Edit March 15, 2016: I’ve made my peace with most of this. I’m leaving this up so I don’t have to write another post to replace it. If you’re a friend I introduced or plan to introduce on this blog, feel free to skip over this post. In fact, please do.
So today’s scheduled post was initially a Methods & Mediums about the hit musical Hamilton, but I’ve got a few things I need to get off my chest before that. If you’d rather wait for the M&M, check back on Wednesday, but this post is going to get a little personal. More so than the others. (But if you’re curious, go ahead – I’m posting it in public for a reason, and the whole post is very calmly written.)
Let me mention, in passing, some facts about my high school years. You might have gathered from the post about my friendship philosophy, but I was a very solitary individual. If anything, I prided myself on my independence and my ability to self-regulate. It’s only this past year that I realized that I may not have been coping as well as I thought. aha, are you checking for white text now
I’ll say this: high school was stressful. High school is stressful for everyone, but I had a few outside circumstances that I’ve not come to terms with enough to put out into a public medium quite yet – sorry, strangers on the internet, you’ll have to stick around and butter me up if you ever want that story. I’ll take my coaxing in empty flattery and possible monetary incentive. (Not really, if a lot of people ask, I’d probably write it up in a funny way for you all.) it’s not everywhere
In any case, my methods of dealing with stress were unconventional. Most people, if they’re having problems, vent to their friends and family, right? Well, for most of my high school years, I didn’t have anyone that I considered to be a friend, and certainly none I wanted to make a fool of myself in front of. Furthermore, I was afraid that they would sympathize with me, when that was the furthest thing from what I wanted. What I wanted was someone to tell me off when I was being unreasonably emotional and set me on the right track. I couldn’t go to my family for this kind of support either because my family was often what I hoped to vent about.
You may be wondering now, dear reader, what is it that I did?
I made a second gmail account and wrote emails to myself. Aha, put that way it sounds kind of sad, but it was what I needed. I would vent and write an email to a fictional entity I invented named Eamon (actually named after a Golden Compass daemon test I had taken around then), and as time went on I discovered apps that let me schedule emails. So, when I was upset, I’d write a furious email that only I would ever see, but with the satisfaction of imagining that ‘someone else’ would see it, and then I would schedule it to send the next day. At some point in the next day, I’d receive an alert that Eamon had received an email, and by then I would be calmer about the incident and in a state to analyze the problem rationally.
It helped. I found it easier to see my own mistakes and overreactions when I was pretending to be someone else. And with Eamon, I could get the harsh words I needed to snap myself out of it without the hurt that would accompany it from someone else. The most frequent response was, “If you have time to cry about it, why don’t you try doing something to fix it?” and I personally find that still useful today.
Perhaps I’ll write a post about Eamon later – he’s basically a character of mine now, and he’s no longer the overly rational, tough-love persona I had used before, but that’s for another day. This post is about my bad habit, which has resurfaced over the past few days.
It caught me by surprise, mainly because I had forgotten I had the habit to begin with. However, I was reminded with a vengeance, and I have the frustrated pseudo-poetry and the white text hidden in story drafts to prove it. (Do check around for that sometimes, I do like to do that quite often). Honestly, I don’t know why I’m writing this post when my friends sometimes check in on this blog, and this was something I’ve been trying to hide – actually, I’m terrified that they’ll read it. I hope they’re all too busy to check in on my paltry little blog. However, seeing as I’m still uploading it, I suppose a small part of me wants to confess to someone out there who might read it:
I don’t believe I am a friend forever. Oh boy, here we go.
Sometimes I wish I could trace the origin of this deep-rooted belief, but it is the truth. In my mind, all of the few friendships I have come with the caveat of “until they find someone better”. I have a tendency to think of myself as a placeholder, I suppose.
“Yes, we’ll be friends forever and ever – that is, until you find someone better,” is something that’s built into my framework. The problem is that even with this in mind, I end up getting hopelessly attached to those select few who have won my care and affection. I’m completely weak to them. So, really, there’s just one solution: make it damn hard to find someone better than me. At the same time, I always believe that there will be someone better.
