When I was in elementary school, there was a girl in my class everyone adored--let's call her Cassie. In retrospect, I'm not really sure why we coveted her friendship so much; to be completely honest, she was boring. But we all wanted to be her best friend, and it caused enough bitterness in the class that in fifth grade, all the girls were forced to stay inside at recess to "talk it out." (Side note to all elementary school teachers: this does not work. It was just 35 minutes of brilliant passive aggressive mind-fuckery). But, by some stroke of luck, Cassie was my best friend. For whatever reason, she chose me.
And then one day I found out--Cassie was a bitch.
I was walking into the hall when I heard a bunch of girls in my class whispering outside the door. Apparently Cassie had told them I "made her" be my friend. She didn't actually like me, but I forced her to be friends. It was never clear to me how I was supposed to have done this--I assume through some ten-year-old girl version of Chinese water torture and blackmail--but I was shocked. And hurt. And indignant. I had never forced someone to be my friend. That didn't even sound possible. After that, Cassie and I didn't speak anymore and I was relieved to leave my private elementary school for a public school in seventh grade to get away from all of it. I couldn't fathom that a friend could be so duplicitous.
Cassie wasn't the last person who pretended to be my friend and turned out to be anything but--sophomore year in high school was particularly rage-inducing thanks to a group of girls. But for some reason, Cassie was the worst. I was five when Cassie and I became friends; I trusted her with the blind innocence of a child who is completely confident she is interesting and worthy. We were friends for five years before I found out what she really thought--or at least what she said. It was a betrayal that ten-year-old me had hardly been able imagine until it happened.
She's the reason I have trust issues.
To this day, I am guarded when it comes to people. I operate on the assumption that most people aren't going to be my friends and so I should keep them at a distance. I freely admit I am not an easy person to like--I am reserved but opinionated, quiet at first, but sarcastic and blunt. I cannot let something go--seriously, it's physically impossible--and while I can disappear for long periods of time, when I decide I want attention, I want it immediately. And while these are traits I tried to suppress in high school so people would like me, they're things I've accepted now and embrace. I don't care that I say what I think, or that I force people to deal with issues rather than ignore them. I'm 33--I'm too old to worry about making other people comfortable.
But I also realize that, apparently, the hurts of our childhood often follow us in ways that are unexpected as we get older. Lately, I've recognized my lessons in early friendships taught me to believe that your friends are never really your friends. Your friends can turn on you at any minute. Your friends might just be tolerating you--or pretending to--because they need something, or want something, or are just waiting for something better to come along. I realized that, really, I'm just standing in the hall, waiting to hear what everyone really thinks. There's a voice I whispering in my subconscious: they don't really like you, you know. And while I freely acknowledge this inner voice is an asshole, it's a persistent asshole.
It sounds a whole hell of a lot like Cassie.
I should clarify that I am not, despite what some have said recently, an insecure walking emotional disaster. Once I get to know someone--once we've been friends for a while--this all fades a bit. But there are some people who communicate or relate to people in ways that trigger all the doubts. For the past six or seven months I've been struggling.
While most people have been understanding, I've had people I trust and care about tell me I do, in fact, annoy them. I'm too much, too messy, trying too hard. And instead of being able to isolate those comments to the people who said them, I've applied them to almost everyone in my life. Because honestly, it is an annoying personality trait. Lately I find myself more than ever pulling away from people I care about, certain I'm annoying them. I find myself reaching out, but cursing myself because I'm sure there's no way people want to hear from me.I apologize if I feel like I've talked to someone too much, asked too many questions, talked too long. And I apologize incessantly (which, by the way, I've also been told is annoying). My experiences with a few people have started to define my relationships with almost everyone.
Because sure, they're my friends. But that doesn't mean they really like me, right?
So today I made a resolution to let go of the people who make me question myself. To let go of people who make me feel annoying, or like I'm too much to handle. To let go of anyone who thinks I'ma burden. Because here's the thing--I'm a goddamn treat, if I do say so myself. I find my sarcasm and mockery delightful. I give good advice and I'd do pretty much anything for someone I care about. If the fact I might send a text at an inconvenient time (or... you know... four of them) cancels all that out? Well, it's their loss, not mine. I'm walking away from the people who make me question myself, my friendships, everything I do. This is a hard decision for me, but it was a hard weekend and I woke up today knowing that I just can't do another one. I've made this resolution before and failed to walk away; it turns out I'm spectacularly bad at ghosting on people, no matter how poorly they treat me. But this time I know it has to be real. I've felt myself slipping into old patterns I thought I'd broken. And I just don't have the time for it. So here goes nothing.
Because Cassie wasn't worth it. And neither are they.