It's reunion time again. I've spent much of the past decade or so trying to avoid people. Now that I'm getting back into the world, I'm realizing why I left in the first place. Let me try to explain.
I was an extremely shy child. I would even go so far as to say that I should have had some sort of professional help or some sort of intervention when I was younger. I was uncomfortable talking to my parents. I was never truly comfortable around the neighborhood kids. It didn't help that the neighborhood kids thought that I was stuck up because I was so...quiet and removed for lack of better words. I was afraid they wouldn't like me so I tried to stay by myself. But because I stayed by myself instead of playing with them, it made them not like me. Oh...we developed friendships eventually. But I always sensed that I would never be part of their inner circle. There are several times that I remember being left out or picked last. Just kids being kids. But it certainly didn't help my already fragile self esteem.
Growing up, I continued to spend a good deal of time by myself. In the summers, I stayed up late (I usually didn't get to sleep until the sun came up). I would usually be going to bed when the neighborhood kids were getting up. I'd be waking up when they were going inside for dinner. I'm not saying it was the best plan, but it's just what it was. I watched movies. I listened to music. I created my own little world where I wouldn't have to deal with the hurt and insecurity that I felt. If I didn't put myself out there, there was no way I could be hurt. Now, I was quite young so I'm sure that's not what I was thinking. It's only been recently that I've realized that that was basically what it boiled down to.
I had few friends. Not because I couldn't get friends, but because I chose to only spend time with a few people. I spent a great deal of time and effort even as a child trying really hard to keep those friends. I always felt that I wasn't anything special enough to keep a friend. I have always made it clear that I would be there for them if they needed me and I always was. I don't remember one instance in which any of them was there for me when I was having a hard time.
Clearly, in my mind, they considered me only a back up fair weather friend. Someone to have fun with when no one else was available.
Fast forward to when I began dating. I spent a great deal of time and effort trying hard to be what that person needed and wanted. I abandoned all pride and any shred of self worth that I had simply to make him happy. This didn't end with him. I did this through every relationship I had for many years. What guy remains interested in a girl that literally lives her life only to make him happy? It sounds nice in the beginning to them, but in reality it actually sucks. People need challenges and common interests and mutual respect among many other things to make any relationship work.
This wasn't exclusive to my dating relationships. I lacked friends and I needed friends. I would find ways to insinuate myself into situations in which certain people would be in just so that I would have the opportunity to get to know people. I didn't know HOW to go about making friends so I schemed and planned and managed to get some friends. Again, I never felt truly comfortable in the group. I tried so hard. I wanted them to need me as much as I needed them. I'm sure that all my efforts simply pushed people away. I didn't realize that then.
I was accused of being manipulative by several people...guys I dated, people I was trying to be friends with, others. I didn't understand that. I was only trying to be what they wanted me to be so that they wouldn't leave. I felt that I had put myself out there and did everything I could for people and I expected them to always be there for me. But, time and again I found myself feeling alone and unhappy. I felt like an outsider no matter who I spent time with. I have never had a real best friend...someone that will put up with your tear filled midnight calls when you are fighting with your boyfriend, someone that will come to your house and coach you through your anxieties when you are starting a new job, someone that can just as easily and happily go out drinking and partying with you one night to being your personal savior the next night, someone that will defend you to others when someone tells lies about you, someone that can make you feel comfortable just being you.
I've never had someone, especially as an adult, that I thought would love to grab a pizza and spend the night at my house watching movies and just being silly. I'm jealous of women that have friendships like that. As an adult it's down right impossible to develop friendships. I've joined the ladies group at my son's school and have gone to the socials and volunteered to work with them, but I still feel like an outsider.
Don't get me wrong. I don't feel like a victim. I don't view myself as a victim. I certainly don't ask for sympathy or any silly bullshit like that. The reason I chose to stop pursuing friendships several years ago is because I have felt betrayed all too often by people that claimed to be my friends. I have never felt truly comfortable with people. While I don't feel like a victim, I also don't view myself as a manipulator. Looking back, I can understand how people can believe that of me. However, all I've ever wanted was to have people that I could talk to, feel comfortable with whether we were going to dinner and a movie, going to a concert, hanging out in from of the tv, having a few drinks somewhere, or if any of us is having a difficult time.
I started to think that maybe I just held people up to some impossible to attain standard and was always let down. But, I don't think so. Friends are people that can make you feel loved without ever needing to say "I love you." Friends are people that allow you to be yourself and love you for it. Friends will offer advice and seek advice from you. Friends will not ignore you (which is what I get a lot of even now...and, even as an adult, it's hurtful). Friends will be your sounding board and expect you to be theirs.
In my husband I have found someone who accepts me as I am, but expects me to continually grow as I accept him and expect him to grow. In him I have found someone who challenges me every day as I challenge him. He loves me for me.
Are there any others out there that can accept me as I am? I doubt anyone will call me manipulative these days because I no longer work so hard to put myself in their path. Either you want to get to know me or you don't. Either you like me or you don't. As badly as I'd like to have close friends to spend time with and share stories with, I refuse to change who I am for others anymore. Take me as I am or not at all.
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