Finally! I’m posting a blog that isn’t a year after the previous one! In this blog, I want to talk about making friends and drifting apart from them.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to make and keep friends. While there are some added challenges that come with being autistic, being autistic also adds some spice to the experience, which I will expand upon as I write this.
When I was younger, I had a friend who I’ll call Ava. I met Ava at a summer learning camp and she seemed really nice. Ava and I were both nine at the time, and when I first met her, she seemed really nice.
One day, I forgot my snack. Ava knew that I was snackless, so she offered me a yogurt cup. That same week, she invited me to get Mexican food for lunch and to come to her house where we went swimming and played Minecraft. That same week, Ava and I became best friends and, for a long time, we would play and hang out together. It was really nice having a real friend who accepted me for who I was. At the time, I’d finished third grade, and in my class, there were some girls who were mean to me and pretended to be my friends. After going through that, it was refreshing to have someone who proudly called me her best friend and actually invited me to hang out with her. I learned from Ava what a real friend was and how a real friend should act. I learned that while real friends might make mistakes, they don’t put you down and make you feel bad for their own amusement. They don’t beg for your things and give almost nothing in return. With a real friend, it’s generally expected that if you pay for food while you’re out and about, they’ll pay for food next time, or something along those lines. No one feels used in a real friendship.
From Ava, I learned how to trust that people were my real friends. After I had fake friends, I had a hard time telling if someone was my real friend, and knowing if I could trust them enough to be myself around them. After hanging out with Ava, I learned that I could be myself without her judging me. My fake friends took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have many friends and that I had a tendency to trust people too much.
Ava introduced me to American Girl dolls, a game called Subway Surfers, Drumsticks ice cream treats, and the TV show Liv and Maddie. We found out that we had some stuff in common like how we both liked the Dork Diaries book series and played Minecraft. It was so nice to finally play Minecraft with someone who appreciated it as much as I did!
Ava was my first friend who I got to walk around town on my own with and go on a short trip without my parents coming along. For her birthday, I went with her family to Los Angeles and we went to the American Girl store. It was so cool getting to go on an overnight stay so far away from my parents, and it was fun picking out clothes for our dolls at the store, which was absolutely HUGE.
Ava and I remained close friends until about middle school. I noticed that Ava was leaving me on “read” and not replying to my text messages, though I noticed she was active on social media a lot. I also noticed that Ava and I were talking and hanging out less, even though we had considered each other best friends the year before.
Drifting apart from Ava was difficult, even though I already knew we weren’t as close as we once were in elementary school. I didn’t have any distaste towards her, or anything like that, but our lives were going in different directions, and I felt like there were some things I couldn’t talk about with her that I could talk about with my other friends. Drifting apart from friends can be difficult. It seemed like the end of the world to me, and it meant change. However, I learned that it’s a natural part of life.
You might want to blame your friend for drifting apart from you. Sometimes parents might blame the friend and accuse the friend of being “mean” if they don’t want to play or hang out with you anymore. However, that is counterproductive to moving on. It’s also too “black and white” and it doesn’t help you see any nuance. If you are autistic, the black and white idea that a person sucks because they drift apart from you can cause even more harm because it doesn’t offer any explanation or reasoning. It just makes you feel angry and creates resentment for other people who might not deserve it.
Sometimes you might want to hang on to that friendship and do everything in your power to keep it going. You might try to text the person and try to invite them to hang out with you, but if they don’t respond or express interest, it can make things awkward. If the conversation is dry and you don’t know how to bring it back, it’s a sign to move on. There is a difference between peaceful silence and awkward silence.
Oftentimes during adolescence, friends from childhood will drift apart. Their lives may go into different directions and they might not talk to each other as much, if at all. Sometimes you’ll find new friends in that new chapter in life. Being autistic can make that part of life harder because it means letting go of the past, and it means that things aren’t the same anymore. When you’re moving into a new chapter of life, it can be disheartening to realize that you won’t have that person by your side to move into that new chapter with you. It means that you’ll have to find new friends and start over with the whole making a friend process.
It sounds nice to have a friend from early childhood that you’ve stayed friends with and will stay friends with all through adulthood, but that’s a rare treat. Friendships aren’t always like that, but that doesn’t mean that there is any less value to those friendships or that they don’t matter.
The moral of this story is that close friendships are important, but they might not last forever, and that’s okay. When I was younger, I had a hard time accepting this, and I felt sad drifting apart from Ava. I couldn’t just magically be over drifting apart from Ava, as she was a big part of my life up until that point. Now, five years later, it feels fine, but it didn’t feel fine then. It’s okay for it not to feel fine and for you to feel sad through that transition. My advice is to just let friends drift away if your attempts to connect are not being reciprocated, but don’t be ashamed of feeling sad about it. Feeling things is very important, and you have to let yourself feel emotions so you can be all right in the long term.
My advice is to remember the good times with past friends, cherish the friends you have now, and embrace opportunities for new friendships in the future!