To the concept of friendship,

I thought I would have more to say on this topic given what went down this weekend. But now I’m just sitting here, staring at my computer, dumbfounded by the fact that I really do have nothing to say. Ironically, I think that speaks to what I’d say if I did have something to say.

Let’s try this…

I once thought a friend was forever. And by “once,” I mean last week. Then two of my—who I would have called—close friends visited New York (the city in which I live) and didn’t tell me. I found out the way most people find out anything these days—on social media. Huh, alright then. I’ll spare you the details of my insecurities, but I spent the next day or so brooding over the possibility that maybe I just wasn’t all that likeable, an idea I’d never been comfortable with.

Here’s the thing… Ever since I moved to NYC, I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends. Not all of my friends, but a lot of them. ‘Course, it’s a two-way street. It’s not like I’m ghosting their texts. They just aren’t sending any. And to be honest, that’s fine with me. Having to keep up a virtual relationship stresses me out. Besides, I’m usually under this assumption that regardless of how often we keep in contact over the phone, our friendship will pick up right where it left off when we’re reunited. Apparently, not everyone vibes with that.

So I grabbed coffee with one of these friends on Sunday before she headed back home. I insisted. How could she be in New York and I not see her? To me, that’s absurd, but I digress. Before we parted, I asked her if I had done anything to upset her, that could perhaps explain why she hadn’t reached out to make plans. She shook her head, shrugged. That would have to suffice as my answer. Ok, so I hadn’t done anything wrong, and yet…

I’m not writing this to vent. I’m writing this because this shit happens all the time. To everyone. People suck. Friends suck. I suck. But, listen, and I know this sounds crazy, but we get to choose the people we want in our lives. We get to choose in what relationships we invest our energy. So my friends ditched me, and not just forgot-to-ask-me-if-I-wanted-anything-from-Starbucks-ditched me. No, these two friends sent a message, and given that, I can now do one of two things: 1) Do whatever it takes to win back their favor despite there being allegedly no reason for their shiftiness or 2) think Huh, alright then and take my energy elsewhere. Think about it – that’s two less people I have to feel guilty about not keeping in touch with. It’s great. Not to mention, I win back more energy to spread around the friends who put energy into me. Why waste another second trying to mend something that doesn’t want to be mended? Why not instead pour myself into relationships that fill me up? Relationships that can withstand time and distance? Those are the friends I want in my life. And I have friends like that. Every single one of them deserves my time and my energy. You all know who you are. ❤ So yeah, what went down—or didn’t—this weekend, it sucks. And sure, it had me real low all day on Sunday. But look what came out of it. Insight. Appreciation. And a mantra that really, really suits me. Huh, alright then. My mom agrees.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

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Dear the people who’ve passed in and out of my life,

I’d be lying if I said I knew that, one day, we’d grow apart. I didn’t know, but really, I never thought about it. I think I’m more aware of your existence now than I was when you were in my life. The empty space you’ve left behind doesn’t like to be ignored.

There are times I allow myself to think back on our moments together, while simultaneously reflecting on what could have been. I have mixed emotions, but the greatest is disappointment. I have to wonder if how quickly people have come in and out of my life is normal. Is it me? Is my personality incompatible with the majority of people?

At this point in my life, I have a few good friends–each of which I’ve known no more than a few years. I guess, growing up, I never realized maintaining lifelong friendships would be so hard. Except “hard” isn’t the right word. I didn’t lose any friends because I didn’t work hard enough. I lost friends thanks to time and distance. It just makes you wonder how important you actually are to people. It makes you wonder if friendship is more of a pipedream than the movies make it out to be. It also makes you wonder if it’s not a pipedream at all, but instead, maybe something’s wrong with YOU.

I don’t want to sound like I’m whining. I realize the path I’m taking with this topic is somewhat depressing… I suppose I’m not objectively observing. I can’t muse about lost friendships without eliciting an element of disheartening nostalgia.

