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My old nemesis might sabotage my new life

Tagged as: Big Questions, Friends, Trust issues<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (4 April 2018) 8 Answers - (Newest, 8 April 2018)
A female United Kingdom age 41-50, anonymous writes:

I am seriously thinking of moving to a new city to start my life over. At 50, I know this won't be easy, and I want to think ahead and do as much as I possibly can to get things off on the right track. Partly this is because I have tried for 23 years to make a life in London, and whilst I have been partly successful with this, I know I can't stay and it is time to try to start a new life, before I get too old to do so.

I am an artist and lecturer and when I move to this place I imagine the art world and academic worlds will be my primary 'communities' to get involved in.

But there is a big problem with this. Please believe me when I say it is not just me being cynical, but the art world really is NOT the fair-minded, liberal thinking place that it appears to be from the outside. I have a PhD in Art now, after studying in a world-leading university -and I am often sickened by the reality of how the art world works, particularly the inequalities in it, to the extent that I sometimes want nothing to do with it - even though I love my work and will always make art.

I worked in jobs I hated, as a single mother from a highly dysfunctional working class background, to put myself through university. I worked full time in a job that was soul destroying, whilst studying for my masters, and I did similar things whilst studying for my PhD. Eventually, I was given some lecturing work, but I am not on a secure contract, only yearly contracts. It is not enough for me to live on in London. I have also bought and sold three homes - renovating them whilst living in them (incredibly stressful). This means I now have a very healthy amount of money to start my new life with. And I fully know that I have earned this.

However, there is one major stumbling block to moving and starting again. There is someone living in this same city who hurt me very, very badly, whilst we were at college together. I am basically frightened that she will ruin my reputation in this new city, if she finds out I am living there, and she will do it actively in order to protect her own reputation and something very bad that she did to me.

I actually wrote on here some years ago about this person because of what she did. We were studying our PhDs at the same college but our backgrounds could not be more opposite. She is from South Korea, from an incredibly wealthy family, where money is simply not a problem at all. I am from a working class, highly dysfunctional family in the UK. She initiated the friendship and, for a period of around six or seven years, we were very close as friends. She has a huge amount of what she called 'superficial' friendships but also several good, close friends. But she told me she had never had a close British friend before and I felt sorry for her. During our friendship she told me I was like a sister to her, that I was her closest friend, that she loved me. She told me many times that I am exceptionally caring as a person - I am (or was) and that this was so rare to find. It's true, I was extremely empathetic to others, very giving, but this caused big problems for me in the end - I became burned out because no one was helping me with my daughter or with anything else and I have now become so wary of being exploited by people that this is a major reason for leaving London; I feel life in London has become so hard for so many people that most are desperate to get ahead and will use others; in the art world, this causes very extreme competitiveness and there is most certainly not a level playing field in place.

She is an incredibly ambitious person and was determined to get a permanent visa to stay in this country. She was able to do well in the art world because she never had to worry about money - her parents paid for her studio and her rent on her home and all expenses, so she could focus on networking and making her art work, and getting high profile exhibitions. She had never had a long -term partner and I noticed she had problems with handling emotionally intimate issues - she was only ever really focussed on her reputation and would guard this at all costs. For example, when she developed a sexual relationship with a man who had just separated from his girlfriend of 12 years, she had no empathy whatsoever that the ex-girlfriend subsequently was upset because, just before they split up, she found she had cancer and she also suffered this loss of her partner and (in her words) best friend. All my friend cared about was her own reputation; she worried that this woman would damage her reputation in some way, and didn't care about her at all as a person.

I spent hours and hours helping my friend with so many different kinds of issues - genuinely being a good friend to her. She even acknowledged that "your quality" is helping people, you really do care about people - and this was even in the very last conversation I had with her. She also said I was the most intelligent person that she knows, but that I must think about my professional reputation. As friends, we often had lots of fun together and, to be fair, she did sometimes try to help me but she basically seemed to be so privileged that there was almost no understanding of how to manage practicalities etc. One thing that really hurt is that she made friends with my daughter and told her she was like her 'aunty' - and my daughter has no aunts or uncles or cousins, so she really loved my (now-ex) friend too and trusted her. She was also so upset when my friend dumped me in the way that she did.

