“IF YOU WANT TO BE TRUSTED, BE HONEST. IF YOU WANT TO BE HONEST, BE TRUE. IF YOU WANT TO BE TRUE, BE YOURSELF.”
Saying, and even writing these words has forever been the scariest thing to me, although I always knew them. I often beat myself up with them when insomnia kept me awake. These were painful words to say — and painful words to hear, especially from my family. I never thought I could ever voice them. I believed that hiding this fact would change the ending. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t quite put fingers on it. Plenty of times, I have tried to understand what still needs to be fixed, to find a source to the problem. As of today, I have no idea yet where it comes from but something has changed. I feel like I can truly be honest with everyone. This is not a cry for help. This is not a call for pity. Or maybe it is…
Here’s what I wrote in April 2015:
Middle school started in the fall of 2009. It was a delightful experience that seemed to appear in front of me. I could finally consider myself a grown-up, or so was I thinking at the time. I had two incredible best friends, they were the nicest and we had as much fun as we could. I had as well some people I got along well, and other very few people I would be myself openly. I would speak up for my beliefs and I would enjoy time with a positive behavior. I would go crazy in the moments I felt happiest. But then the fish entered a wider sea, a sea in which it couldn’t expand itself. It was a place where you had to open up to the world to be seen. I rejected this idea right from the start.
Hopefully for me, this was a time when most little girls were shy. As people were opening themselves to the world, I was stuck on the out-of-date bench of the playground. No words would come out of my mouth. My second year in middle school was the toughest for the young person who had to deal with long-lasting family struggles. There was not a single person I felt comfortable within the class. The few friends I had left were not significantly present at this moment of my life but I still relied on them. At times, I would be the « fulfiller friend » to some.
The only thing I could still rely on were my words. Painfully, I couldn’t get them out of my mouth but written they were the most beautiful. It sort of balanced my confidence, I found comfort in the words I was writing.
In the year that followed, some classmates used to tease me in a nice kind of way (or so do I remember), because they knew I wouldn’t respond. It sure annoyed me but I wasn’t offended as it was the only attention I got from them. My last two years in middle school were the worst of all. I slowly cut the ties with the very few friends I had left. I persuaded my parents to come home for lunch because I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone at a table or imposing myself on people I didn’t even know because it was crowded. During breaks, I was standing on my own in the playground, impatiently waiting for the bell to ring.
All I was waiting for was to get the hell out of this place. Maybe somewhere else, I would find people to rely on. Trivial encounters would create faithful friendships. People wouldn’t know how shy I was, I could wear a new mask that would push me in the right direction. I felt like I had already missed on so much in my early teenage years. No night out with friends to watch movies, no shopping at the mall, no concerts because no one to go out with, not a single party attended.
I thus entered a bigger crowd, one of the most prestigious high school in the city. I was ready to write a new chapter fulfilled with glorious moments of joy and new experiences. As days passed, my will slowly started decreasing. Effortlessly trying to join the group, I didn’t fit in. The few talks didn’t engender any friendship. I was not enough. Though I had once been an almost straight-A’s student, my grades kept lowering. Nothing made sense anymore. I spent days skipping lunch meals because I did not want to eat on my own, I would rather stay alone in the vast playground. I was in the wrong place. I finally persuaded my parents to go back to my previous school, where I was much less of an outsider. There were faces I knew and so many new ones that I couldn’t wait to discover.
When people asked me about my surprising return, I kept hiding behind a lie. There was too much pressure, my grades were too low — which wasn’t completely false either. I did not make any new friends, though I was talking to people more and this was comforting. Gaining my straight-A’s student status again, I felt like I was in the right place.
Back to 2015
During these past two years, a lot changed as well as much remained the same. I got to have closer relationships with some of my classmates but none were enough to consider them friends because of my inability to reach out to these people outside of school. I appreciate them but I’m not true enough to myself and to them to put my mask off. At times, all I’d want to do is scream: ‘Don’t you see I have zero friends! Don’t you wonder why I never go out on weekends? Don’t you know how I am struggling with my desperate social skills?’. I missed on so much with people that could have been there for me as well as I could have been there for them. It is the fear of failure, the fear of rejection. A single to text could be intrusive. I never wished to be imposing myself. Still, all I wanted was to be « one of them ». To be part of the ride, and now as high school is ending there comes a phase of realization.
I can feel my lack of confidence and social skills but I know I have some. I turned out to be so confident about my « aloneness ». I always try to escape people as soon as possible when a group situation ends. I became too comfortable with the idea of being alone in the hallways. I keep avoiding my classmates sometimes. I have been in the position where I’m fully part of the group, yet my true self never emerges, hiding behind laughter, nods, and smiles. Therefore, I isolate myself from the class, I cross and de-cross my arms continually. I endlessly cogitate. I’m about to burst into tears but nothing comes out, there’s still a force inside of me that forces me into bottling it up. One person or two invites me to join them, but I gently refuse by lying: I’m too lazy and tired to go with them, I pretend.
And still, people believe that I have friends. They trust my happy face. They care only
about my enjoyable waves of laughter. But guess what? In a reversed situation, I would probably be one of them. Life’s too short to care for people who don’t give a damn about you, even though it is untrue — I do like them, I do appreciate their presence, I do love to have a good conversation with them. Nevertheless, no matter how nice they can be sometimes they just don’t notice how painful their words are. Running away from a « no friend » joke, losing it all inside and still drowning on your own in this quiet suffering; not ever noticing how hurting you are because of these words. It kills from the inside. Silence is the worst enemy.
Even back in my first years of middle school, I was ashamed of being so much alone. I succeeded in keeping it a secret until a certain point. I did put my mask off with my family. I talk about it almost freely with my sisters, even though it now became a punchline during quarrels obviously. I’m not so confident about it with my parents though, however, I know my dad understands me best as we share quite a similar personality.
Is it anything other than a shame not to have any friends? Is it anything else than demeaning to admit such a thing to people who seem to appreciate your undeniable sense of humor and other traits of your personality? Is it anything other than a weakness?
Will I ever fit in? Will I ever be like everyone else?
There was always some irony surrounding my situation. In philosophy class, we were once assigned to discuss the following topic: ‘Are others necessary to our own happiness?’. Guess what I really was thinking in my head, while keeping my mouth shut (Of course, they are! I have been there, trust me!). And many times, I had heard the common joke ‘No text messages, I’ve got no friends!’, echoing some painful truth, looking down on the floor.
Up to a certain point, I did not know how to express the loneliness. I looked for the songs which would pronounce the words that I couldn’t say. The painful truth that you can’t voice.
Not being able to reach out to the ones you appreciate, imagining what it would have been like to be their friends is as painful. So many missed opportunities. So many nice people you could have befriended. So many text messages you wish you had had the guts to send.
I wonder why it is such an indignity to admit that you have no friends. Humans are social beings, we should all be able to be functional, to use our social skills. We were born into groups and raised in families. We were made to live together. This must be the reason why I always felt so ashamed. Until now, I never felt like I could share this piece. Somehow, today I felt ready.
So, to everyone I’ve ever met, I wish I could have been your friend too.
This is addressed to everyone who has crossed my path, whether it be for minutes or hours, a few days or a couple of years ago. I wish I could’ve been there for you on your darkest days, and you would have been there for me too; because, after all, that’s what friendship is all about. I wish I had made that first move. And, even if it’s been years, please leave out of account my lack of social skills and forgive me.
Now, you know the truth and you know what it really means to have no friends.