hard way of choosing who to give it to. They say that as you grow older you lose your false friends and keep the best. That is true and that is not because life is unfair or whatnot. That is just how life is.

I shake my head whenever I look back to my elementary and high school days, or even my university years. I used to have a lot of people around me. They were the ones whom I shared my wildest dreams with. I laughed and cried with them. We used to roam our little hometown together; learning things together, falling and helping each other stand again. We shared our crushes and puppy loves with each other. We talked about who we lost our virginity to. We LOL’d nonstop to our dumbest decisions and mediocre experiences. Back then, I used to think of everyone as my friend. But of course, that’s not always true.

As we grow apart, each independently and quietly building their lives; some getting married and some pursuing their teenage dreams such as owning businesses or traveling the world, our common interests began to shrink. We grew distant and eventually stopped talking to each other. Falling out with our childhood friends is a normal thing that all of us go through one way or another. It wasn’t everyone’s fault. On the other hand, there are people who remain close friends no matter how different their present lives are. Lucky for them. For some of us who don’t get to keep much of our old friends, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. That’s just how life is supposed to be.

Luckily, I’ve earned new friends along the way. Some of them I’ve met while I was traveling or doing volunteer works. Most of them I’ve known from my workplace and previous companies. I love and cherish all of them.

You can say I’m good with most people. I say “most” because I don’t always look as good to everyone. Yeah but anyway, it seemed that most people find me easy to be with and they instantly grow a special fondness of me. When I ask why, they would normally tell me that I have that positive aura that makes them feel like they can trust me. Some told me I am very transparent and it means I have no pretensions in my life. I don’t care what people think of me. I’m just going to be me. Some say they see me as a brother whom they can just talk to whenever they needed someone —a shoulder to cry on. It is no surprise then that most of my friends, men and women, straight, gay, bisexual or whatnot all go to me whenever they have a problem —be it family, relationship, or even financial. Yes I’m that go to person. I always try and give them a sound and fair advise and if I can, I normally try and help them to the best of my ability.

They say some people will always have something to say against you no matter how nice you try to be.

They say some people will always have something to say against you no matter how nice you try to be. If there are people who instantly accepted and loved me, there are some who instantly hated me. With that, I can only do so much.

I had a neighbor once who seemed to be so pissed just by my mere presence. Whenever he sees me around, he would make all kinds of faces and do the silent treatment on me. And I never did anything wrong to him at all except that I was a close friend of his best-friend-turned-mortal-enemy. I mean, what did this guy expect me to do? Did he want me to stop being friends with people just because he hated them? I knew he was the typical spoiled brat. He’s one of those rich kids who came from prestigious schools who are used to getting what they want. I used to adore him and at some point, I even thought we were friends. It took me a while before I was finally able to grasp that he hated me to the point that he didn’t want anything to do with me. He even blocked me in his social media. Yes, he was that personal. When I confronted him in a good manner he said he just didn’t like me and that is all. I tried to ask why and even offered to start over again but he refused. I was in denial for a time. I couldn’t believe some people can be so heartless. What’s worse is that we belonged to the same faith, worshipped together in the same congregation and part of our church’s teachings is to love one another and forgive those who sinned against us. I have always taken those teachings by heart, letting them guide me wherever I go. There is a saying that goes like, “sometimes the nicest people you meet are covered in tattoos and sometimes the most judgmental people you meet go to church on Sundays.” Going to church does not make you a Christian. Apparently, this guy was a living example. But while he was mean and arrogant to me, I have learned to accept that he will never like me. Maybe it wasn’t his fault. Maybe that’s just how life is supposed to be. And in the process, I have learned to understand that in life, you cannot be nice to people and expect them to show the same to you in return. We are born different and made to think differently. Maturity is not using your pain to seek revenge. Maturity is learning to stop playing the victim and owning up to how your life will turn out. Maturity is putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to understand their situation rather than holding a grudge towards them. I have forgiven the man. It doesn’t matter if he does the same to me. It doesn’t make him a bad person. That’s just how life is supposed to be. And it feels great not to hold anything in.