Towards the end of our friendship, I got into difficulty with my health - I had an abusive partner in the background who was undermining me all the time I lived in London - to the extent that I could not work and could barely study. The doctors had no idea what was wrong with me (they eventually diagnosed a form of IBS but this took years). I had to sell my home and I also had to cancel many of our meetings at short notice. My friend had absolutely no empathy for this whatsoever. it got to the point where she ended up screaming at me in public, saying I was behaving unprofessionally - even this phrase seemed inappropriate and odd because it just did not seem to register in her head that I was physically ill and terrified because I didn't know what was wrong with me. She was only concerned that I was not looking professional as an artist and researcher; I think she was only concerned about her own reputation. After she screamed at me, she basically dumped me, cutting me out of her life completely and without any explanation to me at all.

I also became aware that the friends I had made through her (part of her South Korean community over in London) stopped all contact with me. I was so incredibly hurt by this - her behaviour seemed completely over the top but also characteristic of her; I had seen her scream at waiters and maids in hotels and so on, and basically act like a princess, if she did not get exactly what she wanted.

What hurts is that she did go on to get her permanent visa and her parents sent her money to buy a whole house in this city where I now want to move to. She was then offered a really good lecturing job in the university in the city where I want to move to; this tends to be the way that it works in the art world ie. if you have enough contacts and have exhibited in top places, you can fairly easily pick up a lecturing job because the college wants your impressive contact list. You can be a brilliant lecturer, but if you come from a poor background and have things stopping you from getting the amazing looking exhibition profile, you will really struggle to get a good lecturing job.

It hurts because she was able to achieve all of this because her life was funded by rich parents. And it hurts because she says on her staff website page that she believes in things like equality and is researching this - when the reality is she treated me like absolute dirt.

We had a mutual friend who I had introduced her to and who told me she went to visit her in this new city. She said that this ex-friend had asked about me, about my daughter and that things became "too intense" in our friendship. I have other feelings about how this mutual friend behaved, but I'll leave that out for now except to say I really didn't want to hear details about this person and I was upset that my mutual friend discussed my life with her and told her about my daughter.

I know - because I know how this person operates - that she will have done everything to become deeply involved in the art and academic communities in this place I want to move to and that she will have given people the impression that she is high status in that world but is also lovely as a person - and, on the surface, this is how she seems. I know she will be very secure owning her own home outright and basically leading a great life.

If I enter into this scene, her first thought will be for her reputation. I am 100% sure she will very cleverly create a situation similar to what she did with all her South Korean contacts, where they basically cut contact or block or stone-wall me. I am very concerned that she will make it difficult for me to make new friends in these communities, because they will be even more close-knit in this smaller city. By now, she has been there for about four years, so she will have a lot of influence.

I don't know what to do because I honestly think this place would otherwise be almost the perfect place for me to move to and start a new life - and I want a life now, rather than only struggling and surviving. There is no way that our paths will not cross. I know she moved to this city because she already had existing friends there who were also involved in the art scene there - a couple, one partner of which was born and bred into that city, and the other who is South Korean - together they are an influential, wealthy couple and they will totally support her as a friend and will have a strong community there.

The upset that she caused me was so bad at the time - because I was vulnerable at that time - that I am still angry with what she did. It was cruel and unnecessary. I lost a huge amount of confidence since then, with making friendships. I wish more than anything that she did not live in this place that I know would otherwise be good for me - she will have moved there for similar reasons as to why I want to, realising it's a great place to live.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to approach this issue? Should I see a counsellor about this before I go? Should I try to make contact with her before I go, to ask her not to cause trouble for me?

View related questions: ambition, best friend, confidence, cousin, ex girlfriend, money, period, split up, university

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (8 April 2018):

Personally I can't imagine why you would think of going to the same city as your exfriend.

