When old friends feel like a threat to the new you

Alma Bahman on when old friends threaten the new you

In our Reader Stories series, Unstuck readers share personal stories about getting stuck — and unstuck. Here, multimedia journalist Alma Bahman shares a story about confronting old friends who knew the old her she’d tried to leave behind.

I’ve started over many, many times. Moving somewhere new has given me a clean slate on which to reinvent myself. The potential for a better iteration of myself is tantalizing, hopeful. With each move, I shed the old, hide the scars, buff and shine the pretty parts, and try to build a me that’s more me than ever.

Amidst all this change, I’ve managed to keep in touch with three of my best friends from elementary school. Every couple of months, someone will send out a group email asking for updates. We emoji, we catch up, we “ha-ha, I miss you guys!”

Then, last year, they decided to visit me.

These people, who knew the me I’d worked so hard to leave behind, were about to be here in the flesh. I felt that a glint of light off the surface would be all it took for one of them to see a part of my old self and drag her out, exposed. We would fall into our old patterns and ways of being with each other.

I wanted to tell them not to come. I even considered pretending to be sick.

Somewhere in this avalanche of regression, it occurred to me: If I’ve changed this much, then maybe, just maybe, they’re not the same people they were years ago, either.

So, I approached my old friends as new friends. We met. I asked them questions about their lives, and they asked me about mine. And I was thrilled to introduce myself and to learn about who they’ve become.

Come to find out, they’ve always been thrilled to learn about who I’m becoming.

I can’t wait until their next visit.

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