Rising Above Dead Weight

Anyone who tells you life is easy is either clinically insane or wealthy, perhaps both. Challenges are a daily occurrence, whether it's figuring out how to keep the heat, and lights on, or trying to convince someone to listen to your mixtape. To live is to struggle, but to thrive is to find meaning in the struggle, and power your way through the difficult times. Once you get through those hard times, you'll come out a much stronger person, but therein lies the challenge. It's not gonna be fun, or immediately rewarding, but these things must be done; your well-being depends on it.

On a personal note, I was recently greeted with the difficult challenge of removing someone from my life. This already difficult challenge was exacerbated by the fact that I've known this person since childhood. In all honesty, I'm often too nice. Nice to the point that I'll put up with a lot of negativity, and annoyance for the sake of keeping the peace. The ongoing project of becoming the best person I can be has gotten me to my current state of head-cutting HR manager for “Myself Inc.”, and I must admit, I like this guy; he doesn't mess around.

Once the decision was made to decrease the amount of unwarranted negativity in my life, it didn't make the “removal process” much easier, but I was immediately able to breathe a little easier. I can attest that a toxic friendship is similar to having a weight chained to you. It slows your progress, and just generally makes things a lot more difficult than necessary. Hopefully, none of you ever have to deal with something like that, but as the old saying goes, “shit happens”, and you might as well be on standby with a rubber suit to keep the muck off of you once it starts flying.

First, you have to determine if your friendship (or whatever the degree of your relationship) is truly a toxic one. The good news is, once you become honest with yourself about your feelings, it's not very hard to identify who in your life is holding you back. The bad news is, it's not easy to reach that level of self-awareness, and refuse to make excuses for people that once were important to you in some way or another. Once you find yourself saying things like “that's just the way they are” that should be your first red flag.

It's one thing to crack jokes about your friends, most people do this, and it's usually all in good fun. Most people have a shared experience with someone in which something wound up going comically bad, and there's nothing wrong with revisiting that moment for a laugh, just don't be a dick about it. If you know someone who consistently brings up your shortcomings at the worst possible times, and refuses to cease doing so when you mention that it's not funny anymore, you've got a bad friend. After all, what part of friendship involves belittling each other? That would be a very bizarre, sadomasochistic friendship indeed.

It's natural for people to grow apart, and there's nothing wrong with it; it's all a part of growing up, and improving as a person. I found myself having to defend almost all my decisions, and was expected to drop everything I was doing in order to listen to this person complain about their life for hours on end. A life they chose for themselves, but were dissatisfied with nonetheless. Any advice was ignored, and any time I tried to mention something positive, it was always written off and downplayed as unimportant. The tricky part is, their insults were always setup as “a joke” so any time I'd call them out on it, they could just say they were kidding.

This went on for years, and I was always the one in the wrong, no matter what. Any time I stood up for myself, I was always made to look hypersensitive; after all, they were just “joking”. Funny how the joke never changed once over the course of about ten years. That's right folks, it took me ten years to realize I had a bad friend, or at least it took that long to admit to myself that I had one. In hindsight, I should have started my “journey of self-discovery” ages ago, but better late than never.

Once you determine you have a bad friend in your life, then you get to deal with the removal process, and it kinda sucks to be honest. Here's how it went down for me: I was at a show trying my best to be sociable, and in short, get some work done for this website. I was actually feeling pretty good without very much chemical assistance at all. This person texts me, asking what I'm doing, so I tell them, exhibiting an obvious good mood. Then came the played-out “jokes”, the same ones I've been hearing since 2003, so I ignored them at first.

More texts came in, and almost as if on cue, there was a snide mention of my lack of money. This is an issue that I've been very vocal about being a sensitive topic for me, but they mentioned it anyway. So, here I am at a bar on a Saturday night, already getting in because of someone else's kindness, and here's someone “poking the bear”. Well, the bear finally decided that he was done with being poked. I proceed to spill my guts about how all these “jokes” consistently ruin my somewhat rare good moods, and the only response I get is this person turning it all around on me. Blaming me for being “too sensitive”, and talking about how they should just never talk to me again. Emotional blackmail is another tell-tale sign of a bad friend.

Then I had a real breakthrough, it was truly a momentous occasion in my efforts to be the best version of myself possible. I was sitting on a bench, fighting off an increasingly terrible mood, and finally, I won. I stood up, said to myself “fuck that shit”, and went on to record a great interview with people I had never even met before that moment. Once I was done, I got back in touch with this person, and finished going off on them; they desperately needed it, and so did I. I kept it civil, but was clear in my anger, and inability to stand for these insults any longer. My words went in one ear, and out the other, just like they had every time before; it was clear at this point that I had a bad friend.

It was in this moment that I no longer cared if I ever spoke to this person again. I stopped making excuses for them, and started showing myself far more respect than I ever had before; it was clear that this so-called friendship was not enriching my life. I've removed several people from my life over the years, but this one was the hardest, yet the most rewarding. It's easy to stay away from people who have crazy girlfriends that damage your car, or avoid people who always borrow your stuff, but never return it. What's truly difficult is recognizing hostility disguised as humor, especially when it comes from someone who even your own parents consider to be family.

I woke up the next day with zero regrets, completely confident that I did the right thing. Life is far too short to deal with people who do not enrich your life. You have to know yourself, and respect yourself enough to make necessary changes in your life. It might be leaving a soul-sucking job, or cutting off dead-weight friends, but I can tell you from experience that once you do these things, you'll be well on your way to being the best version of you possible.

You owe it to yourself to make the life that you want, anyone standing in your way must be dealt with accordingly. Friends will listen to you, and show support in any way they can; they don't consistently insult you. Friends will meet you halfway, they won't insist that you drop everything for their convenience. Everyone needs to vent every once in a while, and there's nothing wrong with providing an audience for a friend who's having a hard time. After all, listening is part of being a good friend, but you don't have an obligation to be someone's complaint department. 

It's one thing to be there for someone when they have a bad day, but when all of their days are bad, maybe it's not the days themselves that are the problem. Learn from my mistake, step up to the challenge of removing dead weight from your life before you find that you let it drain your spirit for far too long. Never let anyone make you feel like you're “less than”, and recognize those feelings in yourself if they come up. Don't waste any time dealing with anyone or anything that isn't helping you be the best you can be, but truthfully, sometimes the most painful lessons are the most valuable.

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