It's already causing you stress at the thought of it.

You could go anywhere at all in the world or the U.K.

There must be millions of places that an artist/property dealer could live in.

There are many cities with art colleges and many rural communities also.

You could even go to an island in Scotland so why follow your ex friends footsteps?

Branch out and grow away from her.

You can do it!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (8 April 2018):

I didn't read all of your post. I - though - already understand how you feel.

You have written a lot about her.

You should write about yourself and your great achievements and gifts. The way you talk about this woman is that you have put her on a pedal stool and she's just another woman who put herself also on a pedal stool. She really is this "princess" and she gets to bathe in all that glory - but... She's gone now and she chose to vacate your life with her big jewelled dress bellowing behind her and her tiara sat proudly on her over inflated (partly because of you as well) head!

Be glad!

Don't set yourself on fire for another human. She is one in 7.??? Billion humans, she discarded you so easily, can't you see what you can do with the horrible memory of her screaming face and her silly words.

I couldn't read on because I don't want to hear anymore about this woman who seemed to be a friend.

The bestest friend out there is yourself. I'm slightly annoyed that I have set myself on fire to let you know this (again) but I believe in Karma.

So - you are an intelligent woman, don't be stupid.

I am an intelligent woman too and I will endeavour to not be stupid because I am intelligent. I am creative and I have a roof over my head, food to eat and clothes to wear. I have friends and I have Love and truth in my life.

Be creative and be well.

A friend!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (7 April 2018):

Thank you very much to everyone who has responded to my post. I'm very grateful for the advice given.

It's true I have a tendency to over-think - partly this is to do with just having finished an incredibly gruelling PhD thesis, but it is also due to the problem I'm trying to address ie. getting a life, rather than constantly worrying about how to survive; to get where I am at this stage in life, I've learned to anticipate any and every problem that I might have to deal with; this began as a protective measure to ensure my daughter's happiness but now, as London's become impossibly tough to live in, it's become something of a bad habit of mine and is partly why I want to move - so that I can be living, not just thinking of how to live.

I think (!) though, that there is something valuable in every one of your posts; yes, I need to find or develop a healthier art community for myself, I need to build the life that I want and not let this other person get in my way and I need to stop giving her the power to affect me so greatly. I think I gave her this power because of the timing of her rejection of me - I was desperately worried about losing my home, my health and my career chances and my daughter had just recently left home to study. I felt terrified at that time. Also, as a young single Mum I was subjected to a lot of the "hate speech" coming from the government in the UK - it made it incredibly hard for me to integrate socially, especially as I was very shy and very naive back then; I've never quite shaken this off and can be over-sensitive to social rejection, especially where this feels like rejection from a whole community, led by an individual's hatred. I think I can only overcome this in a new place, where I have more choices about how to live, but I still think I may need some counselling about this.

With that said, although I have come to be wary of being judged and exploited, I LIKE helping people and I LIKE being a kind person - I simply couldn't function if I had to change to be hard-hearted. What's going wrong is that I'm not in the right place or circles for this to feel appreciated for what it is; instead of people respecting that trait and even reciprocating, this aspect of my character has become used, over and again, to the point where it's burning me out. I think I need to re-direct this trait. I already researched some voluntary work options in the city I want to move to and, as I love nature and always have, I know I want to volunteer to do nature conservation there, hopefully in a little community where kindness is reciprocal.

On a practical level - WiseOwlE you are right to mention this - I had a thought after I read your posts about my financial situation. By accident almost, I have developed a very strong ability to develop property, whilst becoming a doctor and lecturer. I learned to combine both types of work and I love both types of work, for very different reasons.

Looking back, I never developed my flats with the intention of making money - each flat I've bought and sold has been only through necessity, to try to make it possible to survive in London, when I've been at risk of not being able to continue and have wanted desperately to continue my studies.

