When I left for college at 18 years old, I didn’t know a single soul on a campus of 20,000 students two states away from home. It was one of the most momentous and vulnerable times in my life. I had the potential to discover myself, build new bridges, and grow in unanticipated and unprecedented ways. But I also faced a very real possibility of descending into isolation and depression.

I’ll never forget my second night on campus. I decided to be brave and head out to a social event at the library for new students. It turned out to be a major flop (much like night one had been). When I finally stalked out of the library (having interacted more with books instead ofI’ll never forget my second night on campus people), it was to find myself not only demoralized, but completely lost as to how to get back to my dorm room. I mustered the courage to ask the first friendly looking person for directions back to the quad. He miraculously offered to walk me. I still get emotional today recalling how G‑d sent that special soul, Steve, to me in my time of need. The cascading events of my life could have been vastly different if it hadn’t been for him salvaging that dark night of self-doubt.

Through Steve and various opportunities that college affords, I found acceptance, a place of belonging, and more and more friends, until my circles widened with brilliant, diverse, loyal and beautiful people. But when I became observant in the course of my junior and senior years, I removed myself from Steve and many others I loved who had supported and anchored me along the way. A few friends stayed by my side until I got my undeserving head on straight. Others I was able to reconcile with by the skin of my teeth. But I let too many people who had once helped me become strangers.

Some of us become religious quickly, like a strong tide bringing in a massive wave that breaks on your life and wipes everything clean. In some ways your world expands; in others it narrows. In some ways things suddenly become so clear; in other ways they complicate life. You might even feel euphoric, like you finally had a handle on this big wide world, and how to uplift and refine it. There is an urgency to be careful, so careful, to do everything right—to fit your square self into a round peg quickly and not miss out on any bits of truth that you were already deprived of your entire life.

But no matter how far you had to travel to observance, elements from your previous life hold many splinters of holiness, truth and—hopefully—genuine human friendships. As powerful as the urge is to reinvent yourself around this newfound ideology and pursue a new path, abandoning friendships can leave a permanent scar. You might not notice at first—flying high on your psychedelic inner journey—but when you come back down to earth, you’ll look around and realize the hurt you inadvertently caused. Forsaking a healthy friendship does not make a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G‑d’s name). In my opinion, the total opposite is true.

Some people in our lives create truly negative influences, and removing them (both the influence and the person) is necessary in any phase of life. A toxic, abusive or immoral relationship should come to an end, and Torah Judaism might be the catalyst to give you the strength to do that. That’s not whom I mean here. Many of us are blessed with friends who love and support us, who are inextricably bound to the narrative of our lives but who by no means lead a Torah lifestyle. They may know virtually nothing about it, or have zero interest in it, apart from being invested in the friendship. Those are not the negative influences that need to be cut out. Those are not negative influences at all.

Why did I fail in this? Part of me thought thatI let too many people who had once helped me become strangers maybe I shouldn’t be influenced by some of the things my friends did that weren’t so kosher—figuratively and literally. Part of me assumed they’d think I had completely lost it, and I feared their judgment of the nonsensical restrictions and hokey rituals. Least on my mind was how selfish I was being, how I must have hurt my friends by abandoning them, by denying them even the chance to get to know the new version of me.

With some perspective that took years in the making, it became clear that I could have explained to my friends if something made me uncomfortable or to have not engaged in any problematic type of situation. Good old-fashioned communication and assertiveness could have saved friendships. They were so much larger than any one or more trifling, incompatible behaviors between us. We could have worked around the nonkosher venues, the Saturdays, the disparate views.

My friends respected me, and I wish now that I would have leveled with them and trusted them, facing the possibility of rejection rather than trying to preempt it altogether. Maybe then I could have made a kiddush Hashem or two along the way. At the very least, I have learned from these mistakes, and know how I will treat others going forward.