That picture was taken when I was at one of the lowest points in my life. It might seem odd to take a picture of myself when I was cruising rock-bottom, but part of me wanted to remember. Part of me needed to remember.
During that time, I was living in a room in a house with other people I had only just met. I had no money. For a long time I didn’t even have a bed. My parents had disowned me. I had almost no one to turn to for human kindness and would ache with gratitude when someone would smile at me in the grocery store or on the street. I was working for a temp agency that kept promising me decent long-term assignments, yet I was often scrambling to ensure I had another job lined up as soon as the current one was over. I was making super fun choices like: do I pay for my car or my insurance this month? Can I afford food?
There were a lot of hard questions I was asking myself. There were a lot of hard times.
I felt lonelier than I’d ever felt in my life.
My greatest fear is that most everyone in my life will disappear. Most of my family has. So many friends, friends I loved sincerely, have. It’s one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with.
I understand some people will simply grow apart. Friendships change. Some grow, some shrink, some just make a turn that doesn’t work for one, the other, or both parties.
In my case, there have been people I cared about deeply who dropped off the face of the earth of our friendship. People who I tried to stay in contact with, but was left in silence and wondering for months that turned into years.
It’s hard not to assume (after it’s happened so many times) that it’s me.
I feel certain it has to be me.
Now I know all the rote, encouraging statements that if someone didn’t care enough to keep up a friendship, even an infrequent one, I’m better off without them. I know that it’s better to know where people stand. But the silent, indelible disappearance is difficult for me.
I often feel so scared about frightening people away from wanting to be my friend, that I apologize profusely for ever talking about myself because I feel like no one could possibly care or want to listen. That particular issue isn’t on the person who is kind enough to listen, that is entirely on me and my fear.
I’ve asked myself: do I expect too much from friendships? Any kind of relationships? I know I’m hard on myself, but am I hard on others? The answers to those questions are: I don’t think so. I tend to think of certain friends as butterflies; they are beautiful and wonderful and come and go as they please and I wouldn’t dream of trying to hold them too tightly. That’s not what you do with butterflies. You hold out your hand and ask if they want to land there. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I just hold out my hand and say, if you want a place to land that will be kind to you, I can be such a place.
I am sincere. I am emotional. I care deeply about people generally, and certain people, specifically. I strive to be the kind of friend I’d want to have, even though I think little of myself. I would want a friend who would reach out to me, and I very much try to do that for others.
So, after all that, I wonder: is it just me? Am I uniquely unlikable? Am I so awful that others would decide out of the blue that nope, they’d rather not engage on any level anymore? I understand that would be a difficult conversation to have with someone (“Hey, guess what? I don’t like you or want to be your friend anymore. Thanks!”), but could there possibly be another alternative?
I have lost many people over the years; some for reasons that are clear, some for reasons that are less so. I miss some of those people. If it were not for one of those people, I’d have literally been homeless. The same person also introduced me to my partner, something that garners my deepest of gratitude and has for well over a decade.
I miss her. I miss a lot of people. I’ve been far from perfect in my life, but I’ve not always deserved how I’ve been treated. I think, for a long while, decades, really, I believed I did deserve to be treated those ways.
I hope to one day not be afraid that everyone will disappear from my life. I hope to not be afraid that friendships are transient. I am so fortunate that my partner truly is my best friend. He’s just the best possible person I could ever hope to share my life with.
Relationships of any kind, they’re a heck of a thing. I hope to be brave and to continue fostering friendships even though I am afraid. I’m awfully fond of people; it’s worth the risk.