When I was a child, the other girls in my neighborhood were firmly cemented into best friend pairs – Amy & Julie, Laurie & Darlene, Sherry & Meg, etc.
My role was to be a back-up friend. Sometimes, I was included in group activities. Sometimes, I was called upon if the BFF was unavailable. And for a brief period of time in first and again in fifth grade, I had my own best friend for awhile.
I grew used to plopping myself into situations – lunch tables, playground games, field trip partners. It felt familiar to be tolerated and allowed to belong depending on the whim of the crowd. Or not.
Mostly, I was just used to being alone. I knew it was inevitable someone would need me to make up a game of 4-Square or to take a bike ride. That had to be enough.
One distinct memory from about 5th grade – middle of winter and I wanted to sled ride. I walked to a really long downhill trek we called ‘The Pipeline’ because it was a clearing alongside a huge natural gas line. The other kids were wrapping up their runs, but promised to wait for me. So I hurled myself down that awesome snowy cold hill. And, of course, they had left. I wasn’t surprised, much less disappointed as I began a long, cold walk uphill towing my wood and metal sled. I wondered what would happen if I just sat down – would anyone think to look for me there? But I kept trudging along for what seemed like hours. Then I walked back through the woods to our neighborhood and up the final hill. I felt a defiant sense of accomplishment because I knew even then that people like me aren’t intended for triumph.
I’ve revisited this theme several times of latebecause that hollow loneliness is so intense again. It is uphill, it is cold, and it is built on a foundation of people’s long-time behaviors.
Maybe in five years, I’ll read this and know things got better. Maybe not. Right now, I just feel so tired – tired of people analyzing me, ignoring me, and expecting me to be someone different than my true self.
I can’t remember what it feels like to not be trudging up that hill for more of the same.