Spring cleaning for the soul

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
July 14, 1998

I was at a concert recently when I noticed a familiar face sitting right next to me. It was a friend of mine … whom I had dumped the previous year.

It was a slightly awkward situation.  On the one hand, we hadn’t spoken in over a year and had never really resolved why we weren’t hanging together anymore. On the other hand, it was a pretty boring Eric Clapton show.

So I turned to her and made small talk. We pretended nothing had happened, introduced our new friends to each other, laughed over funny little incidents and then watched the show.

Once the concert was over, we said, “Buh bye,” and resumed our non communication.

I knew I had made the right decision.  Sometimes you’ve just got to dump your friends. It’s like spring cleaning for the soul.

Dumping your friends is different from losing touch. The latter is passive action that happens because one of you moves away, or he gets married, or she has a baby and is too busy to listen to you harp about a Kate Spade handbag that you absolutely have to have. Eventually, you run into each other again, exchange new numbers and addresses and make an effort to renew your friendship.

Breaking up with a friend is a pro-active decision.  When you break up, you have no intention of reuniting again. It takes guts, because sometimes they’ll confront you. And then you have to be prepared to say four of the most difficult words in the English language:  “I don’t like you.”  Make that five.  “Anymore.”

Then, too, you have to be prepared to not hear their voices anymore, annoying though they may have become.

The breakup with my friends last year didn’t come as a surprise to any of us.  But it still wasn’t easy. One had been a pal of mine since college. We still have many mutual buddies.  The other was a friend of hers. Over time, I realized that they enjoyed hanging together more than they did with me. And, to my surprise, I found that I enjoyed being alone or with my other friends more than I did with them.

When you break up with a boyfriend, people understand why and sympathesize with your plight.  But some of my other pals were shocked that I had deleted these two from my Rolodex. Couldn’t we have talked things out? Couldn’t the friendships have been salvaged?

Possibly, but actions sometimes speak louder than words.

For instance, when I bought a new TV, I offered my old one to my friend. The cavaet was that she had to come to my house to pick it up.

This isn’t a big deal for most people who have cars, especially when there’s a free TV in it for them. But it took her more than 6 months to retrieve it–and when she did, she left right away with it.

OK. Gotcha.

But just as I started to get bitter, I also remembered that she had been a good friend, whether it was commiserating with me over a particularly foul boyfriend or helping me get the hang of my new computer.

The fact is, we had just grown apart.

Today, I have a core of very close friends who are as dear to me as my family. I have known some of them since kindergarten. Others I met just recently.  I see some of them several times a week, while I only get to see others–who live in different states and countries–a couple times a year, sometimes less.

I wish all my former friends well.

And should I sit next to one of them at the next show, or run into another over lattes Starbucks, I’m sure we’ll exchange pleasantries and actually mean it.

But you can never go back.

And why would you want to?

Comments (1)

  1. Robin Seabloom Kim says:

    I enjoyed reading your article: so true, yet not often talked about. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that as we evolve as a person, some of our cherished friends go along for the ride, while others choose a different path. It seems to me that caring and sensitivity are what keep old friendship alive and treasured. And yet, sometimes it just seems like too much work – with some people.

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