Ok, put down the musket and tie up the covered wagon because the friendship prairie is not a good place to go. You might think it is, but you’re not Pa, and I’m guessing you don’t know how to build a log cabin or how to smoke a pipe (and it seems like you need both of those things if you’re gonna survive in the middle of unsettled America).

Heh, ok. Before I go neck-deep into this metaphor, let me explain my flawless logic.

I’m talking about the friendship prairie — a metaphorical, fictional place that is the embodiment of all your friendship insecurities and anxieties. It’s where you go when you feel like your friends are drifting away from you, or getting sick of you, or any other ____ of you. I’ve definitely been there before and wandered around trying to kick down trees with my bare little feetsies to build my little cabin, and I’m here to tell you: DON’T. Because once you sit snug in your wooden walls, it’s pretty heckin’ hard to drag your butt back out.

Actually, what prompted me to think about this “prairie” is that a friend of mine is starting to go kind of prairie-bound at the moment, and a part of me wants to grab her and dig in my heels because it’s an easy place to go to and a hard place to come back from. In other words, it’s basically the original, retro, good ol’ American prairie, tornadoes included. And by the way, expect some tough love — because I’m not a patient person.

Y’all know what I’m talking about, don’t you? This prairie is where your mind goes when your insecurity rears its head. This can happen because of several reasons, but it’s probably because something’s changed. You and your friends’ schedules are different, so you aren’t seeing them as often, or they all eat lunch at the same time but you have to eat an hour later; this is a common problem for people in college since your class schedule usually varies semester by semester. You start to feel left out, or maybe that they don’t like you as much as they used to, etc. etc. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and once you start doubting your friendships, it’s easy to go to the extreme, hitch up the wagon, stick a blade of grass in your mouth, and head for the prairie.

But I, a seasoned insecurity queen, are here to tell you: DON’T. Just don’t do it. There are lots of reasons not to, but reason number 1 is to not psych yourself into getting sad. That might sound kind of crass or insensitive, but before you start getting upset with your friends, I want you to make sure you have something legitimate to be upset about. Your friends can’t help it if they have to eat lunch at one time.

Sometimes, when stuff changes and you have to start putting more work into your friendships, you freak out before you start to try — because trying acknowledges that things are different, and different things can be kind of scary. So, shoot your friends some extra texts, and find ways to spend time with them to make up for lost time. Having to adjust doesn’t mean having to freak out.

And if you think that two (or more) of your friends start hanging out without you — and more often than not — this might require more of that same effort on your part. Try reaching out to them more if you feel like they might not be doing the same, but my earlier advice applies here as well: don’t psych yourself out. Happenstance or circumstance is probably the culprit behind the hangout more than anything else — because they happened to be in the same place at the same time. They probably didn’t plan to exclude you.

So basically, isolating yourself from your friends isn’t the answer, especially if it’s just because of change. Yup, we all know how scary change can be, but you don’t have to be scared of it, especially if it involves your friends, because they don’t want you to be scared or to feel alone.

And, don’t be paranoid. Don’t fall into the trap of overanalyzing (or, in prairie-speak, spending way too much time making sure the mud you’ve used for chinking your walls is just right) because that won’t help you at all. It’ll just make you feel worse, and you’ll only have yourself to blame. Overthinking just makes the prairie and your insecurities all that much bigger and that much worse. And does the prairie need to be bigger? No.

But let me get brutally honest for a second. If these things are happening for no reason, or if it’s stupidly obvious that your “friends” are doing the “ghosting” thing, I’ve got some more tough love for you: It might be time for you to branch out, find your closest neighbors on the prairie, or just talk to that person who lives in your hall and who has the really awesome hair and good taste in music. Do your best to turn a kinda-sucky situation upside-down, and try to do it fast, because the more time you spend wallowing, the more time you spend being sad and alone, and neither of us wants that to happen.

Let me go back to my metaphor. Stay away from the sucky, loner prairie, and try to find the prairie of possibility. Try to look at solitude as an opportunity instead of the worst thing ever. Look at the horizon the way Americans did back in the 1700s; see change as possibility instead of condemnation. Besides, learning how to be on your own is actually good for you.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: Try to find your prairie (the good one), and don’t be afraid of it. You’re gonna have to stick up for yourself and build it the way you want it to be. You don’t know when the next tornado might be, so make it count.


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