I had friends who now work abroad and undoubtedly enjoying better lives. They are the people who stopped at nothing to achieve their dreams and I admire them. I am proud and happy for them. The sad thing is, as they moved to new chapters in their lives they kind of acted as if we never knew each other. They just stopped talking to me. I never took it on these innocent people though. For all I know, it could be just life being a dick, always getting in the way. 

I had friends who were extra nice to me during those times when it seemed to them like I’ve got a lot to offer. I kind of acquired that image of living the good life, buying the latest gadgets, traveling to places, and talking about the most relevant stuff like posh gym memberships, living in a high-rise condominium in the city center, and buying cars. Stuffs that they can relate to such as wine, parties, and other social climbing activities. Back then, everyone seemed to be so fond of me. They would always check on me asking where and how I am. They used to beg for a few minutes of my time for a little chitchat (catching up). They used to spam me with messages every year on my birth month to ask if I was planning to throw a mini-party. They’d also ask for “mandatory” gifts for their birthdays but never bothered to give one. Not that I fancy gifts but it is called “giving and taking.” Real friends are not dumb and insensitive to the needs of each other. Real friends also don’t need to be told of their responsibility to keep the fire burning. But these people were a shameless bunch. Their audacity to “make friends” just for gains is unbelievable.

Then I stopped meeting with them and declined birthday parties for I’ve felt it was just a fake gathering for people who don’t really like each other. I also stopped posting beautiful things on social media and watched as the invites and messages quickly fade away. It doesn’t mean I stopped living the good life or lost the means to do so, I just stopped posting about what I do or buy and where I live on social media.

Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough to achieve more in life. Maybe I should have packed my bags and worked/lived in a first world country as well so I could boast of my Ibiza, Russia and Rio de Janeiro vacations three years later. Maybe some people see me as a stagnant piece of crap and so they thought I no longer deserve a seat in their circle. Maybe they thought I’m too broke to be their friend. I’m not broke, I’m just low-key. And just because some people are not on the same path doesn’t mean they are lost.

A couple of years ago, I woke up one morning and bam! I realized the life I was living was not the life I wanted for myself all along. All of the glamour, the good life, the sweet vacations I have ever posted on Instagram and Facebook do not define who I really am. You can say I can afford all of them if I wanted to. I have a nice job that enables me to buy things that I want and go to places, but most (but not all) of the people around me only wanted me as a friend because we have the same interests. They thought I was one of them. But they were wrong. Unlike them, coming from a family who had nothing and worked hard to get to where we are, I am still very much attached to my roots and have no qualms being labeled as “poor” even though that would be a lie now. But I was more than what I buy or post on social media. I was more than the free treats I used to throw during my birthdays. I was a good friend. I will still be there for them when they no longer have those materials things they boast on social media but they wouldn’t be there when I needed them. Their friendships were all bogus, mine was genuine. 

So I began to stay away from these people. I started to drift away slowly but always cautious and nice to everyone. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I did not want them to feel like I did not love them anymore. I do. It’s just that it was not healthy being friends with them anymore. We still have the same interests though —nice gadgets, beautiful clothes and accessories, traveling, shopping and spending. But the huge difference is that I live beyond my means. Most of them just go around splurging their money and then comes up to borrow from people (me included) when they are broke. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the act of borrowing money from others because I was also broke and had to borrow money from friends many years ago. But these people are different. Most of them are one day millionaires —or those who are rich only during paydays. They like to spend beyond their means just to please people on social media. Their mind were as corrupted as the life they lead. Again, I am no angel and I certainly do not have a “perfect life.” These are just the result of my personal observation being with these types of people for many years. I can’t blame them. Social status and prestige have always been relevant to being accepted in the society even in medieval times.

A very good article published in The New York Times by the Harvard associate professor Michael I. Norton summarizes this phenomena and argues that, “the expansion of consumer credit in the United States has allowed middle class and poor Americans to live beyond their means, masking their lack of wealth by increasing their debt. We might think that people who have “zero net worth” have nothing. But in fact, having zero net worth increasingly means owning a lot (cars, televisions, even houses) – but also owing a lot. As a result people with zero net worth, and even negative net worth, can still feel that they are living the American dream, doing “better” than their parents did while keeping up with the Joneses.”  I second the motion. While directed to Americans, the argument is true in the Philippine society as well.

