Thursday, September 21, 2006

Old Friends Revisited, Part I

A theme of late on this blog is what to do about friends who simply don’t hold up their end of the relationship, drift away, or show themselves to be something different from what you believed. What do you do? Try to help? Try to mend? Try to let go? Give them time and space and hope they will find their way back? Of course all of these things are heavily dependent upon circumstance, but my readers have generally expressed their spectrum of opinions, all for which I am grateful.

I named this post “Old Friends Revisited, Part I” because I actually have two stories that fall under this heading, but I’ll save one for a little later (thus the Part I. Genius, right Scott? *wink*).

This particular post concerns a friend whose situation I first introduced recently here. Truthfully, readers, I wasn’t content with the advice any of you had for me. Again, it is based on circumstance. You all had insightful things to say but none of them felt right for me and my situation. And even writing the letter didn’t quite satisfy me the way I believed it would.

A few days before we left for Las Vegas, I heard a rumor circulating around the department that the friend in the aforementioned post had taken a job teaching high school in Vegas. This left me in an odd situation. Should I make one last ditch effort to see what the hell he was thinking? To make sure he’s alright and not bipolar? Or worse, suicidal? And at what point do I weigh the notion that Dean and I are “eloping”?

I talked it over with Dean and he (being a much more forgiving soul than I), really felt that we would regret not at least making an attempt to see our friend. And if we were ignored or rejected, we could feel confident in washing our hands of him. So I sent him a lukewarm email telling him that I heard he lived in Vegas now, and that if this is true and would like to meet with Dean and I to respond. If not, I would respect his decision and leave him alone.

I heard back almost immediately and he seemed relieved that someone was reaching out to him. He called me (from his new, undisclosed number) shortly after to make sure I had gotten his response and to set up a time and place to meet. He and his current FOM (flavor of the month, a different issue entirely) ended up picking us up from the airport and we stayed up late at the hotel bar catching up. I did get a chance to gently voice the opinion that I and the majority of my friends and co-workers have (to one extent or another). And was ultimately unsatisfied with his answers. Basically, I am thinking he himself doesn’t really have answers. He knows people are hurt and disappointed not so much in his decision to teach at the high school level despite earning his Ph.D. but at the way he left things. Of course from a professional standpoint people are disappointed in his decision, but it boils down to following your heart. There are two well-defined sides to that coin. What upset me most was a general lack of remorse. He was still flippant about blowing town, and shrugged it off with an insincere ‘sorry’. I stressed that the people he spent all his waking hours with in the lab were just as qualified to offer life advice to him as the people he actually went to. Is there such a thing as listening to too many points of view? Maybe when none of them are what you really want to hear. And what he really wanted to hear was, “Go, teach high school,” and “You’re making the right decision.” I don’t necessarily think anyone of us would have said that.

In the end I am convinced that our friend is happy for the time being, until he gets restless again. Until there is something else that floats his boat. The sharp edge of my hurt is softening into more of an indifference. He is contacting people all of a sudden, sending more personal emails (the phone number for some reason is still undisclosed) and people are thanking me for sending him the signal that it isn’t too late for him to make amends with some of us. In sum, the right opportunity presented itself. I still have not let him off the hook, but maybe I’ve helped some other people deal with the question of what to do about this wayward friend.

5 comments:

Jackie said...

I'm sure it was really hard for you to send that e-mail in the first place, but I'm glad that you did.

For some time this will probably be a little bit raw, but eventually (we hope) your friend will come to his sences. And one day, maybe he will realise how much he hurt you and your lab mates.

lefty_grrrl said...

He won't tell you his phone number? Why is he so paranoid? Well, whatever his actual issue is, he clearly doesn't empathize and he also has impulsivity issues.

What upset me most was a general lack of remorse. He was still flippant about blowing town, and shrugged it off with an insincere ‘sorry’.

That sucks.

In the end I am convinced that our friend is happy for the time being, until he gets restless again. Until there is something else that floats his boat.

I still contend he's bipolar - just not the type you're thinking of. There are three or four distinct subtypes of bipolar disorder, and I think this guy has one of the more milder forms.

He is contacting people all of a sudden, sending more personal emails (the phone number for some reason is still undisclosed)

Even his interactions with you guys display depression and mania. He disappears. And all of a sudden, he's emailing and calling people. This isn't even considering his flavor of the month situation and the fact that he skipped towns and switched careers on a whim.

people are thanking me for sending him the signal that it isn’t too late for him to make amends with some of us.

But he doesn't think he did anything wrong. That's why he shows no remorse and gave a half-assed apology.

Sorry, MB, but this guy isn't a member of reality. Don't put more into this than he does.

magnetbabe said...

Thanks, jackie. It helped me a little and I can sleep better knowing I made an attempt and also knowing that he is (relatively) okay.

lefty- I'm guessing he is feeling protective of his new contact info because he doesn't want people calling ripping him a new one. You see, besides hurting the feelings of his friends, he walked out on unfinished business research wise. Dr. Hari (and a couple of our collaborators) is piseed about that. It's interesting to get your perspective as an outsider, never having met this guy and I thank you for your insightful response. There is definitely something going on there mentally though. Dean and I both caught on that things just aren't right with him. But I'm done putting in more thaqn I getting out. It's sad since we were friends for 4 years, but instead of being angry I just sort of feel sad that he's going to waste his degree and many friendships he's made. Like I said, I"m happy I made the effort, I can feel good about that. Now, it's up to him and if I don't hear back, it wasn't my fault.

lefty_grrrl said...

He ran out on work? That's even worse. He's definitely got impulse issues.

word verification:

mcpep

Now, is that M.C. Pep or McPep?

magnetbabe said...

Clarification:
He was done with his teaching obligations and had earned his Ph.D. However, his most recent results were not written up and submitted for publication in a journal. He was supposed to get a {real} job and help finish writing up results. That's what he ran out on.

M.C. Pep is the name of the cheerleading squad at my ghetto school.