Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash. [Image Description: A pile of long-stemmed red roses against a chalky black background.]
Do you ever feel like you’ve been alone for so long that you don’t know how to spend time with someone else? Not even romantically. I’m sitting here, listening to Taylor Swift — yes, I know exactly how pathetic this sounds, thank you — after watching her documentary. (Stick with me here.) In the documentary, she talked about how she’d achieved her dreams and, while she was over the moon about it, she was struck with the realization that she had no one to call. Yes, she worked her ass off all of these years and achieved her grand goal, but she did it alone. There was no one to high five, as she put it, because her success was her own.
That stuck with me. When I kick ass and become a bestselling author, who would I call? I mean, besides my family. Who would I go out on the town and celebrate with? So, naturally, I thought of my friends. And while I have wonderful friends I wouldn’t trade for the world, and would 100% call them in this theoretical situation, who do I talk about my writing with?
My family knows about my blog. They know I want to be an author. But I never actually talk about the stories I’m writing. To anyone, friend or family. I’ve operated under a fear of “jinxing it”. If I talk about it, it’ll become a job, and these characters are too precious to me to let telling their stories become something that I dread.
The fear is not unfounded. I’ve made this mistake with projects in the past. I told people in order to become accountable and see the thing through, only to feel weighed down by expectations and pressure and possible disappointment. A lot of it was me projecting; convincing myself that if I don’t get this done everyone will see me for what I thought I was: lazy, fraudulent, never finishing what I start. Which wasn’t fair to myself, and I know that now, but I still hate the thought of having to do something. Because once I know I have to do something, I lose any and all interest in doing the thing.
Plus, why get anyone’s hopes up about any of the stories I’m writing if I may not stick with them? After all, I have a habit of not finishing the things I start. Evidence: the dozens of unfinished first drafts in my arsenal of notebooks and thumb drives. Which, to be fair, is partly because I’m still growing as a writer.
So, I didn’t jinx it. I didn’t talk about my stories. And I’m not sure it’s for the best.
Fear. Anxiety. Some days it feels like they rule my life. Because, yes, I have friends, but who am I really close with? Who do I call on a Friday night when I’m bored and need to get out of the house? Nobody, that’s who. Yes, a lot of the time I don’t feel up to it, but sometimes I do. And so now, fresh from the empowerment of Taylor Swift’s album Reformation, I’m running hypothetical situations in my head. Who would I call on a Friday night? Who is my best friend (within driving distance)? And that’s when it hit me.
I don’t have one.
I mean, I did, a long time ago, but shit happens and life moves on. In the time between then and now, I was so consumed by the daily drama of living with multiple chronic illnesses that I didn’t have time to think about strengthening my other friendships. Life moves on, yeah, but apparently without me.
Then I start thinking about how I can fix this. Forget a best friend and focus on being a better one to the friends I already have. And I’m hit with another realization.
I don’t know how.
Is it possible that, in the five or so years since, I’ve forgotten how to be a friend? With long distance friendships, your circle of people are a few taps away. And it’s hard, the distance, but your bond doesn’t suffer for it. Sitting here now, typing this, it feels like all of my friends are long distance, even though some are only a couple of towns away. How did this happen? When did normal, face-to-face conversation become a foreign concept to me? When did I stop showing up? When did I stop inviting people to hang out just to spend time with a human I don’t share a bathroom with?
Most importantly, when did I stop letting people in?
At some point in January, I promised myself I’d stop apologizing for taking up space. For having an opinion. For existing, in general. John Mulaney once said, “Hey, you could pour soup in my lap and I’ll probably apologize to you,” and I don’t think I can explain it any better than that.
My point is, while I am undoubtedly afraid of getting hurt again, I believe part of the reason I haven’t made an effort to spend time with friends in person is the same as the reason I apologize for taking up space. But I’m not a burden. And the worst anyone can say is no. And I’ve always known both of those things, but I’m still working on being okay with them. And for now that will have to do.