They say that you are the first five people you hang out every day. I’ve realized I did not want to be associated to these types of people anymore. I’ve realized I did not want to be a part of their bogus life and fake friendships. I have proven many times that these people are only nice to me when they want something but easily disses me the moment I turn away. What’s funny is that the same type of people tells me that they accept my sexual preferences yet they are actually the same ones that condemn my lifestyle and laugh at my relationships. They never respected me at all. They were just there for me because they thought I was one of them. But I’m sorry there’s more to me than birthday treats and lavish gifts. I was all for the love and friendship.

I don’t regret my past nor the time I’ve wasted with the “wrong people.” In fact, I still value the memories I have of them. I believe there is no such thing as a “wrong person” in our life. Every single person we interacted with, even if they were genuine or not, is destined to cross our path and teach us something. We met them for a reason. We should understand that. But I could not stand staying friends with people who drag me down and talk behind my back. I could not stand the idea of a conditional friendship —that we-are-friends-because-i-get-something-from-it kinda friendship is not friendship to me at all. That’s being a leech, a parasite, a freeload, a sponge, a mooch! I’ve always despised two-faced people, because it’s hard to decide which face to slap first.

I’ve come across a beautiful article by Dennis Green on Business Insider. The title of the article is “What wearing a $6,000 Rolex for a month taught a 24-year-old about wealth and status.” And these last two paragraphs from that article stayed in my mind since.

It says, “when you’re spending this kind of cash on yourself, you should be spending it for your own enjoyment. Don’t wear a luxury watch for prestige and status because it’s not going to work. The only ones who will notice and comment on it are already experts. And if you get to talking with them and don’t know your Tourbillon from your chronograph, you’ll look silly anyway.”

“When I strapped on the Rolex, I thought it was going to change my world. It didn’t, but it did change my worldview.”

And so going back to the title of this article, I have realized I was losing friends here and there. When I discovered this truth, it struck me and caused a great pain in my heart. I cried, a lot. I cried because I was confused. Was it all my fault? Was I an asshole of a friend? I paused and assessed myself. How bad did my relationship go with these people? How irreparable is the damage I have inflicted? I couldn’t think of any grave offense I have done for these people to turn away from me. And then it all became clear. They turned away because I’ve changed. I became more and more real in the recent years. I have stopped tolerating their bullshits. I no longer entertain their gossips and no longer put up with their show. I knew their secrets and I would never tell anyone. I have even forgiven them for everything that happened. But I’d like to put a stop to the friendship simply because there was “no friendship” to begin with. Indeed, the group of friends that I have come to know was all a show. And when the music stopped, they consumed all the food and left the party without looking back. 

My circle has gotten smaller and smaller as I grow older but I’m proud to say that the ones in it are the real deal, most genuine people I have ever met. Their friendship isn’t conditional. We’re like brothers and sisters. I am most thankful to these people for they remind me that the world is still worth living for; that there are people still worthy of our friendship and trust.

As for the fake ones, let’s just say that no matter how painful, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m better off without them and vice versa. One fake friend can do more damage than five enemies, so they say. Fake people do not surprise me anymore, loyal ones do. You see a person’s true colors when you are no longer beneficial to their lives. And after all the reflections, I knew I’m not too guilty of losing people in my life. It was them who lost the friendship I have given them. It was them who broke my trust. But I have forgiven those people and I hope they forgive me too. Not that they give a fuck or two.

Here’s a popular song by Drake that proves how fake people can drag you down if you don’t let them go.

I’ve been down so long, it look like up to me

They look up to me

I got fake people showin’ fake love to me

Straight up to my face, straight up to my face

I’ve been down so long, it look like up to me

They look up to me

I got fake people showin’ fake love to me

Straight up to my face, straight up to my face

What is your personal experience with fake friends and fake people? How did it affect your views of friendship? Tell me in the comments.

—King Ray, the Ninja