All human beings crave connection but those connections don’t have to take place on muddy terrain
HI, my name is Heni. I’m 17 years old and going into 12th grade. I had a great summer, baruch Hashem, and I’m looking forward to school starting soon. I can’t believe I’m going to be a senior!
I have another eight days until school starts, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with friends and family. I have one friend, Raizy, who keeps texting me that she wants to hang out but I’m honestly not in the mood to be with her. I keep trying to push her off, but she keeps asking me. I’m not sure what to do. I think I need to give you a little bit of background so that you can understand why I’m feeling this way.
I’m sorry to speak like this about her, but Raizy is not popular, at all. When I first started hanging out with her, it was because I felt really sorry for her. I can tolerate her awkwardness much better than other girls, so most of the time, we get along fine. I’ve come to a point where I actually like her for who she is and consider her a real friend. But sometimes she’s a bit too clingy and it gets uncomfortable and very annoying. She asks me over and over again if I want to do certain things that she knows I don’t want to do, and puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to say no or give in.
She enjoys doing things that are a little uncommon, like hiking and stargazing. These are not things I’m interested in doing and I’ve been very open about that. I gave in a bunch of times when she kept asking me because I felt really mean to keep saying no. I thought she’d be satisfied and that would make her stop asking so often. But it didn’t work. If anything, it’s even more frequent. I’ve gotten about eight texts asking me if I want to go hiking anytime soon. Sometimes I give an excuse, sometimes I try to make a joke about it, and sometimes I’m downright honest and say I don’t want to go! But she keeps asking! She’s really sensitive and I know if I keep saying no, she’s going to get hurt and insulted and pick a fight with me, like she’s done in the past. But I really don’t like hiking! I get sweaty and I hate bugs and there’s no bathroom and my sneakers get all muddy. I don’t like eating on a dirty rock and washing out of a water bottle. She likes this type of adventurous stuff but I find it uncomfortable and unenjoyable. In other words, HELP! If I’m honest with her, she’ll get mad, and if I give in, I’ll be mad! I’m also scared she’ll think this is something I like to do and then ask me every week if I want to go! How can I get out of this? And how do I put a stop to her asking me without hurting her feelings?
Hello. My name is Raizy. I’m going to be a senior in high school next year. I’m terrified to be a senior. It means we’re almost done being kids. Soon, we graduate, we go to seminary, and then we get married! I’m not ready to face real life.
I also know when senior year comes, every girl in 12th grade feels like she’s supposed to be on top of the world. This is her year. The year to be the coolest and oldest grade in school. The year to live it up with friends and cherish every moment of our last days together before we all go our separate ways.
Well, that’s not how it feels for me. I feel like a loser, watching everyone from the sidelines. I want to be a part of things, but I also isolate myself because I feel like I don’t fit in. I feel like girls my age are so petty and immature and only want to talk about clothes or other silly things.
There’s only one girl in my grade who gives me the time of day. Her name is Heni and I like her a lot. She’s one of the only girls who will go out of their way to talk to me or spend time with me and include me. But that’s mostly in school. Once we’re out of school, I feel like she never wants to hang out. I ask her all the time to hang out or to go on hikes with me, but she always seems to make excuses to get out of it. She always tells me she thinks I’m so cool because I don’t do what everyone else our age does. She tells me she’s impressed by what an individual I am. She seems to show interest. But then when I ask her to do things with me, she always has a reason to say no. So is she lying to me? It doesn’t feel fake when she compliments me. But then why does she never want to do things with me? It doesn’t add up. Sometimes I get mad when she says no so often but then I feel bad about it because I don’t want to lose her as a friend. She’s the only one I have who stays consistent. But it hurts my feelings when she doesn’t want to see me outside of school. Doesn’t she miss me? I wish there was a way I could tell her what I feel without making a total fool of myself.
This is my favorite letter so far, so thank you! I love your story because it resonates with the two points I find constantly in my own life and which I therefore constantly “preach” to my teenagers.
- When you go out of your way to befriend someone else, or to otherwise do the right thing, you will never lose out!
- Every person is special and unique with a part of Hashem in them. Therefore, when we extend ourselves to recognize and respect that part, we end up appreciating the person for who they are and genuinely gaining from the friendship. In other words, “chesed friends” often become “real friends.”
In an ideal world, every girl should be able to find her place socially, and be appreciated for who they are. Everyone should be able to connect, bond, and form real relationships. Unfortunately, we see that this isn’t always the case. We live in an olam hasheker, where sometimes we don’t look past the externals, and therefore we all lose out.
Heni, your story should be boring and all too common but in reality it’s not. Unfortunately. there are many incredible individuals who are not recognized. Sometimes we are too busy, too judgmental, and too self-conscious to look past someone’s unique differences. When that happens, we lose out on amazing opportunities for deep connections and different kinds of friendships.
It takes a confident and smart teenager to look deeper and befriend someone who’s a little bit different. I would like to clarify that I am not talking about being nice to someone who’s a little bit different, socially off, or quirky. Baruch Hashem, the teenagers today are incredibly kind and nice. I am talking about befriending these individuals for real. To achieve this goal you would need to look deeper to recognize and appreciate the unique strengths and personality traits someone different from you might possess.
When you are smart and brave enough to embark on that journey, not only does the other person benefit, but you benefit even more! Your life is forever enriched from connecting to someone who is not exactly like you. It’s like finding a secret treasure and tapping into its benefits while the rest of the world is losing out.
All relationships come with challenges. Right now you have a challenge. You have a real friendship with a girl you appreciate and value. You also have a dilemma since she is stuck on going hiking with you and that isn’t something you want to do. While perhaps, in a different relationship, your joking about it or hinting about it or outright refusal would be enough for your friends to understand that you are not a hiking partner, with Raizy that’s not the case. Another benefit of this relationship with Raizy is that it will force you to fine-tune your communication skills. All human beings crave connection but those connections don’t have to take place on muddy terrain.
Clear, consistent communication works best with giving an alternative plan.
Raizy, I really enjoy hanging out with you and schmoozing with you. I find you a fun and interesting friend. I don’t enjoy hiking and I don’t think I ever will. I know you don’t enjoy art so I don’t ask you if you want to join me at the painting place. Let’s agree that I won’t ask you to join me for art and you will no longer ask me to join you for hiking. However, of course I still want to spend time with you and we both love ice cream. Let’s go out together for ice cream.
Notice in this example, you are super clear, but giving her what she really wants, which is a way to bond and connect.
I am sorry for your pain. Every person deserves to feel recognized, appreciated, and loved for who they are. Hashem created everyone with unique strengths, interests, and challenges. “Not being part of things” is a tough challenge for a high school senior to go through. I would like to focus on your comment that at times you isolate yourself. I think that’s the specific challenge you need to work on, including joining together with others whenever possible. If you read the above letter you will notice that I wrote a lot about respecting someone else’s differences. This same rule applies to you! Just because someone is silly or immature they still deserve our respect. If clothing is important to someone, we can validate that even if it doesn’t hold the same level of importance for us.
Raizy, you need to look deeper to find the unique strengths, interests, and even depth in others. Relationships are a give and take. This means we give of ourselves, we compromise, we tolerate the idiosyncrasies or immaturities of our friend. On the other hand, we also take, which means we gain companionship, loyalty, a confidant, and a support. According to science, friendships boost our confidence and physical health, as well as reducing our stress and increasing our overall happiness. Those benefits definitely make compromises and tolerance worthwhile.
Wishing everyone a year of stretching ourselves and growth, and the tremendous brachos that come along with that.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 971)
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