Friendships are such fragile things

March 4, 2006

My previous school was not a hunky-dory place.  It was downright unpleasant. 

The Principal was consumed with paranoia and his political ambitions, and the DP was even worse, in the same vein.  She particularly liked to make my life as hellish as possible – some people think you are after their proud, polished spot in the hierarchy, no matter how many times you sincerely testify otherwise. 

It was a school where bullying was rife – some staff carried out the dirty work to avoid the hot pokers themselves, but for the most part we had all been through too much training, around peer pressure for the kids, to turn gamekeeper.

The best way of coping was to pull together – those of us who weren’t happy with the current situation would subvert it as we could, and we kept each other informed of our plans and all the goss.  We started having drinks after work once a week, to get it all out of our system (our flatmates and partners were thoroughly sick of hearing about what seemed quite ridiculous abuses of power, but were daily reality for pretty much every member of staff at Hell High).

One of the other teachers was a particularly close friend of mine.  Estella and I had gone to Teachers College together, years previously, and had even flatted together at one point.  She was a bit out of the direct firing line, because her HOD would run interference quite often, but ultimately the DP hated her guts and would put the boot in whenever she could get away with it.  I remember one particularly petty scrap they had about which room to use for a meeting Estella was organising – the DP had a tantrum about getting her way in the corridor, so Estella had to follow her orders, even though the DP wasn’t actually her boss. 

Estella and I supported each other to the hilt – we even faced a spurious disciplinary together at one point (although the Principal reckoned that it was “just a chat”).  Estella wasn’t as good at coping with the pressure as me – I’d worked at another school prior to Hell High which was also a nightmare, wheres Estella was in her first teaching position after taking some time off to travel.  I patted her back while she cried on my shoulder many a time, and we used to have lunch together most days.  We were pretty tight.  And even though she didn’t cope very well in front of me, she was very staunch to the enemy – she even started to keep a diary of all the petty things they did so we could use it to bring them down later.

Estella was on a fixed term contract and as it was coming to an end she made it clear to the Principal that she had no intention of staying unless the Principal got the DP off her back.  Of course the Principal told Estella that instead the DP would be directly in charge of her in the future position she was offered.  So Estella started looking around and quickly got a great new job, with more responsibility (and thus more money) at a school well known for being a particularly good place to work.

I guess I was jealous – I felt like I was being left behind, even though at the same time I was happy for Estella and knew that she hadn’t coped very well at Hell High, so should get out as soon as she could.  But I was still there…

We kept in touch, almost daily at first, and Estella would gush about her new job while also trying to support me in my misery at Hell High.  But I just stopped wanting to talk to her about it.  She understood what it was like there,  but for some reason I just didn’t feel she really truly got it anymore.  I’m not sure that was fair, but I started turning down opportunities to plot with her about what could be done to fix things.  I didn’t feel comfortable talking to her about it all anymore – she wasn’t part of the game perhaps? 

I think Estella picked up on my reticience, she was a pretty sensitive person.  She stopped trying to talk to me much about it, although she would listen to me whenever I raised it.  Weirdly this made me feel even less supported – even though I had got what I thought I wanted, I felt like she didn’t care about me and my unhappiness anymore.  I wasn’t getting what I needed from our friendship, even though I didn’t seem to know what that was.  I suppose I was the helper in the old scenario, when we were both suffering together, and I didn’t want that balance to change.

When Estella tried to help me out with a personal problem I turned on her.  I was so enraged that she had, off her own bat, poked her nose in and decided what was best.  I felt betrayed and I lashed out.  We’re not friends anymore, which makes me sad, but at the same time I’m glad. 

I’m only writing this to get it out of my head.  I dreamt about Estella last night and I’ve been thinking about this on and off most of today – I told her I didn’t want any more contact with her and it’s unlikely we’ll encounter each other in the next few months anyway.  I’m not sure I want to be friends again – the balance was altered, when she left Hell High, and then it slowly slid to a point where I didn’t feel like I had any control of it anymore. 

I don’t wish her ill will, I hope her life goes well.  But if I never see her again I won’t be too sad.  If I’m honest it’s at least partly because I won’t have to face my confusion about our friendship, and the possibility that I killed it myself. 


One Response to “Friendships are such fragile things”

  1. […] Several months ago I wrote about the death of my friendship with Estella.  I thought that writing about it would get it out of my head. Sadly it hasn’t. […]

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