As I ease into my 30s, I have made peace with one major truth of life — you can’t make everyone happy, you can’t win their affection, and you can’t always make them like you. And even though it doesn’t seem so at first, that’s perfectly fine.
When I look back at my younger self, I am rather embarrassed since I spent a huge chunk of my 20s chasing people, making sure they liked me, and bending over backwards for their affection. It’s cringe inducing when those horrid memories come flashing back. What the fuck was wrong with me?
Thankfully, for the generation that followed mine, things have turned out to be better. For a generation that is perennially online, Gen Zs have figured a way to determine their self worth at a very early stage. Sometimes blocking people out of one’s real life is as simple as doing it on Instagram or Twitter (nobody except the boomers are left on Facebook at this point!). But while the physical act seems simple, is the emotional part of cutting people out also easy for Generation Z?
To define a clear distinction, Gen Zs are individuals born after 1997, thereby preceded by the Millennials or Gen Y. And both these generations have their own struggles cut out for them. Based on a 2022 survey, while millennials in India are bogged down by work stress, the leading cause of stress for Gen Z is relationships and breakups. 87% of Gen Z in India struggle with relationship problems, with 1 in 3 stating that their mental well-being is greatly impacted if they break up with their partner.
Integrative psychotherapist Richa Vashista works at the intersections of gender & sexuality, with a clientele that is about 20-30% Gen Zs or Zoomers. She told VICE, “This generation has been fairly quick to move on and find someone new. There is also a lot more active support seeking from friends, turning to online communities for validation and understanding, and utilising various digital platforms to express themselves.”
From crying about it online to airing dirty secrets, there are many ways in which this generation deals with letting people go. And there are a lot of feelings of course, because when we asked Gen Z for their inputs on handling breakups and people walking out, they had a lot to share.
Rhythm Takkar, 22
I had to break up with my partner of three years, and I also had a very close friend walk out of my life. Both of them knew me since I was an 18-year-old broke college student. While [their leaving] was devastating, I realised that gradual distance is the way. You can’t cut someone off right away, so distancing yourself over time really helps. Weed, isolation, and a lot of detachment are helpful too. I usually handle letting go of people by cutting off my hair, spending loads of time alone, smoking up and taking up new hobbies or revisiting old ones. Replacing people with people works best; find a new best friend and you’ll forget about the one that got away.
It’s obviously very difficult to let go of someone. It leaves an unwanted void which is there to stay as a reminder that they are gone, or that they meant something to you. In that particular state, you just want to be alone because reliving it as a whole hurts like a bitch! With time it disappears, but there will still be nights when you think about them. But then again, it’s not the person we miss. Instead it’s the feeling of support or the comfort that you really miss. But those are the good parts, and the bad parts are what lead to them walking out, and that helps you become the best version of yourself.
David Emmanuel, 24
At first to have someone walk out of my life meant the end of the world, the absolute end of everything I had built with the person. My life would basically revolve around this one specific person, and when the moment of truth came, I was left alone in desolation. I would be the one to stop them, hold the [imaginary] door to stop them from leaving and apologise when not in the wrong to keep them by my side, and humiliate myself all under the pretext of not losing the person. The person/people leaving brought in anger, pain, and overthinking coupled with restless nights.
As time progressed it changed drastically, I stopped being patient with tantrums, stopped being the bigger person, and realised that my mental state and well-being mattered more than someone who couldn’t give their 100%. I also held people accountable for their actions and called them out for gaslighting. To sum it up, I used to block the door to prevent people from leaving, now I show them the way out.
People are usually replaced before they leave. But usually in our generation, I’ve experienced the lack of giving closure to any relationship. There’s just an understanding that if somebody isn’t talking to you anymore, they probably don’t want to anymore. I had amazing friends at school, we were really close. After getting out of school, conversations became scant, to the point that now it feels awkward if some schoolmate wishes me on my birthday. It’s pretty messed up – you yearn for them but you don’t really want them around.
Firstly, we live in India. Here, people walk into our lives without permission to begin with, and start asking personal questions. If I don’t want someone in my life, I just tell them politely or take conversations somewhere else if they are not that important. If that person is unavoidable then it’s best to keep the conversations to the routine bare minimum. That’s it.
This is when my best friend of 7 years stopped being the same. It was gradual. She didn’t show the same warmth. So we grew apart and stopped talking. Both of us were in the wrong. I have accepted the fact that the bridge is broken, but I still feel the pain. My other friends and parents supported me a lot through this.
Losing a friend is the worst thing that could happen to you. It was harder than a breakup because a friend leaving you is losing an irreplaceable part of yourself. It is scary as your best friend knows everything about you and that can bite back. Now I choose not to make new friends in college as I have a really hard time trusting people.
Hardik Mangla, 23
You shouldn’t put someone first at the sake of your own individuality and identity. That makes you especially vulnerable, and makes it extremely difficult to cut someone off, so it hurts more when they leave. You should have your own existence, interests and passions. They add dimension to your being and do not put you at the mercy of another person’s company. My therapist told me to try to be there for myself and prioritise things that give me joy. That’s how you cope with letting people go and you get back on track.
I think this is something which has come up quite often, especially from older (way older) people when I’ve brought loneliness in conversations, with them suggesting how this is a generational thing – that my generation is experiencing a lot of loneliness. I’m unsure if that’s the case and feel that loneliness isn’t simply a generational experience but I do agree that we are just talking a lot more about it I guess? There is an existing vocabulary for such conversations now alongside platforms.
In my experience, this vocabulary has actually facilitated negotiating and navigating loss, especially the vocabulary around mental health, microaggressions and narcissistic abuse. Particularly on Instagram, we happen to have access to a conversation of self preservation, something that’s immensely recent. I think this vocabulary, access to info about what a toxic relationship looks like does end up facilitating certain self-reflections which help in letting go.
This is more personal but growing up as trans*queer individuals, we often envision a future of loneliness, loss and isolation, while living in social boycott and alienation. To me that has been a factor on how I generally negotiate my relationships. Detaching becomes easier and letting go often isn’t surprising since subconsciously one consistently prepares one’s self for the possibility of loss. This might change later I don’t know, since healing is a process yada yada.
Letting go feels like tearing a part of you and leaving it behind. However, it may vary from person to person. But I personally believe that when someone leaves, they don’t leave alone, they take a part of you. And they leave a void that can never be filled. At least, it is like this for me. It was about my best friend. I had to let her go because she wanted to. And I could never be the same again.
Drawing a line
As we can see, some Gen Z individuals may be way better equipped to deal with people walking out of their lives due to their exposure to online resources and increased emphasis on mental health awareness, but others may still struggle with emotional challenges.
Vashista added, “Living in a digital age has its pros and cons. If only, we knew where to draw the line and where to stop. Online platforms have been helpful for a lot of my neurodivergent clients to find online communities and support networks.”
So surround yourself with positive people (even if it’s online) who can be around you into your 30s too, and if they didn’t make the cut, then they were never meant to be.
The post How Does India’s Gen Z Handle The Art Of Letting People Go? appeared first on VICE.