my wise friend said this to me last night as i was facing the potential end of one of the most important relationships of my life. i was talking about the pride i've felt in this long long friendship, how it's a fundamental part of my identity to be able to say i've loved this person this long, we've known each other since we were children, we know everything about each other, we are sisters. and that we've maintained this friendship, up until a year ago, effortlessly. i was so proud, too, of our year of working so hard on our friendship, of the fact we've never given up. i was saying how if i lose this friendship i'm also losing a huge chunk of pride and a huge chunk of my identity, i lose all the things i used to get from claiming that.
and my friend said, "you are not what you build". you continue to change within whatever structures you create and sometimes it doesn't fit any more, sometimes you have to escape it. within friendships and partnerships and groups and communities and institutions, they are bigger than us and sometimes we have to crawl out from under them, no matter how much we love them and how proud we are, how hard we've tried, how much we want them to flourish.
and yet i have never even questioned that i am what i build. i can't even figure out right now if it's from society or family or both, but i have a clear sense of "you better have something to show for yourself" and a huge part of that is lasting relationships as a marker of success. i have believed that i am my lasting relationships, and if they fail then i've failed. and yet some time ago, mainly through work, i became aware of how much more important people are than relationships. and i don't mean this in a hideous individualist way! i have seen so very many people subsume or destroy themselves for the sake of their relationships, often for a lack of wider community that meant their only source of love and support was that one-to-one relationship. so i don't see the solution, at all, as people prioritising our own personal needs above all else, but in people feeling that we can have different needs met by different people and different parts of our communities. and if one particular relationship or structure within those communities becomes unhealthy for us, or we otherwise somehow find it needs to end, we can move on without feeling like our whole world is crashing down and we have nothing to love or be proud of anymore.
so that we are building lots of things at once, maybe. and no one of those things is us.