I am pretty sure I have enough funds and knowledge now to simply continue this process, but in a slightly different, more business like way ie. temporarily rent a flat to live in so that I am not engulfed by the stress of renovation works, but then find a reliable building team to "flip" a few properties for a couple of years, drawing a small salary from this each time, but also working my way up to bigger and better properties each time. I think this could give me enough money in the end to buy a building to use as a live/ work studio and maybe even set up my own art school - which I'd love to do. Meanwhile, because I only work part-time in the university in London and although these contracts are not secure, I can still afford to commute back to carry out these jobs for as long as necessary / as long as they renew the contracts. This will help me to keep a sense of identity as an artist and academic. None of this will be easy, all work comes with some stress, but I think if I sit down and do the figures and some more research, I could make this work so that I am actually living as well, not just worrying all the time.

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A female reader, Anonymous 123 Italy + , writes (6 April 2018):

Anonymous 123 agony auntAs a fellow PhD holder, albeit in a different subject, I totally understand how difficult must have been for you to complete your degree. I also get what you say about the fact that the art world is not as free willed and liberal thinking as it looks from the outside because that applies to the world of academics in general. You can be from the best University and be a fantastic lecturer but if you don't have the right contacts and don't move with the right set of people and don't think "left", you're basically out of the system. As my husband (also a PhD and an associate professor) says, the world of academics is governed by the academic Mafia. So yes, I understand your concerns.

Now coming to the South Korean friend. She's ruthless and has caused you a lot of pain when she was with you. It looks like your life is finally in order now, on a personal level, with her out of the way. You, however, come across as someone who's rather nervous and thinks a lot. Don't you think you've allowed her to get into your head far too much? Take her down from the pedestal that you've placed her on. She's just a normal person. What's the worst that she can do? Alienate you from others? That's your biggest concern right? Well let her do what she wants. YOU go ahead and build your life the way YOU want to. You cannot allow one person to change the course of your life.

You are self made.

You are hardworking.

You don't need to worry about what she says because you are far bigger than her just by virtue of the two qualities listed above! If she badmouths you, let her! Who's going to believe her? Her posse? You don't want anything to do with them anyway.

The thing is, you have allowed your fear and in a very weird way, your almost reverence for this person to be well known. So well known that mutual friends are taking advantage of your feelings and having a laugh and using it against you. And also letting the south Korean know how you feel, allowing her to feel powerful.

My advice to you is this. When you start a new life in the new city, behave like you don't know the South Korean. Don't talk about her, don't ask about her to anyone in the art community and if anyone mentions her then act cool. Don't try to gather information about her, don't try to read between the lines and don't be desperate to make friends. Don't start a new life in a diffident note. Be positive because your state of mind will reflect on your daughter.

All the best to you. Do keep us informed

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (6 April 2018):


Suppose you move to some other Place and there you find someone else like her, Then?

Will you move again, if you do then there won’t be a single place on this Earth liveable for you.

People like her are everywhere to be found so why to worry.

As a human being we cannot change anybody,we can only change ourselves.

So start by changing yourself,IMO there is no need to contact her and inform her.let her live her life and you live yours.

Nobody can hurt you,it is only you who can hurt yourself.

Look towards the positive side,there is a new area to be explored,new friends to be made,new life.

Can you laugh at one joke again and again?

Then why are you tensed about a past experience.

Just let it go.think in your mind that you forgive her for everything she did to you and move on.It is the stone inside your shoe that hurts not the stones outside.

And final piece of advise,

It’s your life so take responsibility for it,we are only responsible for our life.


Hope this helps

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (5 April 2018):

So many people now feel that London is a cutthroat city because it is largely a dog eat dog place where those who have the money look down on those who don't and this attitude was carefully orchestrated by the current government.


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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (4 April 2018):

I think you should be more focused and certain of your future financial-security and job-prospects in that new location. I mean no offense; but you seem very envious of your friend's wealth and privilege.

I read carefully to find what real harm she did to you. It didn't seem to effect you professionally, she didn't deny you any business opportunities; although she did show signs of weak-character and commit slight betrayal. However; not enough to determine which way destiny takes you. If she didn't really alter your life then; why are you so worried about it now? Somehow you achieved some measured-success in spite of her presence (or lack thereof); or whatever she did against you.

