People ask me all the time if I was a sad kid. That’s their way of asking if I’ve always been depressed or had these never-ending thoughts that eat me alive. Although my parents would probably say “no, it’s the god damned social media! She was never like this!”, I would tell you otherwise.
I live a privileged life. And I say that to state a fact, not to please some political crowd or way of thinking. I’ve never had to think twice about what I was going to eat for dinner, never had to pick up a job to support my family, and my parents never hid drugs in underwear drawers. However, to assume that all sorts of distress and trauma evaporate when a family income reaches a certain value is to be blatantly ignorant to a good majority of people and their stories. I don’t think many people believe that, but I live in constant fear that everything I’ve been through will be dismissed as a white girl’s daddy issues.
To answer their question, yes I was always a sad kid. It was very internal, though, the way sadness typically is. I used to get so annoyed and overwhelmed by one of my friends that I’d tell her to play hide and seek and then proceed to hide as well behind my bookshelf, making her sit in her space for thirty minutes until she started crying. I never went out to look for her in the first place. Her crying made me feel bad, but even more so? It annoyed me.
Our neighborhood pool parties put my antisocial tendencies in the spotlight. I used to hide from the other kids and scoop ice for my father as he poured drinks for everyone. As the veiny plastic etched ravines into my my thighs, I’d watch the sun kissed skin of my peers flail in the water. Sometimes I’d go out if the kids I liked asked me to, but being around some of the girls made me want to dig a blunt butter knife into my eyeballs. Still does.
Right now, this probably sounds like the dreary lead up to me telling you that I am now a serial killer, but I never wanted to hurt anybody. Rather, I found my place in friend groups and families alike by being the peacemaker, the Golden Child, or the buffer. It’s my way of satisfying my human desire to connect with others while simultaneously remaining completely detached.
That line really made me sound like serial killer. Let me explain.
I’ve done this my whole life. Cycling in and out of most people’s lives with only a distant ghost of a past connection. In all these years of giving, I had managed to dissolve into perceptions of people rather than create myself. I had to be the anti-sister, the listener of everyone while telling no one, the patient therapist. I lived my life the way I had always known: be the buffer for them, and they never ask you questions.
So when I walked into the crowded living room, feeling the murmur of heavy bass stifled by hardwood, hearing my name made me want to walk right out.
When you feel like your entire identity is at the hands of others, you thrive in environments where no one knows you and for once, you have the pen in your hand. New schools, new people, new parties: they are all euphoric experiences where you can simultaneously blend in and be yourself.
I was exactly in the last place any one of my old friends expected me to be in. Me? Social? At an event? Must be a holograph.
My old friends were collapsed on the couch, staring at me in disbelief. Backwards baseball caps. Same tee shirts. Same vacant smiles. Same everything. It was like the one time I tried to be normal and fun, I was sharply reminded that it wasn’t my place. I was reminded of who I was supposed to be to them, rather than who I actually was at my core or how high I had built my life since they helped raze it only a year prior. Immediately, I felt this rotting flower in my stomach pick up her leaves at the sight of old friends. I wanted to ask about his mom and her dog and how that one super dramatic scandal turned out. I wanted to know how his kid sister was and if his dad found any good music lately. I wanted to ask everything, but not a single word came to my mouth. They got tangled up in the roots of the flower of my past and were pulled straight back down.
It’s like they were ghosts. Premonitions of what once was, constantly haunting me like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. They didn’t seem fully real, like they were still stuck in a year ago and I had been blasted into the future. There was a blanket of soft shimmer that covered their tanned skin as nostalgia for the close past tends to tint things, but I was no longer entranced. Their personalities were no longer desirable or compatible with mine. I could see past the shimmer now.
The thing was, I wasn’t angry. I didn’t want to stand on the couch and flaunt my new friends and new accomplishments. I didn’t feel spiteful or pissy. I just felt out of place, something I thought I had found for a bit. I was rudely reminded of everything I used to be.
It was hard to even look at them. Let alone partake in the stressed affection of side hugs and the conversations that bored me to death. They didn’t seem as charming or funny anymore. I just kept remembering that at the end of the day, I could have been dead in a ditch and none of them would have known. The second I needed help, the second my therapy services weren’t available, they didn’t care. That’s why I can barely speak when they’re around. It’s like watching a bunch of pestering pixies fly around with my life in their tiny hands, taunting me.
The thing about being used is that it is often by the people you love the most. You can feel it from the start, but you let it happen because you’d jump in front of a train for some people. Sometimes I do it to be self-destructive, but most of the time, I let people treat me like a therapist because it is the only way I know how to love. Give, give, give until you are left with a skeleton and three functioning brain cells. Maybe then, you’ll have less time to worry about yourself.
And there, my friends, is the root of the problem. Saying that ‘life is cruel’ and ‘people suck’ is me trying to be a victim when I know fully well that I inflict most of the pain onto myself. I choose the wrong people because I want to fix them. Because I want to sloppily mold them into people who will one day turn to me, see all that I have done for them, and love me because of it.
The problem with that mentality is that life is not a romantic comedy. Men do not stand in yards with boom boxes on their shoulders nor do most girls get deflowered in football fields after prom. If you want better relationships with people, then try. If you want love, then give it to yourself first. Know yourself. Spend lots of time alone until you are ready to put yourself out there and try again. And when you do, at least charge $110 a session for people who treat you like a therapist. I used to think that “constantly going through something” was a never-ending cycle of sadness. Now, I realize that “constantly going through something” is also known as “living”, and for once in my life, I really, really want to do that.