Have you ever met somebody and thought to yourself, well, there, now I know what perfection looks like? and i don’t mean in a romantic way. you’re just so in awe of them that you can hardly believe that they’re real, and that you, of all people, should have been so lucky as to be deemed worthy of their friendship. and you can’t find any fault with them, or acknowledge one when it’s pointed out to you by somebody else, because they just don’t understand. but you know better than that; you feel blessed to be in their life in any capacity, no matter how small, and you treasure every morsel of attention or affection thrown your way.
Well, that’s what L was to me… until she wasn’t.
It’s hard not to be in awe of L when you meet her. She is objectively the sweetest person ever, ill give you that. But that’s what makes the whole thing even more confusing: it’s hard to distinguish between all the positive qualities that she possesses and the positive attention she receives based on that from pretty much everyone she meets… and the god-like status to which I have elevated her. The line gets blurry between being genuinely impressed by her inner and outer beauty and the positive vibes she gives off… and the obsessive need to not just have her in my life, but become one with her — impress, imitate, and identify with her — that I still feel.
It’s all well and good to appreciate, even admire, people in your life. indeed L positively impacted mine in more ways than I can count. but it’s important to maintain healthy boundaries. most people, when they come into contact with somebody, no matter how amazing, preserve their basic sense of self. I … didn’t know there was such a thing.
Who keeps company with the wolf will learn to howl
I don’t remember who I was before i met her. And after she left, i was reduced to nothing. why, you might ask. let me explain.
it was a gradual process, her becoming my “substitute personality”. at first there were still parts of me that felt authentic. but over time, my life increasingly became about impressing her. L is a very opinionated girl, and if she disagrees with you or doesn’t like something, she will tell you (sometimes without being asked). what she didn’t take into account was how much i internalized criticism, especially coming from her. how much every piece of unsolicited advice, every backhanded compliment, every joke that had a grain of truth to it, hurt me and made me doubt myself.
i’m not saying she did any of this on purpose — and you may notice a theme of me blaming people for various things wrong with me; youre not wrong, but that’s not exactly what I mean. It’s not my fault that i’m oversensitive, either. i know its my problem that i take everything personally. but it doesn’t change the fact that i was hurt… over and over again. and if it means i have to forgive people for things nobody should apologize for in the first place, just because that’s what i need to move on, so be it.
if L said so then it must be true!
Be that as it may, L has a lot of charisma. She sometimes jokes about starting her own cult, even. In retrospect, that’s kind of what it felt like to be her “BFF”. It’s not that she wouldn’t let you do you; but it takes a stronger personality than mine not to internalize her pronouncements. What she said was, I like chocolate cake better; what I heard was, Don’t order strawberry. I could read Donald Duck instead of WITCH if I wanted to… not in so many words, but she made it clear that I was wrong.
Yes, that’s the kind of conversation we were having at that age, but the principle remains the same. The dynamic’s the same.
I can’t stress this enough, she is such a positive person, and im infinitely grateful for having her in my life; im a better person for it, and i cant imagine what i’d be without her.
However, she was just too unapologetically herself for me to handle. too mature, too assertive, too confident.
and i was the opposite.
so i stopped liking strawberry cake.
and i no longer devoured comic books.
and over time, i forgot.
and i ditched the things i used to hold dear, and i kept my opinions to myself, buried deep, while enthusiastically nodding in faux-agreement with whatever she was saying, and i only shared with her what i thought she would approve of.
she was this all-encompassing Presence that was always quietly judging me and that i always wanted to please, above all else.
you know what that reminds me of? god, that’s what.
and like all people of faith, i built my life around her.
and then she… left.
At age fifteen, she moved back to India, where she is from, and I practically lost touch with her. but the pain of her leaving, leaving me, was excruciating, unlike anything I’d experienced before (or after). She was quite literally my everything.
When i started high school, i was all alone. my entire world had just fallen apart, and i had no supportive group of friends to fall back on. and to top it all off, i had just hit puberty (yes im a late bloomer).
i was confused, i was alone, and i was helpless. so… i developed an eating disorder.
This is all just one story i can tell myself. there are probably countless more ways to frame the same train of events. but that’s the way it felt to me. and to be honest, it still feels that way, even after all these years.
and i still have no concept of “normal” friendship, and i still don’t let anybody get too close.
that’s the “idealizing” part.
i have yet to devalue.
… before i can reach a happy medium.