Outsider

Originally published in June 2014

It looked all right in the pictures
Getting caught’s half of the trip though, isn’t it?
I fall apart, with all my heart
And you can watch from your window
-Lorde

It’s weird how, of the many things that have hurt me and that I’m sensitive about, there are some that I tend to avoid talking about and others that I can’t stop talking about. I talk a lot about love, even though that’s what has hurt me the most – I think because I still view falling in love and trying so hard as somewhat brave. However, I’ve also been mistreated socially quite a bit – you could say bullied at some points – but I don’t talk about it frequently because there is a part of me that still views it as a sign of weakness on my part, even though I know how silly that is.

This weekend, some of my friends and ex-friends are off at a little vacation spot not far from here that’s owned by one of their families. They’ve gone to this place at least once most years for about the past 7 years or so – and yet, I’ve never been invited. It used to be a big deal, a massive party with the whole gang – now it’s a smaller deal, but it’s still something that I hear people talk about pretty frequently, that I’m completely excluded from. They went there for a grad trip after high school graduation, too, and I went nowhere because they had been my friends, and I was not invited. I hear stories of the drama that occurred there from those that still talk to me, expecting me to sympathize with them, and I have a hard time doing so because all I can think is, “I wish I was there.” I’d take all the petty drama in the world in exchange for a chance to feel included.

Usually I look at situations like these and I wonder how anyone can be so cruel – surely they must know how much it hurts me. Surely they know that deliberately excluding someone is wrong. But maybe they don’t. Maybe they are genuinely just so far buried in their own world that they have no idea how their actions (or lack of action) affect others. It’s not like I don’t have those moments sometimes too. I know that is unlikely; I like to see the best in everyone. I’m just considering all the possibilities. Maybe they’ve been deliberately mean; maybe they completely forgot I exist; maybe they’re genuinely clueless.

So, just in case that is true, just in case anyone’s wondering, this is what it feels like:

When I was 16 and 17 I found myself with next to no friends – don’t ask me to explain how, because I genuinely don’t know. Something about jealousy and me dating the group ‘leader’ and that not being allowed. I was part of a large but close-knit circle, and after this I still had to sit through classes with them where I moved seats to get away from them, could hear them whispering about me at times, and had to watch them talk about all their exciting plans that I wasn’t a part of at a louder volume than necessary because they were kind of obnoxious, just in general. When it started, plans that I myself had helped create but was no longer welcome to join, and later on, plans I dreamed of making.

It was hard for me to focus in classes with people who hated my guts sitting a few feet away from me, and by the end of grade 12 I might have failed without assistance from my counselor and teachers (if they even still fail kids in high school). I had been a straight A student up until this point, and seeing my grades slipping really hurt my confidence. I don’t think I ever really felt like I was smart after that until, like, last year.

We all lived in the same neighbourhood and walked home the same way – I used to walk with them, and we would meet in the stairwell at the back of the school. Sometimes I would leave late on purpose in order to avoid them or take a ridiculous detour, but when I wasn’t doing that, I still had to walk past them on my way home. I’d be on one side of the street; they’d be on the other, acting like they didn’t see me or know who I was, and I’d just try to play it cool, like I didn’t know them either and never did, but meanwhile I could feel tears forming in my eyes. I really wished I had sunglasses.

I saw the school counselor in grade 12 and I would try to make appointments during the classes I had with those people just so that I could get away from them. It wasn’t about skipping out on class itself, although I’m sure that’s what it looked like to my teachers. There was a lot of crying in bathroom stalls – one of my most vivid memories is overhearing in the hallway before class that my ex was going to prom with my former best friend and pretty much immediately turning around to go cry for I don’t know how long. I was probably late for class at least, if I even went back.

I was the type of girl who dreamed about prom – I used to make sketches of what I wanted my dream dress to look like, and true to form I spent $1000 on a ball gown (maybe not the wisest decision, but it felt like the only nice thing I could do for myself). And I won’t be melodramatic; I had a nice time. One of my best friends that I still had from out of town came down just to take me, so I didn’t have to go alone. Another new friend drove, and the three of us hung out and played video games afterwards. But I didn’t get to ride in the limo and take beautiful pictures and go to an afterparty with everybody else. I wanted it to be the best day of my teenaged life but I still felt excluded. It was rubbed in my face, too – afterwards, my new friend decided to drive us to my ex’s house, where all my former friends were having their afterparty, because he thought it would be funny. He called him and asked if we could come in – obviously the answer was no. I’m pretty sure that ex #1 doesn’t remember this (thanks, alcohol – the one time you’ve ever been on my side), but it happened, and I know it happened, and I was mortified and angry and even though I knew it was stupid I STILL felt left out. I couldn’t even forget about it for one night; someone always had to remind me: You do not belong here. You are not good enough.

That is how it feels. It does not get easier. Ever. You just get better at pretending like you don’t care, and you find new friends and things to do. But I’ll never forget my old friends and how they made me feel, and my past trauma informs my current experiences. I am extra sensitive to things like cancelled plans and unreturned text messages. It takes a lot of effort for me to reach out to people. I am constantly second-guessing my social experiences. I always feel like everyone else is cooler than me.

I was 16 then; I’m nearly 22 now, but despite all the time that’s passed, my friends are on a trip without me and I am sad. I’m angry at them; I’ve lost a lot of respect for them, but I still miss them. We had good times. They know stuff about me that other people don’t. It’s stupid to pretend like that’s not the case just for the sake of seeming tough. I am tough and strong – I’ve gotten through things that a lot of other people don’t have to go through. Still caring doesn’t negate that.

I urge you to pay more attention to the people around you. Could you be excluding someone without realizing it? Could you be kinder to someone?

Every time you exclude someone, you are making them feel this way. Maybe not exactly, maybe not to this degree, but I guarantee you that you are hurting them. No one is as tough as they seem. Ask yourself if that’s okay with you, and if they deserve it.

I personally don’t think that anybody does.

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