Lately I’ve been thinking about loyalty…and the fact that all around us, there is none.
As a generation of people who love last-minute decisions and instant gratification, we’ve lost all sense of loyalty—to ourselves, to our belongings, and most of all, to each other. We constantly want what’s newer, brighter, and better than our neighbor instead of what we already have: something a little used, maybe, but also sturdy and broken in. Something that’s been true to us.
When it comes to ourselves and our belongings, we want what we don’t have. Even worse, we act as though we need it. Have to have it. Will die without it. We want the body that will never be ours that we saw on a magazine cover at the grocery store instead of loving the one we are walking and breathing in today. We want a Pinterest-worthy home, a wardrobe that is stylish and effortless, and the best dressed, best behaved children. We don’t wait to refurbish the items we already own or sew the seam that’s come loose on the blouse that used to be our favorite. We go and we buy, buy, buy. We spend, spend, spend. We replace, replace, replace. We search for whatever shiny object catches our attention and we drop the things we used to love like we never loved them at all. We’re out with the old and in with the new, and we toss out that thing we loved before—the one that was so good to us. The one that doesn’t matter anymore.
Worst of all, we aren’t loyal to each other. To our friendships. To our families and loved ones. I know I’m guilty of it, too; I love making new friends and meeting new people, and I often get caught up in what I think is a person better than anything or anyone I’ve ever known. This friendship is it, I tell myself. This is the one. This is what it’s all about.
And then somehow I’m surprised when it crashes and burns all around me and I’m left picking up the pieces.
Lately, people have been telling me that I (too often) see the good in others. I’m warned by people to watch my back; to stay far, far away. And guess what? I never listen. I look for the things they do right, the efforts they make, and any quality that can contradict what someone has told me is wrong with them. And again, I’m baffled—shocked, even—when the aforementioned negative quality turns out to be true.
I all too often throw myself into new friendships with new people until I’ve exhausted all my energy and all my resources making sure they know how much I care about them, how much the friendship means to me, and that I’ve got their back. I defend them, share my secrets with them, and listen when they share theirs. I hope they’ll do the same; after all, aren’t we friends? Great, true, loyal friends? It happened quickly, I know, but it feels so real.
But somehow I forget—I always forget—that where there was once allegiance and the potential for lifelong friendship, there’s now smoke and destruction. When I question why, I always have to force myself to remember and think the worst thing which is, unfortunately, the true thing: A shiny new friendship has caught their eye, and I am the one to be tossed out with Friday’s trash pickup.
It’s been real. Thanks for the friendship.
We are, as my sister once called an ex-friend of mine, opportunists. We only care about ourselves. We have no loyalty.
And truthfully? It sucks. It blows hardcore. It almost makes any work we put into new friendships seem totally pointless.
I find myself thanking God every day that the friends I made in middle and high school (plus a few college folk) are practically bound to me by blood. We’re too deep in knowing each other to quit now. None of our deepest faults are anything new to the other person.
That being said, I’m endlessly optimistic. I hate this about myself. My friend Anamarie (loyal to the ends, god bless her), for example, is a total realist. She speaks the truth. She doesn’t expect people to be honest, true, and trustworthy. Because of this, anything good is a surprise, and anything bad is simply an expectation met. And every time we have a conversation about anything that lets her down but doesn’t break her spirit because she felt it coming, I am jealous. So much in the past, in fact, that I’ve declared to my husband that I’m done seeing the best in people. “Fuck it,” I say. “There’s no point anyway. All anybody ever does is let me down.”
But anyone who knows me well knows this isn’t true. I can’t simply stop caring. It’s the same reason I believe in loyalty even though history has proven it a figment of my imagination. It’s the same reason I’m notorious for apologizing to people from my past even when, years later, I still don’t know what I did wrong. I need to salvage something—to fix what’s broken.
Still, I search. I trust that new friendships will be as good to me as old ones. My friend Kim once said to me that when you begin a friendship, you never think about how it will end—how long you will be friends for or what will cause the friendship’s ultimate demise. You never believe when you make a friend that one day that relationship will diminish. Poof. Disappear as quickly as it began—with a backstabbing Facebook message or a pissed off text or a slammed door.
But maybe we should start. Maybe then we would think about how to keep it all from caving in.
Maybe then we would think about ways to work on our faults, our weaknesses, and our strengths in order to bring out (and see) the best in each other and ourselves.
Maybe then we would think about how to be loyal.
Maybe then we would think about how to stop letting each other down.