There is one word in the English language whose meaning, for practically my entire life, has managed to escape me. Despite knowing the definition from the dictionary, and using it appropriately in conversation and such, it took me many years to discover its true meaning. That word is 'friendship'.

Growing up, I knew all sorts of people, but I did not label many of them friends. As my older brother put it, cynically mind you, I had many acquaintances. By "acquaintances," he meant that these were people I knew, and who knew me, but who did not truly know me, nor I them. I attribute the nature of my lack of strong friendships to different things, but the two strongest are the following: first, I have four brothers, and we grew up doing everything together; second, my complete rejection of myself did not lend itself to being open to others.

I am grateful to be able to say that, now, the second reason is no longer an issue. In fact, in overcoming my sense of self-loathing and eventually finding happiness exactly as I am, I was able to learn what friendship really means. It was only after making myself vulnerable, and taking a chance on others, that others were in turn willing to take a chance on me.

Now, I have a number of close friends, people I can talk to, laugh with, commiserate with, speak my mind with, and generally just enjoy completely.

That said, I have recently realized that some "friendships" I've had in the past were anything but. To understand this now is trying. Right now, I am referring to one person in particular, whom I thought I knew pretty well. I've been going to school with her for a few years, and we spent hours studying together, and talking.

This semester, we are taking a class together again, and I thought it would be fun to see her more often again. It's been about a year since we had a class together. However, time has a strange way of changing us, and in my case, I have grown a great deal and learned much not only about myself, but also about life.

Periodically I would talk to my friend on the phone, and she was forever saying that we needed to get together again because we hadn't seen each other for so long. I agreed, but ever time I brought it up, it never seemed to be able to work out, on either of our ends.

Now that we're in class together again, that has once again started up, only not as a true friendship should. Instead, I'm finding that I'm being used. Suddenly, I am hearing from her more frequently, asking if I'm on campus and have time to meet up. Not one call just for the sake of chatting or catching up. Only "Did you find the article we're supposed to read? I tried so hard to find it, but I just couldn't so I was hoping you would help me." Or perhaps "I wasn't in class. Did i miss anything important, and if I did, can I get it from you?"

Looking back, I recognize now that this persists because that's the way our friendship has always been. I never had a problem with it when I was so deeply closeted that anything was better than talking about the real me, and that was my own way of avoiding it. I never let anyone really get to know me (not even me), so I kept things strictly "business".

But that is no way to live. After having come out, and finding out what really matters to me, I see that this was probably my perception of what friendship was. This is no longer the case, and I know that that is not enough to sustain a true friendship.

My question, though, is how on earth I can manage to get out of this situation. It is not as though I don't want to be her friend, it's just that I don't feel like she even wants to consider a friendship other than the loose one we've got. As of now, I have stopped offering to help her out, but I don't mind doing so as long as I don't do everything for her. She has made it clear that she needs me, not as a friend but more to just use my good nature to get what she needs/wants.

To me, the thought of continuing and trying to keep working to turn it into a real friendship is no longer worth it. My feelings are not hurt, as I've not invested much in the relationship, nor do I think hers would be. But I am tired. Tired of being used. Tired of holding in when I have opened up to others, but at the same time not wanting to open up to someone who doesn't want to really know me. Tired of being in flux. I am ready to move on. I just don't know how.