When I was in college I had a crush on a girl.
No . . . not that kind of crush. I had a crush on a group of women who would have been the popular kids in high school–the girls with brains, beauty, and all the guys. Blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect bodies, but also intelligent. They would have been the presidents of their classes, or the head of important committees. They were the people who traveled in the center while I remained on the fringe.
I admit, in what I now perceive as pathetic puppydom, I clamored for the attention of all of them, but of one person in particular. She gave it to me, while trying encourage me to perfect myself–to lose weight, to be less shy, to exercise more, to take risks. I lapped up her attention like a dog eats treats. I was there for her when she needed a shoulder to cry on, or when a boyfriend broke up with her, even sometimes when she needed a little extra spending money.
It’s only now, years later, that I am able to see through the blinders of who they were and the thrall they cast on me. I was willing to do anything to spend time with them, and I tried to improve myself to be worthy of their attention.
Of course, eventually someone would cut me down, telling me that nobody would really want to spend time with someone who was not confident or came of depressed a lot of the time. I was working on that, seeing a counselor, trying to become a better me-0 but now I realize that they, perhaps unintentionally, kept my doubts and dismay alive. By having someone like me follow them around, glorifying their existence, it made them shine all the brighter.
I wasn’t completely stupid. When they truly cut me apart I would say “I don’t need them.” I had other friends, I had the theatre, I had really difficult major and an extremely challenging school. I focused on work and projects, making sure I never ate at the same time as them and was always busy.
If I did that long enough they would come looking for me. She would come looking for me.
Many of them went to different programs during Junior year, but I didn’t for numerous reasons. That year I thrived, I expanded new (healthier) friendships, I grew in confidence. When they returned they didn’t have me as completely ensnared any more. I didn’t need them as much. But She in particular, still needed me.
When a woman in a position of power started harassing Her in the hopes of forming a relationship, She would run to me for help. I gave her advice, I played the middle man to try to soothe tensions, I helped solve the problem.
I thought we were best friends, but learned the truth after college when She never kept in touch. She didn’t even invite me to her wedding, when she invited everyone else.
Sometimes that still hurts.
But, looking back on that time from so many years ago, I learned something important. I learned that in absence, I am strong. I grew in strength when I allowed myself time alone, time away, time absent.
I’ve never allowed myself to be sucked in by the sheen of popularity again. I built walls around myself, entering friendships cautiously and carefully, tired of being used and hurt.
Then I started blogging.
In this strange world of the blogosphere, friendships form on the basis of words. We can only trust our instincts and the words written by people to find and form connections. We never know if someone is representing themselves in complete honesty, or creating a character which they share on-line.
That hasn’t stopped me. I’ve tried to make connections anyway, meeting people, in a virtual sense, who fascinate me even if we don’t agree on everything. I’ve connected outside of the blogs as well, a couple of times in person, but mostly over e-mail and/or Facebook. I admit to being seduced by some of the glitter of the popular kids here, the ones who have followings well beyond mine and manage to maintain their momentum. I made efforts to connect with some of them, but only maintained those connections if I felt they were real.
But how does one know its real, unless you meet in person?
As you know, a few weeks ago I decided to take a little time off from the regular blogging. I needed to re-evaluate everything in my life. I am at a crossroads and have yet to decide which direction I am heading. So I’ve only written a few posts. I have read some (although I admit not many–I apologize if you feel neglected) and commented here and there.
As should be expected, my numbers dropped. A part of me felt saddened by the drop, but recognized that people don’t have time to read through the archive of my work if I am not producing new works. My absence did not, does not, change the fabric of the blogosphere–and I should not expect it would.
However, the longer I didn’t write, the more I began to wonder if my blogging even mattered to any of the people I’ve met here.
I know the answer. A few people have dropped in for comments, or said hi on Facebook. A few people have reached out through e-mails. And yesterday, the fabulous Victoria from Victoria-writes reached out to me when she had a little Wobble starting with the words, “How are you? I miss your blog posts!”
Magic words that made me realize that I have indeed created friendships with my words.
I know that someday, perhaps far in the future but someday, I will take the trip to England that I have always wanted to take. I will wander into a lovely coffee shop with decadent pastries and I will meet my long-time friend and blogging buddy, Victoria. She will, of course, by then be a famous author, but she will make time in her busy schedule to meet with me. Offer our delicious treats we will discuss the trials and tribulations of writing, as well as our lives and our families, and the other things that connect us. I can see it now, and it makes me smile.
Her note made me realize that despite distance, I still have wonderful friends out there. As I was typing this, I got a message from a college friend (not one of the golden girls, a true friend) asking if I would like to try to get together sometime (she lives about 1 1/2 hours from me).
In absence I am learning what kind of friends I really want, and really need. In silence I am slowly discovering where I want to take my life, even if I am still unclear of the path. In not writing, I am writing, as I find new ways to form my words and new reasons to write them.
I still have a long way to go, but I am no longer the girl blinded by blonde hair and fairy dust.
I am present in my absence.
I realize now I may never be the center of the popular crowd, but I am content on the fringe, with the small group of friends who support, question, challenge and inspire.
There are many of them.