Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s associate editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
I recently found out a lot of my friends were hanging out without me. It was shocking, in a way. I’ve had anxiety about all of my friends secretly hating me for most of my life, mostly because of some bad early friendships. So, at first, I figured it was that anxiety.
We’re in college, and we all met when joining the Comedy Association at our school, where we’ve all had a good amount of shared experiences doing local open mics and performing in shows that we put together at the school. There are a few of them I would consider as some of my closest friends in the world. I’ve hung out with them some outside of meetings and events, but mostly, I’m at work or at my apartment by myself in the evenings. I figured we were all just not hanging out together.
Then I started noticing something. I saw them together on people’s Snapchat or Instagram stories, or inside jokes would be told in groups where I felt left out on the experience. I started putting together the pieces after that. I saw they all had Dungeons and Dragons character sheets with them, all around the same times. Dungeons and Dragons is something I have talked to them about how much I miss playing, as I haven’t played in over a year and have been looking for a group to play with ever since. This made it hurt more.
I have brought up the fact that I think they’re all hanging out without me to multiple people within that group, and they got uncomfortable, so I played it off as a joke. I’m a very non-confrontational person, so I feel like I have to make it just a joke and pretend it’s fine if they do hang out without me whenever I bring it up, but I really want them to know that I think it sucks without seeming entitled, petty, or creepy. Please, give me some help.
The good news is, you aren’t imagining things. These people are definitely hanging out without you, and it is perfectly reasonable to feel envious or sad or a bit rejected as a result. I write very often about the terrible feelings that come with romantic rejection, but unrequited platonic feelings can be just as acute. I have pined after someone I wanted to be closer friends and experienced the same spiral of wondering what I was doing wrong when met with indifference or dismissal.
So no, you are not crazy. However, while it is perfectly understandable that this situation causes you to feel a number of negative emotions, you are not justified in feeling betrayed. What I’m about to say will be difficult to hear, but please know it is important to understand: I suspect you are defining friendship quite differently than some of your friends do. This is pretty common — the difference between an acquaintance and a friend and a close friend is highly subjective and not always agreed upon by both parties. I’m sure there are some people I consider friends who would, at most, refer to me as someone they know socially.
But for most people, friendship is a function of time spent together, particularly outside of work or classes or the original conditions under which you met. As you get older this can change, and you will realize that intimacy can occur very quickly or despite time and distance, but in college this is going to be the standard metric by which people evaluate friendship. So what gives me particular pause is that, by your own admission, you very rarely see these friends outside of your Comedy Association meetings and events. These people aren’t hanging out without you; they have simply expanded the scope of their various relationships outside of this club, and you have not. There may be any number of reasons for this, but I would strongly encourage you to stop bringing this up, even as an ostensible joke.
Instead of asking why they are spending time with each other, you can invite them to spend time with you. More importantly, I would try to forget what they do when you aren’t around and focus on spending more time expanding your own social circle. You have your comedy friends, but they need not also be your D&D friends, or your movie friends, or whatever other interests you develop. I know “make more friends” is a tough thing to hear when you have a history of friendships ending poorly, but if you overburden one small group of people with all of your emotional needs, I suspect you will only grow to feel more aggrieved and disillusioned.
You are still very young, for which I offer both my congratulations and condolences. It means that you still have plenty to learn about connecting with other people, but that’s basically what college is for, and you have plenty of time to do it.
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