In the end, I just miss you, and I blame myself. Whether or not that’s normal, I don’t want to anymore.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

Not everyone is going to like you. You will lose people. They will leave you. You will consider yourself expendable…contrary to the truth which is that you are a very small piece of a much grander puzzle. Without your contribution, the bigger picture is not complete. You won’t find much comfort in that, I know. Your insecurities have no mercy, and the world does not cater to them.

You’re disappointed. I get that. You see yourself in others. You judge yourself based on their opinions of you. Don’t. Remember the puzzle. Remember that it’s okay to feel the way you do right now—that life is meaningless. There’s beauty in meaningless. There’s character in humility.

Try not to second-guess yourself. Life is not black and white. I realize how hard it is for you to function within grey areas. They tease out your insecurities and egg them on. They leave room for questions which you don’t have answers to, so you assume the worst. That’s what you do. Learn to reverse this. Learn to accept the unknown. Revel in it. Let it bring out the best in you—the part of you that craves mystery and adventure.

Someone very smart once told you that romantics are doomed to live a life of disappointment. I suppose that could be true. But life is what you make of it, right? Romanticize the FUCK out of it. Who cares? You have one life to live. This is it. Don’t waste it on fear. Take chances, and make mistakes. Experience your disappointments and then take the next day by both hands instead of one. Love yourself. Love others as much as you can, but don’t let it be your priority. For you, there is too much hurt there. Forgive yourself.

Savor each and every moment as you would a really great bottle of wine—not too fast, or you’ll end up passed out on a couch, sleeping right on through all the fun. And don’t leave that full bottle sitting there, because goddamnit, you paid good money for it.

You’re okay, Steph. Be patient.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Dear the Uber Driver Who Drove Me Through McDonald’s On the Way Home,

You were my age once. I’m sure you understand what it meant to me to have a large, hot, greasy fry in my stomach after a night of both good and irresponsiblity-inducing spirits, but we don’t need to talk about the latter.

The point is… you came in the night like a knight at the helm of a shiny, grey, armored land-boat… equipped with four doors and air conditioning. It was hot, was it not? My God… why did I even venture from my house? If I wanted to come home as wet (from sweat) as I did, I might as well have dived head first into the James River… that is, if the James River was a sweat river. A river of sweat.

But that’s beside the point.

What I’m trying to say is I was nervous about asking you if you’d mind going through the McDonalds drive-thru. It was 2 a.m. and you had a family to get back to. (Ugh, I hate ending sentences with “to.”) I knew that. My friend, Chris, knew that. And yet, the words came tumbling out of my mouth as if of their own volition. “Do you think we could go through McDonald’s?”

I prepared myself for a firm but respectful negative. But it never came. You were more than happy to find a McDonald’s! Oh, happy day! I’m not sure whether it was the elation or the alcohol, but I believe I offered—no, DEMANDED—to buy you a cup of coffee, as you were up late and clean out of caffeine. Plus, let’s be honest, the life of an Uber driver at 2 a.m. on Sunday mornings must really be something. You just never know what characters will pile into your car next. I’d love to read a book compiled of outrageous stories told by Uber drivers. New York Times’ Bestseller list, here it comes!

Anyway, you may not ever read this, but I wanted to thank you. I also wanted to apologize for forgetting your name. But, let’s be real, the minute I got home and inhaled my fries, I was out. But I thoroughly hope you enjoyed your coffee. It’s the least I could do for someone who managed to save me from a hangover the following morning.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

Lesson #12: Rise above the insecurities

Rise above the insecurities. This lesson might be  my most important; though, I’m not quite sure how to apply it yet. It’s proven to be my MOST difficult.

But as they say… once you recognize the problem, you can work on the solution.

I am an insecure person… and as a 23 years old, I’ve never been more insecure. Ironically, it’s at this time in my life that I crave an ease of confidence in myself–an ease that can take me places to discover new things, about myself and the world around me.

But alas… So, with that being said, it’s never been more important for me to rise above the insecurities. How? That’s the part I don’t know.

