"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

I remember in our last conversation when we were talking about how the people in our lives impact us in those little idiosyncratic things we do that we like to think of as our own, but they're all copied from other people; people we've loved, people we've hated, people we've forgotten, people we remember all too well. It was an interesting thing to hear, from someone like you; someone who so vehemently detests being told that you're not being yourself.

The important people in our lives leave imprints. They may stay or go in the physical realm, but they are always there in your heart, because they helped form your heart. There's no getting over that. I remember those times when I felt safe and warm and loved with you and that is a great part of the strength that I need to get through each day. There are little things about me that were yours and are now mine. I don't regret that, I don't regret that at all.

I can't absolve you, though; and I know that was what you were looking for. All through our time together you have always tried to guilt me into thinking that everything is my fault; you always apologised until now, but the blame was still there. I cannot absolve you from your implicity in my pain; and I would not even if I could. In your life there will be people who hurt you and people you hurt, and you're just going to have to live with that. You might not deserve your hurt, in the same way that I don't deserve to be periodically anaesthetised and flayed open, but you need that, you need that to help you enjoy the good times, to appreciate the times when you're not in pain. And the people you hurt might fill you with guilt and self-loathing and regret, but you need that, too; you need that to realize your capacity to inflict pain and to control it as best you can. I would be doing you a great disservice by absolving you.

You created your own monster; you were the one who told me to go out there and be myself, and now I am so hopelessly addicted to that I could not be anything else if I tried. You were the one who contacted me, you were the one who gave everything and you were the one who took everything back. I think you enjoyed that; I think you enjoyed being a friend to someone rendered so passive. The kisses were fine when it was you and not me. The games were fine when you started them and I didn't. The debates and arguments and endless hours of chatting our lives away were fine when you wanted them, but not when I needed them. You told me to be myself, but you did not know who I was. I am sorry if I disappointed you on that account.

I think you, like most people I know, have romanticized mental illness. I think you have romanticized the idea of the fragile little girl needing a shoulder to cry on. I think you have romanticized the image of a pretty but untouched sixteen year old innocent. I think you have romanticized the idea of being the last man standing for the lonely nerd nobody wants or cares about. I think you have romanticized the strong, defiant, outspoken woman. I don't think you realized what a burden it is to be a friend to someone with demons like mine, I don't think you realized how needy and dependent broken people can be, I don't think you realized how permanent and consuming first experiences can be for someone like me, I don't think you realized that being my friend means you will inevitably cop some of the shit that is always being tossed my way, I don't think you realized that if you teach me to stand up to others I will end up standing up to you. I did not know what it would be like, to be your friend; I learned it was wonderful, exhilarating, beautiful, but also lonely and heartbreaking and confusing. I didn't know and came to it with no expectations. You cannot always expect me to be good and kind and loving. There will always be times when I will be cold and thoughtless and hard to understand. Friends, like spouses and children and family and everyone else who makes life wonderful, are burdens. There will be times when you feel unloved and uncared for; believe me, you have made me feel all of that plenty of times. Friendships, like all relationships, require commitment. Sometimes you have to realize that friends are not infallible and sometimes there will be times when their only choice is to either lean on you or fall over; part of being a friend is realizing that sometimes people lean on you not because they want to, or to make you feel hurt or heavy, but because they love and trust you enough to let you carry them until they can walk again, and because they love and trust you enough to do the same for you. People need to break down, sometimes, and they need people who will honour their promise to not leave. It is easy to be friends when everything is sunshine and roses; real friends stay during crises. You need real friends during those times when you cannot walk and your only choice is to lean on someone or to fall over. You let me fall over, but I will pick myself up.

I know you and I are very different and that is why we cannot be friends, but I think you know that we are more similar than you like to admit; I think that you see the worst of yourself when you see the worst in me - I certainly did. It is an uncomfortable feeling, isn't it? We are all hyperaware of our faults, but seeing them in other people is intolerable. You realize that forgiving yourself means that you have to forgive people like me, and some of the things I do are unforgivable. It's hard when you realize that you are unforgivable, like everyone else who has lived or will ever live.

I do not doubt that you have people who are willing to be more indulgent with you than I ever could be; I do not doubt that these people somehow manage to maintain some kind of dignity and integrity whilst doing so. You are so easy to love, and so easy to forgive - which is a blessing and a curse, I suppose. I am sorry I could not indulge you; I wish I could. But it got to the point where I could not indulge you without shutting part of myself out, and over these last two years I have become accustomed to living half a life.

There is something that we always admire in people when we first get to know them; idealism. I know that because my only selling point in the sell-yourself game known as guild politics is that I am an idealist; a very young idealist, so young that they have to sneak both me and my idealism into licensed premises. That kind of idealism is appealing, but absurdly impractical; inevitably we watch as we and the people we love become the cynics we used to mock. I admired your idealism and optimism because I am not a naturally optimistic person; it was something I experienced vicariously through you. You have a great gift for hope, but also a predisposition towards become one of those people who's life savours of anticlimax. The brightest stars burn out the fastest and you are blinding. That was my great worry for you, back when I was still allowed to care for you.

How difficult I must seem, to be so attention seeking and yet so reclusive. You were always trying to coax me out of my shell because that's what friends do, but you were not prepared for the person who always remains hidden. We have romanticized coming out, in every sense of the term, without considering why something must be hidden in the first place. Your idealism was that I should have no shame in a society defined by shame and shaming; you did not stop to think why I was forced to hide so much of myself in the first place. In all the movies everyone turns out to be more or less normal, and deviations from normal are 'attention seeking'; we fail to realize that for some people, abnormality is the norm and being normal is our way of seeking attention. We are all attention seekers, as much as you might detest them; you cannot judge anyone for that. We have created industries and empires upon the desire for attention and you are a part of that machine whether you like it or not. I think we have romanticized reclusiveness because we have shamed attention seeking so much. And you have no right to shame me or anyone else for that; break up with your girlfriend, cut off all your other friends and move somewhere far away with no human company before you dare tell me that I should not attempt to cure my loneliness with a bit of attention.

I spoke only the truth when I told you that people lie, and then they leave; you are the epitome of that. Nothing you have ever said to me holds true now, and now you are gone just like all the rest of them. I suppose I must have seemed broken and resigned when I said it and you, as my ever faithful and loving friend, attempted to banish those thoughts away from me. I did not doubt you when you said you would never leave; it is one of the only things you have said to me with genuine sincerity, now that I have the benefit of retrospect. But I did not think that your presence made the statement any less true; I know that what you mean one day can hold no water the next day - it was a recurring theme of yours, and a constant source of pain for me. People lie, and then they leave, and yet we still want them. But I do not want you, anymore; I wanted the boy who used to drop everything and run to me whenever I cried, I wanted the boy who was genuine and charming and had that smile that made you feel like he was irresistibly prejudiced in your favour. I wanted the boy who sincerely wanted me to be happy and apologised sincerely for causing me pain. I wanted the boy who could see past everything else and saw me for what I am. I wanted the boy who realized I was broken and put me back together, and then held me tight so that I would not fall apart again. I don't know what happened to him, but he's long gone and his ghost had a great capacity for cruelty and indifference that I cannot bear. I know you think you have not changed, but maybe when you have the benefit of retrospect you will see what I mean. Nonetheless, I wish you all the best, because I know that somewhere behind all the spite and exasperation my friend is still here and you are all that remains of him. I don't know if you're still here, but it doesn't matter. I know you know all of this. I hope one day I will find someone like you and you will find someone like me, and I hope all of this will have taught us how to treat these people with a little more decency, and to afford them a little more dignity.

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