People born of privilege and void of the knowledge of being without, see the world through a different set of eyes; and from a different perspective. They are sometimes out of touch; but although they haven't suffered hardships you know, they are still human. You have to overcome your feelings of inferiority. Stop comparing yourself to her; and what you have, or have not!

Feel pride in your own accomplishments made without anyone's help!

You got through life and motherhood without training-wheels or support-beams! You got to be a mom! She never got that wonderful privilege and experience! You have a "mini-me" who grew-up in your image, and by your own guiding-hand! Though she claims to find a likeness in your daughter, it was not a slight to you. It was a convoluted-compliment to herself. Taking credit for something she had nothing to do with!

If you're so fired-sure this city has all you need, why are you letting her get in your way?

You seem like a survivor and a force to be reckoned with; but you give her all this power to determine your future. It just seems to me that it bothers you more being aware of her success and wealth; and that hinders your self-confidence. Giving her demigod-power and authority to destroy you. I searched for any reasons why she would do this, when you're really no threat to her? If she tried before; seems you got through it anyway!

Don't contact her to ask her not to cause any trouble! By no means should you ever do that! The implications and insult alone would raise her ire (real or perceived) against you!

You have to put the past in the past. You've chosen a field full of vipers, disappointments, and competitors. You have those with or without her involvement. Is that not true? At least she's a known-enemy! It's the phony-ones that you don't know, that can hurt you.

First, DO YOUR RESEARCH AND INVESTIGATE! Make for certain all these expectations you have about this location are legit and substantiated. Let no-one stand in the way of your progress and success. When God sends you blessings; He lets no-one deter them. Empowering people with control over you they don't have through fear (or envy); will stunt your growth. Make some connections before you go anywhere and never mention her name. Don't set traps for yourself.

You have to create your own network and set your own foundation. Don't be limited by fears of what other people "might do;" just because they're rich. She may have impressed you to believe she can make or break you; but only your own fears have put any real strength or validity behind that notion.

Yes, you've had a few run-ins with her; but in a competitive world, you have to learn to circumvent the obstructionists and dodge bullets. She's not the only contender you have to worry about; but she should have taught you more about how to deal with your enemies than to be held-back or hostage by people like her. The wealthy are your patrons and benefactors; so get over your insecurities with dealing with them.

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A male reader, Code Warrior United States + , writes (4 April 2018):

Code Warrior agony auntYou're right, your ex-friend will undermine you because that's what people like her do. So, as much as you would like to believe it would be the perfect place if she wasn't there, the fact that she is thriving there tells me that your view of that area may be merely wishful thinking. I suspect that even if she wasn't there, the culture that allows her to thrive would still be there and it's likely that you would struggle against that culture at some point.

So, what are your options? Well, it seems to me that if you want an art world not full of egomaniacs, then you need to bide your time and look for a place where there are artists that are driven by art rather than status. Either that, or you need to find a way to create such a space for yourself and others like you.

My sister-in-law is an artist and she began teaching basic art classes at a community college near where she lives. I think it started out as a volunteer thing where the college let her use space at night. I don't think she charged anything, and I think the classes were free, but it gave her access to the facilities so she could do her own art. I think she taught basic stuff on making clay fired things and whatnot. Anyway, she started doing that many years ago and I believe it gained some popularity and the college hired her to teach. Now she has a pretty good thing going. I think she even travels to put on workshops and whatnot. She doesn't make lot of money, but she's very happy and she's able to do her art.

I don't know if that's of any interest to you, but maybe you could start a studio and rent space and/or teach classes or something in an area where there are struggling artists that are getting ignored by the art community, or where there are novices who want to learn more about art. I don't know what motivates you, but you don't seem very happy within the art community that you know, so it seems like it might be good for your soul to create the kind of artistic environment that you would enjoy. It's risky though, and you probably won't make the kind of money you're used to, so it may not be for you, but it's something to consider.

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