Let's just eliminate all the bullshit, shall we?







Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Popularity, like the rest of life, is not constant



Back when I was in high school, I started a habit that has served me
well in life. Rather than try to fit my square peg into the round hole
of an established group, I gathered my own troops. I learned to draw
together miscellaneous individuals who didn't quite fit in anywhere,
giving us vagabonds an erstwhile 'place in the sun.'

The point has never been that everyone sit around and sing
"Kumbaya," or even necessarily have conversations. But the
disparate need companionship just as much as the masses who
long to be identified by their very sense of 'belonging.'

At one high school, the 'group' consisted of the hyper-active
and overweight kid, the gawky nerd, the upper-crust closet
lesbian, the misdiagnosed 'special needs' kid, the depressive,
and me. I was--and am-- a combination of socially awkward,
health problems, mental problems, emotional problems, non-
conforming sexual identity, etc., so I can pretty much identify
with anyone...except someone who pretends there's nothing
wrong with themselves.

At another high school, I brought together tomboys, flamboyant
blacks, abused rednecks, orphans, and the vampiric.

At my final high school, there was Suicide Girl, the hippie,
the German exchange student, a former gang-banger who
had given it up after her best friend died, and a cracker who
was living in an orange grove because his home life had been
so bad.

As I said, there wasn't always hand holding and indepth
political discussions. But there was camaraderie in our
differences. We all knew the pain of being disenfranchised
and left behind. Having someone come and ask us to join
them, even if only for a meal, sometimes made a difference.
Looking into the faces of people who understood one's pain
absent words and definition was a solace of its own.

Sometimes, the new found confidence given by finding a
piece of acceptance led those in the non-team (think "The
Defenders" comic book) to draw new people to them.
Sometimes, people would 'desert' us in favor of a new
group that was more socially desirable or simply more
compatible.

It hurt at the time, feeling as if I had been used to help
someone 'over the hump' only to be left when things
got better for them, a la a starter wife, but through the
 years I have gained perspective. I often think of the line
"We have friends for a reason, a season, or life." You
never know going into it what your investment will yield--
what level of commitment will be given back.

That's as it should be.

Life is all about the not knowing. Rigidity and expectation
accomplish nothing good. When we give of our self to
another, it is always risk. There is no guarantee on our
investment.

Furthermore, if we care about someone....truly, deeply
care about their well being.....then we want for their happiness.
We want for them to be happy; not to have their happiness
contingent upon their connection with us.

But humans are fragile and our egos reign supreme. Feelings
do get hurt. And, as "Jane Austin Book Club" so aptly pointed
out; "High school is never over!" These occurrences of being
passed over for better offers continue to this day.

A friend that I made some time back had been pretty
much a loner, as I am. We hit it off and helped each
other through some rough spots; inadvertently caused
a few along the way, too, I'm sure, as such things go.
But there was at least a one-sided sense of 'Butch &
Sundance' about the whole pairing, that sense of 'being
alone, together.' And then something happened, and he
seemed to really blossom into new relationships with
others almost overnight.

Now, it goes without saying that the newfound connections
are a blessing, and I'm proud of the growth and thrilled for
the new life being experienced. But there is an inevitable
sadness, too, at the passing of the status quo. That seemingly
unique connection now seems lost, and it's just a reality. No
blame, no regret, no big deal even; just a reminder not to
take things for granted. You never know how long they'll last.

I feel more confident in my ability to relate to new people,
and the possibility of coming into contact with them. But in
my present circumstance, I don't imagine the possibility of
too many liberal-minded fellows flowing my way. It was
precisely because this friendship was so unique and
unexpected that it meant so much. As I've gotten older,
the number of people I care to talk to at all--let alone
feel genuine affection for--has greatly been reduced.

And no matter how old you are or how accomplished
you feel, there's always a sense of the whole "What's
wrong with me?" self pity that creeps in with any rejection,
perceived or valid.

I'm smarter these days, possibly even a tad more mature.
 I won't be lighting any candles and playing whiny chick
music while I decry the injustice and betrayal of it all. No
waxing on about abandonment, either. But the familiarity
of the empty spot within and how easily it can creep back
 in to my reality is a bit unsettling. Yeah, yeah; ebb and
flow, circle of life; I get it.

Maybe my purpose as a person in this instance was to
teach my friend about their inherent potential and love-ability.
I know I gained a great deal from his insights and example.
Shouldn't that be enough? At what point is keeping
perspective more easily done than said?

After all, just because a new friend isn't on the horizon, I
know intuitively that I haven't met my last fellow sad sack
in need of commiseration. I wouldn't trade my independence
for a million party invites, and somewhere out there is
someone who can appreciate that.

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