A little late going up this week, but if you’ve got those Sunday blues and can’t sleep a wink, here’s a little something to keep you occupied while everybody else is fast asleep…
When I was younger, I was a bit of a dick.
I was never outwardly mean to anyone or intentionally set out to hurt people; I think I was just a bit selfish. Which is weird really, considering how selfless my parents are. I somehow grew up to be someone who would cancel things last minute (although, thinking about it, this might’ve been down to a bad case of undiagnosed social anxiety); I would simply stop talking to people without warning when I decided I wanted the relationship to end and I would expect my friends to fall out with someone I had crossed paths with, just because.
This probably sounds like typical teenage girl behaviour, which it was; pretty much everyone behaved like a dick at that age, but I think there are plenty of us who don’t grow out of it until much later than I did and I have a very good friend to thank for that.
In my second year of university, I received a message from her on Facebook. She was at Nottingham; I was at Exeter. The message wasn’t from the girl I hated at school, nor was it from someone I’d recently fallen out with. It was actually from someone I’d spent my gap year with just a year previously; someone I was really close to and someone I had probably taken for granted for just a little too long.
I could see as soon as I clicked on it that the message was a long one which, at twenty years old, meant weeks of drama was certain to follow. I don’t remember the exact reason she sent the message. I actually can’t bring myself to trawl back through years-worth of Facebook to find out either, for fear of what I might uncover, but I’m going to assume I did something to prompt it. The essence of the message was something along the lines of: ‘you always expect people to make an effort with you, why don’t you try with everyone else once in a while?’.
At the time, I was appalled that she had sent me such a message. I couldn’t believe that someone would speak to me like that. I phoned my mum. I text my friends. I spoke to the girls I lived with about it. My boyfriend at the time said she was completely out of order. Everyone around me agreed she was a bitch. I uninvited her from my 21st birthday – the ultimate snub at the time – and we stopped speaking to each other. All the while, deep down, I (and no doubt everyone around me) knew she was sort of right.
As I was growing up, there was always a little voice inside me that willed me to stop cancelling things, to pick up the phone and call people more, to go above and beyond for friends, the way my mum always had. I was a good person with all the best intentions, but when it came down to it, I would seem to get the little things wrong.
The Facebook message didn’t end our friendship; she’s still one of my closest and best friends. It merely halted it for a fixed amount of time. The perfect amount of time, in fact, for me to heal and accept my wrongdoings and enough time for her to admit she was perhaps, a little harsh. Harsh or not, though, that single message sent to me in my early twenties has only served to strengthen the bond between us and has had a positive impact on my relationships ever since. Her honesty has not only meant that I am a better friend, but it has taught me the importance of being honest with those around me when they need a reality check of their own.
The reason I wanted to share this story was to prompt you to be a bit more honest with those around you. Next time a friend asks your opinion on something personal or when you think someone could do with a nudge in the right direction, don’t smile and nod or agree with their nonsense, tell them what you really think. Give them a straight, honest and open answer, even if it might not be something they want to hear. Yes, it might hurt them and they might not talk to you for a while, but if you think it will make them a better person in the long run, or prevent them from doing more damage to themselves than good, then just say it. It’s sort of your duty as a friend.
Just remember to be careful with your words. When used carelessly, they can cause a heck of a lot of damage.
The classic 10cc goes, “I’m not in love, so don’t forget it. It’s just a silly phase I’m going through.” Although released in 1975 it’s one of those songs that seeps into your life via osmosis or… adverts.
I heard it randomly the other day and I realised that as far back as I can remember I’ve always been in love. I know that sounds trite. Like something a Richard Curtis foppish, heterosexual and non-threatening male lead might say. But I have.
There was the stand offish girl in Nursery followed by the popular boy in Primary school. Both of which were innocent for obvious reasons. Then there was the cocky lad in high school and sixth form. The list goes on. All unobtainable as I peaked out through the crack in the closet doors.
I had secret and somewhat toxic relationships in between and then I fell for my friend of six years and after I came out to him I thought I could tell him. Cutting a long story short; it didn’t end well.
It was beginning to transpire that love didn’t love me.
As Valentine’s Day approaches I begin to think about what it means to be in love and whether, if unrequited love is just a figment of your imagination, it should remain that way. It occurred to me for the first time for as long as I can remember; I’m not in love; unrequited or otherwise. And do you know what? That’s okay.
In fact, after a bout of depression, I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time. Forcing myself to do the “steps” and embrace each part of my heartbreak and depression has felt like I’ve dragged myself through the last year like a huge weight. I was looking to go backwards; back to when I was myself; the affable and hopeless romantic. I said this to my therapist who decided to cut me down in the way that she does; “You can’t go back; you can only go forwards but we can reclaim parts of who we were”. They were simple words but they had a greater consequence.
So I picked up the corpse of who I was. I cried. I told friends the truth. I unburdened myself, although at times I felt like I’ve been watching my life back. All those clichés rang true and I’m now in a new place.
So what next? It’s a question that I ask myself more and more. The fact that I don’t know has its own appeal. I’m taking time out. Then I remember what people in films say (Maybe Richard Curtis films) they say you find love when you’re least looking for it. I think of this and I think other people will think I’m insane. I’m so far in my own navel that it’s no longer navel gazing but some kind of astronomy. I’m not in love with anyone but I’m open to it and that has a charm all of its own. I’m a hopeless romantic and I don’t think it’s a silly phase I’m going through.