How the bitterness over a career turned into a bizarre argument with a friend I met in high school whom I cannot avoid unless I drop out of everything or she does. Neither of us are willing to do this. As a result, we are "friendly aquaintances" who don't hang out anymore, not enemies. We don't feel tense when we see each other, and strangers can't tell there was ever a problem.
Even When A Friendship Dies, You Have to Work With People in a Civilized Manner
A true story about how I ended a decades long friendship but still remain civil to the person since we can't avoid seeing each other in person
We Do Not Live in a Vacuum
A True Story With Names Changed
For the purposes of this article, I will refer to my friend as Mary Smith. I will refer to the man she married, a fellow high-school classmate, as John Smith. We were so close, that when she got married, I was one of her bridesmaids. It is the only time I've been in the wedding party.
After university, I met up with Mary Smith -a choir friend from high school - in a chorus in the Fraser Valley. She was accompanist and I sang in the choir. Over the next few years, we became extremely close. Our passion for music was our common bond.
All Mary ever wanted to do was teach music for a career. There was plenty of competition, so she was forced to move up north. Sadly, music is one of the first school programs to fold, and she lost her job. She found another job on Vancouver Island which allowed her to come home on weekends.
It was then that she fell in love with John Smith. John had a higher-paying job than she did through the university here, so Mary decided that she would quit her job to move back to the Fraser Valley rather than John move to Vancouver Island. Everyone was ecstatically happy and the wedding was beautiful. Mary decided to change her name to her husband's even though no one knew who Mary Smith was except by her maiden name. What could go wrong?
Well, remember the competition for music teachers that existed before? It had never gone away. If anything, it had gotten worse for her because the name on her resume was unfamiliar to the school district personnel who had taught her. She could not even get a job as a substitute teacher. She had some volunteer positions and jobs that paid little -love the world of art - but nothing steady. She eventually opened her own music studio through her own home and discovered the high cost of being self-employed.
It was then that the relationship between Mary and I became strained as she grew to hate talking about music in her spare time. Music had been her passion all through growing up. It was sad to see that what we had in common was dying for her. Music was *a job* and not a love anymore. I had no idea what topics were not taboo anymore.
In desperation, I latched onto what I thought was a safe topic for her which in turn gave me an outlet via a third party. A relative of mine who has since moved to recovery was both a new father and in the throes of alcoholism. The relationship is very complicated and I won' t go into it except to say that I blew off steam and Mary and John both let me.
Fast forward in time to when this relative of mine was bad enough that he was taken to the hospital to be admitted in detox and treatment. He refused, and showed up at my choir rehearsal -for the second time in a month - saying that as I had a B.A. in Psychology, I could take care of him and no hospitalization was needed.
Quite frankly, I freaked out. I called Mary but she wasn't home. I left a message on her answering machine. I don't leave wonderful messages at the best of times if they aren't written down first, and this was ad lib. My mind went faster than my mouth could and I was not making any sense. I do know that I wanted to come to her house and forget. I know that I said I couldn't handle it. The other parts of the message are blurry. Apparently, I managed to make the fact that I was afraid *for* him sound like I was afraid *of* him- as if he would beat me up. This from a sad drunk. I then hung up.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to when we had choir. I was dropped off at her house first. She quite often drove me home as I do not drive. She and John had this fight upstairs I didn't understand. That night she dropped me off with a bombshell:
"John and I have talked it over and decided that you are not allowed to be in our home anymore. We are afraid that your brother will follow you and hurt us."
Seriously. But for the difference in names, this is what happened.
That ended the friendship right there.
But what about the fact that we were in several choirs together in a tight-knit music community? Were either one of us willing to quit choirs to avoid the other? No!
Over time, we have drifted out of the same choirs and are involved in separate organizations. But we still work with the same people since many musicians belong to multiple organizations. We remained civil to each other, and in public were extremely friendly as it was no one else's business. Does that mean that our original relationship was fake? No. It was real. It *died.*
We do not live in a vacuum where we can avoid people who have hurt us. We are not hermits. We have to work with people. If we spend our lives hating the people who have insulted us we will only hurt ourselves by making it unbearable to be around the people.
I have moved on. Mary has moved on. We talk to each other politely on the street and continue to have lively discussions about music when we see each other at concerts, rehearsals in the same Cultural Centre-there are several groups using the building at the same time-and festivals. When we talk about music it is like old times. We are not willing to miss out out of spite.
A Musician's Office is a Concert Hall
A Famous Concert Hall
Concert Hall in NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory