Freshly sharpened eyebrow pencils, delicate like tatters of lace, lay amid open makeup palettes with every hue of red you could possibly imagine. Discarded wads of tissue, stained with red smeared on them like blood, bore witness to our gradual demise. We listen to a mix of Lana Del Ray, Lorde and Illenium until we brace ourselves to finally leave the bathroom and jump on the bed, facing the Chicago skyline.
There’s something special in the air, a feeling of the unknown; yet, with you, there was a sense of comfort, knowing that we will face the everlasting abyss together. I didn’t know then that those moments were fleeting. If I had known, would I have run? But of course, this was an impossible question, a non-question, an axiom with no solution.
If someone asked me to describe our friendship, I would tell them about how we used to deliver Uber Eats orders all week to save up for those unforgettable weekends at raves. Then, I’d describe how we would start our night eating dirt-cheap McDonald’s in bed, watching sensory videos of eggs and fruit dancing around on YouTube and ending it sitting on the bathroom floor listening to heart-shattering music. All the while, finding a way to giggle.
In those moments, for so long, it felt as though the world around us was coming crashing down, but the common denominator that made it feel like we’d be OK was the fact that we had each other. I had you.
So, I’m struggling to find the words to write a piece that encapsulates nine years of friendship — something that I believed to be forever — into pages. It still feels unreal to write this to process the end of a friendship. I’ve sat down multiple times this week hoping to achieve any progress, but how do I condense nine years of “I love you”s, laughter and sharing precious moments that have defined who I am on a couple of mere pages? How do I tell the story of two girls who have been together from the ripe age of 12, since we’ve lived in India and navigated the most beautiful and tragic life experiences together? Well, I can’t. So instead of bombarding anyone who reads this with memories I will hold close to my heart forever, I hope to share lessons and my perspective on learning to let go of what no longer serves you, even when that means letting go of the people we love the most.
Lesson #1: The Art of Detachment
The Law of Detachment states that in order to manifest our desires, we must release attachment to the outcome itself as well as the path we might take to get there. In other words, when we are no longer attached to the idea of how something should be, we free ourselves up to abundant possibilities.
I have been striving to implement this practice into my life over the past couple of months, and I am incredibly grateful for my decision to do so. This decision has given me the strength to let go of expectations and has opened my mind up to a new method of thinking. This mindset shift has allowed me to let go of what I believe my life should look like, but rather enjoy the experience itself.
I still get the occasional anxiety about where I’ll be in two years, what I want my career to look like (especially given the competitive nature of the society we live in) or who will be in my life, but I know that if I hyperfixate on those things, I will close myself off to a multitude of opportunities. I don’t want to have a vision of what life should play out like, but rather experience it as it comes and be fully present. Although I have been practicing detachment in my personal journey, it has been extremely difficult to put into practice with my relationships.
The fear of letting go of someone — a best friend, a significant other or a family member — is synonymous with the fear of letting go of a version of ourselves we’ve clung onto, a version of who we once were. I’ve always associated my people with a sense of who I am. They evoke a sense of comfort that nothing else can. They know all that I’ve been through; they personally know the people I’ve lost to death, and they’ve witnessed every phase of my existence that has led up to who I am today. They know who I’ve been and sincerely trust in who I will become. The kind of friendship that you seek unforgiving solitude in when you need to withdraw from the world. My relationships have always been a top priority because what is life without the basis of human connection? It is horrific enough to lose a friendship that has been there for as long as I can remember, but it is even scarier to lose someone to whom I have attached my sense of self and become an integral part of what I deemed my identity to be.
So I guess right now, I’m working on letting go of my identity and this older version of who I thought I was, and I’m beginning to focus on creating a newer, more high vibrational energy for myself. I am a lot more conscious and aware and with this profound sense of awareness comes the idea of only accepting real people, those who encourage and grow alongside me, in my life. Detachment has taught me that the universe is always looking out for me, I just have to work alongside it and take the steps to look out for myself too. Right now, what that looks like for me is not allowing people who don’t serve me to be in my life.
I am allowing myself to be uncomfortable as the idea of permanence I associated for so long with another human being dissipates. I am sitting with it, despite how scared I am.
Lesson #2: Being OK with Being Villanized
People will turn you into whatever it is they need you to be so that their internal narrative can make sense to them. This means that we need to be OK with being the villain in someone else’s story and stop trying to control the narrative being built. Some people will make you feel like the “bad” or “wrong” party so that they can feel better about how they treated you.
This does not mean we should refuse to take responsibility for our mistakes or be unwilling to hear the other perspective without biases and ego; it just means that people will always have different perspectives on what the situation is to them and that is totally justified. At the end of the day, our truth is our truth, and as long as it is pure-hearted, we have to be OK with holding onto it and finding peace in it, no matter what the other person’s story is.
