Monday, April 14, 2014

Desperate For "Us" - My Messy Beautiful

When I left homeschool to go to the academics-focused high school in our town, I was scared, naive, and alone. I knew nobody, and I knew even less about how school worked. (What do the bells mean? Why do you take attendance? Where the heck is room 7a?)

But something glorious happened: I met my best friend and a host of others. They welcomed me in during my first quarter and put up with my shyness, insecurity, and pop culture innocence. I became a part of their in-group, a family that stuck with me all four years.

It was glorious. I wasn't desperate. I was wanted. Me, the girl who will do anything to have friends.

Childhood friends. Back when making friends was easy.

When I entered college, the happy-group-of-friends thing changed. I had deep friendships with individuals, but never became part of a group. I watched my friends and even significant others get invited to all sorts of events while I was forgotten. It was "that group" going out, "this group" going hiking. I was never in any of those groups. I was left home alone on their excursions.

One day I confided my loneliness to my significant other. All night I kept thinking about it. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I could overcome my loneliness myself if I tried hard enough.

The next day I went to a friend’s apartment seeking some quality time. I discovered my friend, boyfriend, and many others I knew having a game night together. No one had let me know. They love me, I know that. They just forgot me. I wasn’t a part of their group.

It lit a fire in me. I was tired of being group-less.

I decided to make a group for myself. I brought three friends (who didn’t know each other) to live together, and the ensuing friend-group still stands today. I led a biblestudy, invited people over, took initiative, and befriended outsiders. If I saw someone by themselves, I got to know them. I didn’t want them to feel the pain of being ignored like I had.

It made me a leader. I don’t begrudge the way my grouplessness changed me. I became a group-builder and I’m proud of that. I’ve learned not only how to help myself, but how to help others.

But my experiences with being forgotten still haunt me. Whenever I enter a new group of people, I act outgoing, try to meet everyone, and make a big effort building connections. I try to dispel my loneliness as quickly as possible, and while it might look like strength and confidence, it’s rooted in the fear that if I don’t make an effort, no one will. Understand: I make an effort because I genuinely want to know people; but I'm also afraid that if I don’t work to know people, they won’t work to know me. I want to make it easy to be my friend.

I can say I understand Severus Snape. The one thing that kept he and his secret crush (and best friend) apart was that Snape hung out with the boys who one day became the Death Eaters. He was so mistreated and discarded during his childhood, so desperate to have a group of friends who wanted him, that he stuck with people who insulted, bullied, and tortured others.

He went against his better nature, his courage, even his desires, just to have friends.

The drive to be a part of an "Us" is that strong. I, too, am desperate to be wanted, to be invited, to be pursued by a group of friends. I’m so desperate that I make all the effort on my part, eschewing your efforts out of fear that you won’t make them. Essentially I’m in need of you, but afraid to trust you with my need.

I’m sorry for my desperation and my sticky, messy life. I want to be real. I’m trying to relax and recognize that I’m not the only one making an effort. People truly care and are willing to work as hard on the friendship as I am. But I can’t seem to stop being needy, and my need makes me want to appear like everything I’m not.

There was no happy ending to this tale when I wrote it a few days ago. But.

Friday night I had a bunch of twenty-somethings over to play games. It’s a new biweekly ministry aimed at building community among young adults, one of the loneliest age brackets. I’m once again taking the initiative to forestall anyone—myself included—from being friendless.

I was having so much fun and laughing so hard and thinking how worth it this all is. I was meeting great people and getting excited about pursuing friendships with them. Then something magical happened. They pursued me.

It was simple. The next evening would be church, so they began arranging where we were going to sit, so we could all sit together. They invited me to join them in the front row on the right, where we would all meet.

It was the highlight of my night. They wanted me.

Am I afraid? Yes. Afraid of being let down or left out. But it showed me for one blinding moment that I’m not the only one making an effort here.

This is the middle of my story. This is my messy beautiful.

I'm a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project! To learn more, read other messy beautifuls, or tell your own story, click here. To learn about the awesome memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, click here.

Word count: 918.