There’s a comfortable fiction we create, inside of which when we miss someone, they miss us as well. The reality of things is way harsher and more difficult to swallow.
We’d like to think we’re irreplaceable, and perhaps sometimes, we can’t conceive of it being otherwise, seeing as we’re the only constant character in our own storyline. It’s more gentle on the ego to tell ourselves that we bear some form of importance in the lives of the people we love and care about.
If you’re a good judge of character, you surround yourself with people who value your presence and seek your company, people who actually like you and don’t treat you as a disposable thing within their existence. They care about your feelings, about your thoughts, and sometimes, they even go further than that, to actually know you. Sure, there’s always that one case, that one time, that instance when we get stabbed in the back, when our faith in people or our love for someone blinds us. Sometimes, we want to believe that the guy we have feelings for harbours the same kind of feelings for us, with the same degree of intensity. We’ve all fallen prey to bad calls. In general, however, we would all like to think that we hold a special place in someone’s life. This is, after all, what the media promotes as these great unbreakable bonds between friends that always know and concert each other about everything. But do those really exist? Sometimes, people grow apart, sometimes, people take separate paths, and even more commonly, and in spite of mutual appreciation, they just don’t have as much time after college to spend with each other. In short, separations don’t always end in dramatic fashion. I, for one thing, don’t have the time to hang with my friends every day, or call them, and ask their opinion about my latest professional/personal crisis. I don’t have a group of girlfriends.
I have several girl friends, but most don’t know each other, and it thus goes without saying that we have not gone clubbing or to sip cosmos and dissect our latest guy dramas. For one, I would have no problem to indulge in discussing about my dating life, if only it wasn’t so uninteresting. Time for a parenthesis. Between SATC and Girls, a woman is led to believe that dating in her twenties should either be about a series of uninterrupted stories, one more glamorous than the previous, or, conversely, about dating total assholes such as the likes of Adam, in the name of some experience meant to be “formative”. Frankly, given any choice in the matter, I will always prefer to be alone. Except, nowadays, being alone seems to be synonymous with some sort of deficiency, as if you can’t possibly be a balanced person and there must be something wrong with you if you are not dating around or at least doing someone in your spare time. My truth is: my spare time is for me to rest my mind and I like it that way. I may be old fashioned, but I only date when I actually like a specific someone and not merely as a way to occupy my time and distract me from my quarter-of-life angst. But I digress. There are two points, however, I was aiming to make, based on the previous: 1) The media greatly glamourizes the idea of friendship. We’re taught to be the stars of our own lives, that everything should always be extraordinary, that everything has a meaning in the greater scheme of things… But isn’t that setting ourselves for disappointment? 2) If you’re constantly surrounded by people, and always getting their input for every decision you have to make and every single thought you have, if you never spend some time alone, if you don’t explore and become comfortable with solitude, then how can you claim to be your own person, and it follows, how can you develop real friendships anchored in mutual appreciation? What exactly is each party contributing?
When you do meet a few people who truly get you and who you truly get, whether they’re friends or romantic relationships, when you meet people with whom you can effortlessly be yourself, when a silence shared can mean a thousand words, when you can both read between the lines of each other’s minds… it all becomes a different matter. When I was a child, I told my father that I had a lot of friends, and my dad kind of shattered my little bubble, and proceeded into telling me a person could only have a few real friends. I wasn’t so happy to hear it then, but today I concede to his wisdom: true friendships are hard to come by. I’ve learned that it’s such a rarity, it should be cherished and nurtured with all the care in the world. I will be the greatest defender in the name of one of these friendships. The reverse idea is also worth contemplating: do we sometimes ask for too much wherever our friends are concerned? How exactly should you measure the worth of a friendship? By the numbers of intimate conversations, the number of years shared together or is it far more abstract than that, such as having some form of innate complicity? And then there’s also something to be said about what we bring to the mix, what our presence changes. Sure, we’re not like fictional characters, sometimes our life is boring, sometimes things lack in meaning or lustre, but only because we’re bombarded by images of unrealistic lifestyles and expectations. Friendships in the real world may not look as shiny as the ones we see on tv, but in some ways, they’re so much better, because precisely, they’re real.
This is the part of the text where I add some personal perspective to my diatribe. I have a friend who changed my life, after whose contact I’ll never be the same. Now, he’s gone, and in the midst of all these complicated feelings I’m experiencing, of longing, of gratefulness, of appreciation and deep respect, of bitterness and sadness, I’m also wondering… What if this friendship was always more the work of my mind, of my own projections? What if it was one-sided, or perhaps more important to me than it was to him? How much of my conception of the “should be” clouded my perception to how things actually were? What if I had been the only one to cherish our time together, to be inspired by our conversations and the occasional ‘mental sparring’ sessions? What if I’m the only one waiting for a text or email? And if so, what does it mean? Does it take away from my friendship? Does it make me a sucker? Does this mean I’m needy or naive? Does it make the discussions we shared less genuine? Is our interaction now less authentic if I’m the only one missing it? Who’s to say, now that it’s over, that it mattered?
What happens and what does it mean when you’re not missed?