Part of that stems from the fact that I am aroace. I am not apologetic about it, and I don’t believe that I am ‘broken’ or ‘missing out’ in any way. However, whether it’s a result of my sexuality or an extension of my personality, I am also the least physical of people. I don’t remember the last time I had skin to skin contact with another human being. Probably not since January during winter break with my family. Unfortunately, in my experience, that’s apparently the less common approach.
So, I think in some corner of my mind, I have the sense that I’ve already lost to an entire population of people in terms of how quality a friend I may be. I’m unable to easily offer my friends physical comfort. I’m unable to comfortably accept hugs. I’m barely able to allow them onto the bed I sleep on most of the time due to some inexplicable distress. And so my mind supplies that I am already no one’s first choice in friend. Even if there are some people who might appreciate my lack of physicality, in my experience, everyone has a moment when they want some kind of contact, be it a hug or even a comforting hand, and I struggle to offer even that. I suppose I feel like I’m inferior, in that sense.
And then there’s the fact that I am well aware that the amount of emotional intimacy I want out of my friendships is the amount some people associate with a romantic relationship – my father’s told me as much, before. So I suppose there’s that as well. If not a placeholder for a better friend, I think I often consider myself a placeholder for a romance. Being aroace, there’s also no way for me to offer that, not in the slightest.
In the unreasonable, wholly emotional part of my mind, there seems to be the belief that the one thing I could never compete with is a romantic partner, who would be able to provide the emotional intimacy as well as the physical comfort – which, as I’ve articulated, already put me at a disadvantage as a friend. Once there’s a significant other in the picture, my friends will find fulfillment elsewhere, and they won’t need a placeholder anymore – I think that’s how my thinking goes. I’m not really sure at all. It’s very hard to break this all down when all I really feel is an amalgam of mixed feelings. (loneliness and a distinct self-loathing for being selfish.)
Oh, look at me, rambling about circumstances and not articulating what the subject of this post even is! If you’ve forgotten, this post is about my bad habit, which has returned to see the light of day. I had thought that I had cured it, a long time ago, but it turned out that I was wrong – I had just avoided the circumstances that trigger it. The last time this had happened was, er… five years ago? So I have a pretty good track record, I guess. In any case.
I have a bad habit which entails that, when I feel that someone may have found a replacement for me, I shuffle things around to make it easier for them to disentangle me from their lives. I impose myself on them less frequently. I stop telling them about my stories. I stop forcing them to hear me complain about my life. That way, when the time comes and they realize that they want to spend less time with me and more time with other people, they don’t have to go through an awkward avoiding-me or ‘how-do-I-break-this-to-them’ phase and worry about it.
If they don’t want to hang out with me anymore, they can just choose not to contact me, and since I won’t be contacting them first, they don’t have to feel bad about wanting to hang out with the new friends instead of talking to me. I suppose that’s actually a really presumptuous thought on its own, that they would feel bad about it, too – they might not care to that extent, it might not cross their mind, or they might never even consider that it would bother me. It doesn’t bother me, really. I’m happy as long as my loved ones are enjoying themselves in a safe and healthy manner.
But in any case, with this set up, they can slip away if they want, and if they choose to contact me again, I’ll still be here. Thinking now, looking at it backwards, I guess it also means that I force myself to stop depending on them, so it won’t be as hard when we part ways.
And this isn’t something I can just bring up. Really, that makes me a hypocrite, since my primary emphasis in any kind of relationship is the importance of communication. However, I fear that confessing this insecurity of mine will lessen my friends’ elation. Making new friends is a wonderful thing, and I am always happy to listen to anything my friends are enthusiastic about. I can’t confess my insecurity because I’m afraid that it would make them feel bad about gushing about their new friends. And that would be the worst thing of all.
I fear that if my friends knew I was feeling this way, they would feel bad for making me feel this way, when it isn’t their fault at all. I don’t want them to think they’re making me feel like I’m being replaced, when that’s not it at all. I know in my heart that no one is consciously making the decision to replace me. I know in my head that most people aren’t even replacing me at all. However, it is hard for me to actually know that I am irreplaceable. Even as I typed that, I had to stop myself from tagging on a “because I’m not”. I’m not quite sure what that says about me.