It’s been a year and a half since I moved out of my childhood home, to live forty-five minutes away from my parents and brother–three people whose lives I covet more than my own. My dad is the funniest man alive. My mom, the sweetest and most selfless. And my brother? Well, there’s something about him, that I can’t quite put my finger on, that I just adore. I often ask myself, Why did I ever move away? I was so happy around my family. I felt loved. Have I simply humored the ideas of society by taking the next logical step–which, apparently, is moving out of your childhood and into your adulthood within the first few months of graduating from college, an hour away from home, and shit-out-of-love? I guess?

I say “shit-out-of-love” because I’m used to living around people who love me unconditionally. But here, in adulthood, I can’t find that. I don’t feel wholly loved–loved so fully that it surrounds me, like a protective shell. Here, on the island of adulthood (or maybe childhood was the island), on which I’ve been ship-wrecked, stranded, left to my own devices, I can’t help but feel alone, truly left to my own devices. Vulnerable. 

People tell me I should be loving my life right now. I should be celebrating my youth and independence. But I can tell you right now, I am not. I am not content. And for that reason, my insecurities are filling the gap my confidence left behind. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve grown in my confidence in other ways. I think I’m great at my job, and I’m pretty good, to a fault, at self-analysis, but when it comes to my self-worth, I’m shot. And all I want to do is be a kid again, when love was never hard to find. When imaginary friends were more loyal than real ones.

(I swear this post ends on a positive note, so keep reading…)

My first instinct is to blame the world and everything/one in it. Don’t we all wanna do that? It’s safer. If we can blame the world, we don’t have to blame ourselves. But as I’ve said before, I am always the problem. No matter what hand we’re dealt, we have control over how we move forward–how we rise above the insecurities.

Let me give you a list of some of my insecurities. Not because I’m a masochist, but because it’s important for us to recognize our shortcomings. That way, we know what areas need the most work.

  1. My looks. I have good days and bad days.
  2. My reputation.
  3. Feeling significant. This is a big one. Most of the time, I wonder if anyone would notice if I simply disappeared. Sad, right?
  4. My future.
  5. My own conscience. I don’t trust myself to make my own decisions.
  6. My words, my motives, and my feelings. I can never tell what’s right and what’s wrong.
  7. Right and wrong.
  8. My brain, because anxiety/depression are a bitch, and I don’t think most people understand it.

I could think of more, but there’s no need. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not all together sure of myself. And I could make a list of ALL the reasons, all the external stimuli, which have led to my insecurities, but it won’t matter. I can’t brood on the past.

So, now we get to the How? How will I overcome the insecurities? This isn’t some easy task that can be righted by morning. This is HERCULEAN. And anyone with horrible insecurities will understand. Insecurities are their own mind-sets, and they are extremely convincing. If I begin to feel like my friends don’t love me, I WILL BELIEVE IT. I’ll begin to ask myself why my friends haven’t been texting me and assume it’s because I’m boring, or unwanted, or expendable. And whether it’s true or not, my brain IMMEDIATELY comes to the most detrimental conclusion. I’ll begin to feel sorry for myself and say, Well, maybe I’m better off alone. And then, slowly but surely, I’ll begin to resent the world for not meeting my expectations. But you know what? I can’t expect anything from the world.

So, to combat these feelings and find peace within myself, I’ve been volunteering at an Animal Shelter. I’ve started teaching tap classes. I’ve tried to blog more about the lessons I’m learning on my journey of self-discovery. I’m trying–TRYING– to forgive myself and my feelings. I’ve been thinking about pursuing my photography. I’ve adopted a cat simply because I wanted one and named him Peter Pan (we’re the best of friends). I’ve been putting more time into making others happy (I would advise you to limit this, though, if you’re not first happy with yourself. This is something I’m beginning to realize…)

There’s a reason imaginary friends are more loyal than real ones.

Because imaginary friends are YOU, which proves that the only person who can love YOU the way you need to be loved is YOU. When it seems your friends don’t love you, it doesn’t mean it’s true. It doesn’t mean they hate you or don’t want you around; it means you need a different kind of love right now. It means YOU need to love YOURSELF. You need a Bing Bong.

1923_BingBong_InsideOut_501_copie

At this vulnerable time in my life, I want to be happy. And I can’t rely on others to help me with that. It’s up to me. 

Lesson learned: I have to rise above the insecurities…on my own.