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.