Beyond that, I also am afraid to tell my friends that I feel this way because I don’t want to appear weak, and I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that our friendship is similarly fragile.
“Perhaps I am a conman – I told them it was steel because I never thought that they would test the chain. It may break if they persist, yet I cannot bring myself to tell them to stop, for I fear they will then see that the chain was never steel but silver I have polished to keep tarnish at bay. I fear that then they will snap the chain themself and leave.”
Above is a painfully-embarrassing-when-lucid excerpt from a stream-of-consciousness entry from a time my bad habit reared its head. I am unwilling to tell my friends about this bad habit of mine because I don’t want them to see that the friendship is not quite as unbreakable as I made it out to be, and more precious a metal than I let on. I’m afraid they’ll mistake this sentiment for jealousy and think worse of me. I’m terrified that this insecurity will make them think me needy or selfish, and that even the good memories of our friendship will get colored with negativity.
With my friends, as many close friends often do, I’ve made grand plans for the future – seeing the world, keeping correspondence, writing a comic together, etc. – and like anyone who talks about such things, we mean it. However, I am used to people thinking they mean a thing and then changing their minds. I am well aware that my system of friendship is far from the norm and that the level of connection I seek from a friendship is unusual.
So, in a way, I suppose I don’t ever believe that someone’s reciprocating it in the same way. Sure, I will never change my mind about our future plans. Be it ten or twenty years, our finances willing, I’d be over the moon to carry out the things we planned. I can say that with certainty that I won’t change my mind. At the same time, I never believe that my friends will not change theirs.
That’s how I envision all of my small handful of friendships – they’ll all stick around as long as I have something to offer, and I will try my damned hardest to make sure that I never run out. However, in the end, if we’re talking about key-to-the-hearts or whatever and running with that metaphor, I’m more of a lock pick. I can work my way and press the right notches to let myself into someone’s heart. But, riddle me this, who needs a lock pick when they have the right key?
I always hope that my friendships last my whole lifetime, but I am also of the firm belief that I will be the only one hoping for that forever – that even if my friends hope or think the same, for now, that they’ll eventually change their minds.
Sometimes, I want to sit my loved ones down and have a straightforward conversation with them. I want to tell them, “Hey, if you ever feel like my friendship with you is burdensome or anything, don’t stick around out of obligation. Remember, I’m more resilient than most people, so you don’t have to feel bad. I’m not someone who would be broken over another person,” which would be at least partially a lie, “and, if you cut ties with me, it’s not like I’ll hold a grudge.”
I can’t do that for obvious reasons. How would anyone feel being told that by a friend? But the impulse is there. It’s always there, and I always want to clarify, tell them, “If you ever get tired of me for a while, you can leave, and I’ll still be here if you ever need me, and I’ll welcome back if you return. I’ll treat you like you never left,” although if they changed the lock while they’re gone, I’d have to relearn how to be a fake key.
Fortunately, this isn’t a frequent problem. Unfortunately, because of that, I have little to no defense mechanisms against it. The first time this bad habit became apparent, I threw myself into solitary activities to build up self sufficiency. The second time this bad habit came up, well, I wrote this post. And I still feel myself withdrawing. I guess I’m not trying very hard to fight it for fear of ending up at the opposite extreme and making a nuisance of myself. It’s easier to fade into the background than be thought of as a nuisance.
Believe me, readers who for some reason read this far, I am far from an insecure person. If anything, I am arrogant and overconfident in my abilities. To my acquaintances, I appear completely in control of myself at all times, and I’ve been told as much. I have no question about my self-worth as a person or as an asset in a professional/workplace environment. I am capable, competent, and perhaps even a little talented.
However – and I don’t know where this thinking finds its root – I apparently can’t imagine myself being desired as a friend, at least to those who matter. It’s a strange issue that I’ll have to learn to navigate. Just a bad habit I need to break. I suppose we’ll see how that goes. This isn’t healthy for any of my friendships at all, and it’s on me to fix it.
Wow, this introspective post is long. Rest assured, strange readers, there won’t be too many of these. Well, at least writing this post has helped me to sort myself out, somewhat. And a day later, I learned that was a total lie. Bad habits are hard to break. I just need a week is all. Just a week.