Moving to a new city is always tough – especially if it’s not 100% planned.
When I first landed in London, it was quite sudden. After spending four years in Devon, my job contract and tenancy drew to a close, and I didn’t know where to go next.
My friends were all moving to new places to start careers or PhDs, and so I felt forced along with them.
But it was hard. I had a group of close friends, and they were slowly moving away. Drifting out of my life.
Life in the capital was tough to start with – after claiming Universal Credit, things went down the pan pretty quickly.
But there was more going on than not having the basics. Moving somewhere you don’t know anyone means you end up lonely.
Sure, you have friends online from your past, but that’s not the same as going to see someone for a drink in person.
While I was going through these tough times, my only solace was confiding in my two best friends online. We could only keep in touch via text and social media, as they’d moved to a different part of the south coast to start the next chapter of their lives.
We’d spent four years living in each other’s pockets in Devon, and knew everything about each other. We’d laughed together, cried together. Celebrated new relationships and held each other through break-ups.
I’d been so unwell in my second year of University that my tutors urged me to drop out, but I refused. The guys got me through.
One of them had stayed up with me all night as I lay in a hospital bed; invited me to spend Christmas with his family.
The other confided in me when he was uncertain about the changes he’d made in his life, and told me I was better than my circumstances when I broke down and said I didn’t see any point in carrying on after being made homeless.
Our friendship was strong, and something I relied on, even when we had to move apart and could only type messages to each other on a screen.
Deep down, I always knew our friendship wouldn’t be as strong as it was forever – being in a bubble on the south coast, living together, meant it was easier to maintain a strong connection. New cities, new jobs, new friendship circles, would mean we’d drift apart eventually.
I always hoped we’d remain in each others’ lives, but that wasn’t to be. A few months after I got properly settled in London, they both disappeared.
When I tried messaging them, it was like talking to a brick wall. As if we’d never had all those years of friendship. The near-daily chats were gone in an instant. I was no longer friends with them on social media and they simply…stopped replying. No more read receipts on messages. No more answered calls. They’d vanished.
My first feeling was shock. Then I was angry. How dare they just disappear? After all we’d been through? What had I done to deserve this treatment?
After a few months of the silent treatment, I started to blame myself. Was it my fault? As I’d lost everything and slipped through the net, I’d started taking out the general anger I felt at the cards I’d been dealt on them from time to time. Maybe they were just sick of my s***?
Another few months went by, and I realised I couldn’t know the answer. The residual anger I was still feeling was down to not having control of the situation. The friendships that I’d held onto so strongly were suddenly gone, and there was nothing I could do about it. I could try and guess why they’d left for the rest of my life and never pinpoint the real reason.
Now it’s approaching a year since they disappeared, and I’ve spent that time going through a lot of change as I’ve worked on my career, found a place to live that works for me, and worked out how I want to move forwards with my life.
As I’ve done this, I’ve accepted I can’t make people stay in my life. Nor can I make them end a relationship in a way that suits me.
Sure, the vanishing act was difficult for me to deal with, but they did what was best for them at the time. There could be many reasons why they broke things off, and I’ll never know them. That’s OK – what I do know is that I had a great friendship with them while it lasted.
Dr Gayle Brewer, a lecturer in social psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, told Metro.co.uk: ‘People may disappear from our lives for a range of reasons. Those who feel abandoned should bear in mind all the factors which influence our friendships and the time we spend with each other.
‘The fact that a person has disappeared does not necessarily mean that you have done something wrong or that you specifically have been rejected.’
Is there anything we can do to try and rebuild a connection?
‘Sending a birthday or Christmas card can signal to that person that you are still there for them and potentially re-establish communication,’ Dr Brewer advises.
However, this isn’t a guarantee. Some people can feel a friendship has run its course, and simply move on.
That’s no reason to feel your ability to keep friends is doomed, though. Dr Brewer advises: ‘It’s important to remember that just because a friendship ends, does not mean that the friendship was not important or meaningful.
‘Sometimes people are only in our lives for a relatively short period of time, but they do enrich our lives.
‘We should embrace the positive memories and not let the end of the friendship discourage us from forming other relationships.’
As I keep finding my feet in London, I’ll continue to branch out and make new friends – while holding on to the memories I made with the awesome people I used to know.