5 Big Lessons I Learned After Losing a Legacy Friend

“You can’t force anyone to value, respect, understand, or support you, but you can choose to spend your time around people who do.” ~Lori Deschene

There’s a term in IT called “legacy systems.” These are computer systems that are ancient and abysmally outdated yet are kept around because organizations have centered some of their operations around them.

The exercise to replace a legacy system is challenging and possibly even painful because of the interwoven network of dependencies placed on these systems—but it’s not impossible.

The benefits of replacing a legacy system with one that is aligned with the current operational standards of an organization far outweigh the burden of doing so. More importantly, though, keeping a legacy system may prove to be a more costly undertaking, perhaps even jeopardizing the survival of the organization.

Are you rapidly blinking while wondering if you somehow clicked on the wrong article and that perhaps it’s time for you to finally address your poor sleep routine because you seem to be getting an IT 101 lesson in what should be a wellness article?

Well, apart from being a tech enthusiast who will use any excuse to educate anyone I can on anything IT-related, it was also a good way to introduce a term I recently experienced in an especially gobsmacked manner: legacy friends.

These are people who remain in your life because, at one point, you befriended them and the friendship persisted.

The only reason that you’re friends now is because you’ve been friends for some period of time, and the yieldless relationship persisted unquestioned while you somewhat silently evolved over the years. Or, in my case, unquestioned until the realities of life forced me to pause and ponder upon the emptiness of one such friendship.

A few months ago, I decided to let my adventurous spirit lead the way as I moved to a new country after seven long years of living in the same city. I desperately needed some change, and pretending to be engrossed in patio furniture while a former romantic partner sauntered down the aisle with his mother was not something I found appealing.

At first, the move was invigorating, inspiring, and all kinds of wonderful. The anonymity of a new place where I didn’t need to feign interest in furniture of any kind was just splendid, but the novelty of everything quickly diminished.

I experienced the deep difficulty of abruptly losing my entire support system and faced unfamiliar natural elements that spawned symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder.

My spark dimmed as I felt lost and alone in a foreign land. A new job in an unfamiliar and taxing work environment and part-time postgraduate studies only added to the increasingly dark cloud of confusion and misery I felt plagued by. The administration around being an immigrant felt never ending, as I struggled to keep up with everything my new life demanded of me.

It’s not hard to imagine the delight I felt in finding out that a friend from college would be in my new city for an evening and wanted to have dinner with me. For a second it felt like the dark cloud had lifted if only for a moment, and there was an unmistakable feeling of relief at the thought of seeing a familiar face.

That sense of ease was short-lived, as I soon found out that he had also invited his friend to dinner. I felt a little confused by this, as he had made it seem as though it would just be the two of us at the beginning. But feeling overridden by the thought of seeing a longtime friend, I compromised and committed to dinner.

Weeks passed by and I plowed on, barely surviving, submitting agonizing assignments and enduring circuitous workplace conversations that left me quickly losing my sense of confidence despite having had almost a decade worth of experience.

A week before the dinner, I was informed that it was now a dinner party for as many people who were available to attend, and that it started thirty minutes after the time I would officially finish work.

I was stunned. I’d been working overtime for months on end—with every spare minute spent hunched over textbooks that were apparently written in the English language but were all sorts of Greek to me—and I was now suddenly expected to show up on time, dressed appropriately, and cheerfully mingle with strangers I had never met before while running on barely any sleep.

Knowing how busy things had been at work, I gave my friend a heads up that my work demands may prevent me from making it to dinner and that, if I did show up, it would be a bit later. His response was something along the lines of “Show up on time or don’t bother showing up at all.”

Again, I was stunned. I’d prided myself on cultivating respectful, mature relationships and was rendered speechless by his response.

My other friends were kind and compassionate and consistently demonstrated their unwavering support for me doing what I needed to do in order to be the best version of myself. So his response was shocking to say the least.

The bewilderment soon gave way to some serious contemplation as I struggled to understand how someone in my life could administer such a senseless ultimatum.

The more time I spent inspecting the details of our friendship, the clearer things became. The truth of the matter was that we were not actually friends. Well, at least not by the definition of a friend that I had come to know over the past few years.

To me, a friend is someone who patiently yet firmly prompts you to finally talk about your broken heart and the dysfunctional relationship you clearly needed to remove yourself from.

It’s someone who is so ecstatic about your final term results that they excitedly lift you into the air with a bear-like hug while you temporarily forget your mild but very real fear of having your feet off the ground.

It’s someone who will listen to your wails of discomfort in the wee hours of a Sunday morning as you attempt to put up much needed boundaries with your family.

It’s someone who offers you a sympathetic shoulder to cry on instead of saying, “I told you so” when the deliciously tattooed guy does exactly what they predicted he’d do.

It’s someone who constantly encourages you to silence your inner over-achiever by continuously telling you that a 50% pass is a fantastic outcome for someone juggling as many things as you are.

It’s someone who will gladly spend their time letting you interview them for a needs assessment survey while you try to desperately (and very foolishly) finish a two-week assignment in two days.

It is not someone who has known about your challenges in acclimating to a new continent yet stayed silent about it.

It is not someone who failed to display any empathy or concern when you mentioned that you were sick yet again.

It is not someone who offered absolutely no support in helping you navigate an academic degree that they had already completed.

It is not someone who complained that the three-minute voice note you sent was too long for them to listen to.

It is not someone who criticizes how you choose to embrace your heritage and culture.

It is not someone who barely expressed any gratitude for the time and energy you sacrificed in helping them realize their career ambitions.

It is not someone who childishly refuses to reply to your messages all because you missed a dinner, planned with no consideration to your dietary restrictions or time constraints, that made you feel like an afterthought.

This person is not a friend by my current standards. They would be what is deemed a legacy friend—someone who had remained in my life simply because they’d been there for some time.

This conclusion was jarring, but I guess all harsh truths are. The nice thing about the truth is that it really does set you free. With this newfound knowledge, I liberated myself from the hold of this unnecessary relationship and re-framed the experience as an opportunity for self-awareness to outline what I need from friendships in my life.

Here are five lessons I learned from the loss of a legacy friend.

1. I am wholly uninterested in superficial conversations and activities that do not enrich my life or society at large in any way.

2. It’s a messy endeavor to attempt to have people in your life with values that are misaligned with yours.

3. It’s perfectly fine for you to choose your peace and well-being over people who have taken far more than they’ve given.

4. As tough as it is to accept, it’s impractical to have people in your life who are stuck in a lifestyle that you outgrew long ago.

5. There is no way to explain away disrespect, and every single human on this earth, regardless of creed or color, deserves unconditional respect.

I of course feel saddened by the loss of someone I thought to be a friend, but a consoling outlook is that I’m now making space in my life for people who more closely meet my needs.

As with legacy systems, removing a legacy friend may be an uncomfortable and even painful undertaking, but the allure of a more enriched life should be a worthwhile incentive to at least consider it.

Having felt the fierce love of my found family for many years, I believe with all my heart that the goodness you embody will be a signal to like-minded souls, so do not settle for anything less than what you deserve.

**Image generated by AI

About Cam

Cam is an avid writer who has always been enthused by all types of literature. Her blog, Oh My Word, is a whimsical collection of satirical, creative and sometimes profoundly helpful musings about life and well-being.

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