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Changing My Phone Number Accidentally Liberated Me From Dead Friendships

I was considering punching the T- Mobile worker in front of me. In his way too short black and pink polo, he smugly told me that “No, you cannot keep your phone number if you’re going to get a new phone”.

My mother stood anxiously beside me as she watched this standoff between Crop Top and I. She couldn't understand why it was so important to me that I kept the same phone number.

“Because”, I tried to explain without sounding completely overdramatic even though I fully knew that I was, “I’ve had this phone number since high school. Everyone has me at this number”. They glanced at each other as though what I’d said made no difference. I thought of how many contact forms and resumes I’d filled out with that phone number and my resolve steeled. I couldn't just change it now.

But honestly, it was just that somewhere in my heart, I had grown attached to my New York City zip coded number. So many other things around me had changed in my life, and this one thing was the only thing that had stayed. Consistent and true through it all. Changing something that had been there for so long, even something as simple as a phone number, felt like putting something loyal to rest.

In the end, Crop Top won. I handed over my out of date iPhone 7, and with it a bit of my dignity for arguing about it for so long. I went home with my iPhone 11, excited and already exhausted at the idea of updating people on this development.

That first day, I texted my immediate circle to let them know. We moved our group chats around (RIP to all the good memes left behind), but life proceeded as normal. Having this new number wasn’t actually as daunting as I’d thought it would be.

Until it was time to get around to all those “in between” people. You know, the ones you text from time to time to stay updated, or just for birthdays and holidays. Finding the best way to go about letting them all know felt torturous. Should I text them all individually? Too much time. Send a mass text? Then all of these people would have random people’s numbers, that’s invasive. An email? Who was I? The Pope? A task that should have been so simple, felt like pulling teeth. So I did what people do when they can’t make a decision : let other people make it for them.

On January 18 2018, I posted on my Instagram story (my most active social media platform) “Got a new phone number, DM if you want it. Now back to your regularly scheduled content”. And the DMs did roll in, but not nearly as many as I’d expected. I spent the next 24 hours obsessively checking the approximately 300 people who had seen my story and matching them up with my DMs.

In the end, only about 25 people asked for my number and what a mixed bag of emotions that was. On the one hand, I won’t lie, it did hurt my feelings a little. Seeing people I thought I was friends with not reach out was a sobering moment. But I noticed that a lot of these people were the ones I had to reach out to all the time. People I was constantly cheering for and never getting any of the applause for myself. That I was doing all the heavy lifting without getting much back in return. So, *que Ariana Grande song* I’m better off without them .

On the other hand, it made me realize that I could be that friend too. The one that only texted out of obligation but never fully invested in what that person had going on. And that’s not really fair to them either. On that front, changing my number meant I could admit when I’d outgrown someone and use this as a chance to let them go.

Two years later and in the midst of this pandemic and changing my phone number was the best accident that's ever happened to me. Some of those old friends who are now just bored and in need of attention, are forced to sit with their Instagram DMs being left on read. And the others that I wasn't being a good friend to, I still keep up with on Instagram or Twitter. It's nice to still them thriving without the pressure and intimacy of a one-on-one conversation.

I don’t begrudge any of these people. We all came out on top, released from the pressure of maintaining something we felt was exhausting. I respect that sometimes, things just come to an end. But nobody tell Crop Top that.

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