I recently came across a series of emails that chronicle the end of a friendship I had with a fellow freelance writer a couple years ago. It’s something that still smarts even now, an event I still can’t quite get my head around. I am shocked to find that the hurt feelings persist.
The friendship began when she, a lovely woman whose name I would see in some of the same local publications I wrote for, contacted me saying she’d been reading my blog. We got to chatting and decided to meet for coffee. She’d been freelancing longer than I had and knew all about how lonely it can get at home and sounded supportive of my jump to the same position.
Over the course of a year or so we got together more and more frequently, sharing exploits. I often marveled at her success and ability to reach a huge variety of publications, and she expressed admiration for things that I did, like writing a book. I thought we had a pretty good mutual admiration society going.
At one point she suggested we “share sources” so that we didn’t trample each other’s writerly toes, since we swam in a pretty small freelance pool. I was surprised and pleased by her openness. I even took a risk and asked for a contact…and found her to be less open than I thought. It was clear she wasn’t really happy with me asking. Mixed messages!
And that’s when it began to go sour, though I didn’t know it for quite some time. I learned later, that, according to her, she’d only offered to share sources because she was already feeling threatened.
When it all fell apart–ostensibly over her perception that I stole an idea from her, when that idea had actually been in the works already but I had never spoken to her about it–it came with accusations that I was taking work that was rightfully hers (though she felt that I did this unconsciously, which was even more confusing). From her perspective, I can see how it looked bad, but she never gave me the benefit of the doubt. The timing looked too coincidental. And I will admit that I should have changed one detail (which was not even set by me) because it was, in fact, too similar.
But that was it for her. I was judged, accused and sentenced without a trial. I tried falling on my sword, to say that I understood if it looked egregious, but I had honestly not borrowed from her, but all that got me was cut. I decided that she had made up her mind at some ponit to be rid of me, and nothing I would have done could have helped. Stupid as it is, I still hurt over it. I was locked on the thought: hey, you reached out to me. You befriended me! What’s that: keeping your enemies close?
In the end, I decided it was too risky to get too close people who ran in the same circles like that. I would admire them from afar. I’ll never know if that was a wise decision or not.
I’d like to know your stories of the personal and the professional getting you into trouble.