Lesson #3: Soul Misalignment
Two souls can never be on the same journey, especially at all times. That is quite literally impossible. And it has been very difficult for me to accept that. There is a lot of pain associated with the idea of knowing someone I love is moving in a different direction than I am. But, simultaneously, I think there’s something so beautiful about knowing that I am finally outgrowing situations and a “the world is against me” mindset. I am finally at a place in my life where I aim to view situations, experiences, people and the world around me out of love. So of course, with that shift in mindset, comes growing out of relationships. And that’s OK.
I saw this quote a couple of days ago as I lingered on Pinterest for a little too long: “If you hold on too tightly to people who have already let you go, you won’t have the chance to grab hold of all the beautiful things that are actually meant for you.” I don’t know why but reading that hit me really hard. Maybe it was because it was 4 a.m., and I was feeling out of the ordinary delusional. Or maybe it was because I knew that even though it hurts, it is true.
I’ve always given so much — dropping everything in an instant — in the relationships I hold close to my heart. I’ve made it a priority to be there when a close friend needs me because I would expect the same in return. However, I’ve learned that friendships are not transactional. Just because I give a certain way in my relationships doesn’t mean those actions will be reciprocated because, at the end of the day, human beings are just too fundamentally different. I thought that I had to overextend myself for love and for people to understand me, but the more I did that, the more I had to work harder to feel love. I don’t need that energy anymore because I recognize that all the love I need is within me; I know that access to me is a privilege and I have to treat myself as such. I need to let go of people who already have let me go, through their actions, to create space for more vibrant people and experiences in my life.
So, as I get older, I’m faced with a decision: Who is worth my energy and who is not? My circle gets smaller as I grow up, but that’s OK because I no longer want to take on the emotional baggage that doesn’t serve me. I no longer want to feel let down by the actions or lack of by others. I no longer accept ego in friendships. I no longer want to open up my phone multiple times a day wishing for communication from the other end. I no longer want to use the justification of “you guys don’t know what we have and what we’ve been through” to the people who truly love and care for me telling me I’m being mistreated.
It is tremendously difficult to let go of people, but it is more difficult to be in relationships that don’t feel as reciprocated or feel like they are hindering my growth. I still go back and forth on the decision that I made to let go of someone who has done so much for me because, honestly, that decision has been so goddamn painful and life-altering. But then I remind myself that sometimes the right choice can be the most heart-wrenching, soul-shattering one. But, I trust in alignment and I trust that if our paths are meant to cross again, they will. Within this hardship, I am learning to choose myself and my heart. I am learning to defend it and stand up for it. I am learning to be OK with speaking my truth and walking away when people can’t trust in the purity of my intentions and actions. I am learning that no one and nothing is worth dimming my soul for.
Breakups get harder as we age, especially the ones with your girls. It’s not just the principle of not having them in your life anymore — it’s all the promises we’ve made to each other that go six feet under alongside us. The promise of a shared apartment somewhere in Europe. The promise of being each other’s maid of honor. The promise of being the godmother to a future child. The promise of a life imagined and the mere concept of every day together just diminishing into thin air. I’m going to miss you so dearly. The remnants of our shared existence will continue to trace their way back to me. I am aware of all the broken promises and unsaid words that will haunt me for years to come, but here is one promise I can guarantee: Every time I look at the moon, I’ll think of you. And I’ll think of you fondly.
So, I take what I said back. It is not an impossible question. I will not question experiences that I am grateful to have had and definitely do not regret. Even if I had known that this would be our ending, I would never have run away. I wouldn’t change a single fucking thing.
As I sit here and reflect, all I can say is that I am proud of you. I am proud of who you are, and I cannot wait to see you flourish, even if that means from afar. I cannot wait to see you be who you envisioned to be in this world. I wish nothing but beautiful things for you and when they happen, I hope you choose to believe that you are worth every one of them. Our relationship was so special and no matter whom I explain to what we had, no one will know except us. No one will know the shit we got each other through and how deep our bond goes. I know everyone’s souls are separate, but if mine had to be tied to someone, I thought it was you. I will feel that way for the rest of my life.
I told you on your birthday that you need to know that there will always be someone in this world who loves you truly and someone who will always be content when you’re happy. I stand by that, no matter what. I hate that our love has to be from a distance, but god, I will be your biggest cheerleader eternally. Even in the moments you don’t feel me, I am always there.
And when we finally do meet again, I can picture the moment. “Ribs” by Lorde is our soundtrack. I am on one edge of the frame, and you are on the other, both of us smiling at one another as if the world seems to hold nothing but sweetness.
MiC Columnist and Photographer Ankitha Donepudi can be reached at email@example.com.