Sometimes you just have to rewrite your list and rid yourself of toxic people.
Within the past year, I have separated myself from the few toxic people in my life who used me for their personal gain. One by one, several fair-weather friends had become so opportunistic, jaded, and filled with an exaggerated sense of self entitlement, that it was sheer torture to be around any of them.
It blows my mind that a couple of these people have chosen to act “Hollywood” recently, prompting their expulsion from my life. That’s definitely not cool, especially if you aren’t from Hollywood! I was actually BORN in Hollywood and spent the first five months of my life there, then my mom moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles. It turns out that none of the people I have chosen to push out of my life are originally from Southern California.
I’m not prejudiced against people who aren’t from L.A., but I am not joking when I say that every single Los Angeles native I know is incredibly humble and genuine. We L.A. natives just get a bad rap because of all the transplants who come here seeking fame and fortune, and who become bitter when their dreams don’t come true.
For those of you who are not from Los Angeles, who want to blame the city because you didn’t find your golden ticket there, I strongly suggest you go back to wherever you came from. Quit blaming the city for your failures. Instead, look at your life choices and the possible reasons why things didn’t work out.
I will always support my true friends, in whatever endeavor they choose. However, I will not put up with being used, and then cast aside in preference for the “bigger, better deal”. I have news for those of you who are in the habit of doing such a thing. Before long, you will very likely be cast into the dump pile for the exact reason, most likely by someone with power and influence who can see through your ulterior motives.
My best friend and I met in 1975 and immediately clicked, not just because we were in the same class, but we were also both only children, bookworms, and sported a long cascade of hair (blonde for her, brunette for me). As we went through our school years, we were inseparable, and got into a fair amount of trouble together, mostly due to her propensity for bending the curfew rules her parents and my mother tried so desperately to enforce.
Two decades later, Diane married and had two children, and I was occasionally asked to babysit the kids. We remained close and though we lived in different counties, we made an effort to visit each other as much as possible. Then in 1997, she and her family relocated to northern Washington state, and I went off to medical school. The geographic shift reduced our visits to once a year, when Diane would come to Southern California to visit her parents and spend some time with me. I was able to make it up to Washington in 2010, when I competed in the NPC Emerald Cup Bodybuilding event. It was so important for me to see my best friend that I spent several extra days up there.
The last time Diane came down to visit was in 2011, right before both of her parents fell ill. Since that time, her father passed away, and both of our mothers became ill and were placed in care homes. Diane’s daughter moved into her own place. I became completely immersed in the world of competing, and spent so much time traveling to other parts of the country that my time and financial resources prevented me from traveling to Washington.
Over the past several years, Diane and I have catch-up conversations about once every 8 to 10 months. Our most recent conversation was scheduled via email, then rescheduled twice due to the fact that we both now contend with having far too much to do and insufficient time in which to get it all done. We had a wonderful chat two weeks ago which lasted for over an hour, which is a big deal for me because I ordinarily can’t stand being on the phone for more than a few minutes. Yet with Diane, I find that we need a good chunk of time on the phone to dig into all the topics we tend to discuss.
Sadly, we will have to schedule another call through email exchanges. We agreed to mark our calendars to contact each other regarding scheduling the call for sometime in May. I still remember when I would just pick up the phone (rotary dial land line) and call my best friend and classmate to chat. Times have certainly changed!
Many of you don’t know that I attended an Episcopalian school for nine years, from fourth through twelfth grade, and that part of my daily school experience included attending chapel. During chapel, we would sing hymns, recite the Lord’s Prayer (just hearing “Our Father, who art in heaven…” triggers the rest of the prayer in my well programmed brain) and listen to a daily sermon from our dean. Every year during the school’s Homecoming, we would visit St. John’s Cathedral, and though I enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the church, it was all sort of lost on me because at my core, I wasn’t an Episcopalian. Every year we observed Lent, and I agreed to give up something during that period that could be considered a vice for a child.
By the time I reached high school, I was fed up with being force fed a religion I did not practice outside of school, so I gradually began to rebel. When we were in chapel, I would refuse to sing the hymns or recite the Lord’s Prayer. By the time I was a junior, I had fallen into the occasional habit of completely ditching chapel and taking that 45 minute period to hang out in a quiet spot on campus with my best friend Diane or with my friend Shari. Though there were a couple of occasions in which we nearly got caught and spent a few tense minutes standing on toilet seats in the bathroom stalls and stifling nervous giggles, we never got caught. Diane was my best friend, soul sister, bad influence (according to her mom and mine), partner in crime and fellow bad Christian, whereas Shari was a defiant Jewish girl forced to attend a strongly Christian school. Between these two girls, I had rationalized the chapel-skipping behavior quite convincingly.
Looking back at the nine years of chapel which helped to shape me, I am actually grateful for the experience. I may not be a religious person, and I may not attend chapel or go to church, but I truly believe that the Christian environment I was exposed to gave me structure and discipline and helped me to find my way spiritually. Even when I dodged chapel, I learned a great deal about friendship. Teenagers need to challenge constraints every once in a while to help them find their own way.