Exclusion and Confusion

I normally don’t dive too deep into certain aspects of my life, especially when it comes to getting all caught up in wallowing in the past, however there is something I just haven’t been able to get out of my mind. I debated writing this, but then I realized this is my blog, and I’m allowed to write whatever I want. Story time:

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a close-knit group of friends. This seems like it would be a good thing, however the problem was that they were all close to each other, but not so much with me. I chose to overlook this fact, because I did genuinely enjoy spending time with them. During the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I purposed the idea of going hiking at a place about 40 miles away. Everyone was on board with the idea and all seemed super excited. The night before we were supposed to go, half of them texted me to tell me they were no longer able to go, so I texted the other half to let them know we were postponing. Everyone seemed completely okay with this, so I figured we would just figure out a different weekend. Fast forward one week later; I was scrolling through my Facebook when I saw pictures of all my friends. At the hiking place. Together. Without me. They all went on a day trip that was my idea and that I had planned without me. Then when I called them out on it, they gave me half assed excuses like “We assumed you had to work,” “It was a last minute thing,” or, my personal favorite, “We figured you wouldn’t want to go.” I was so angry and hurt, but by the end of the conversation, I was the one apologizing.

Now, I’ve told this story a lot over the years, and I do so for two very different reasons. I tell it because it shows just how bizarre my life has been and always gets a lot of laughs, and I am able to laugh about it now. I also tell it at times to help me illustrate how hard high school was for me to get through, but I got through it anyways. And when I tell this story, often times people ask me “Why did you stay friends with them?” Because after this happened, I still stuck by them. When two of them (the two I was closest to) sat me down in the school counselor’s office my junior year, and preceded to tell me everything they thought was wrong with me, I still considered them my friends. At this point, you are most definitely thinking the same thing; why did I stay friends with them. Usually, I shrug this question off and just say “I don’t know,” but the truth is I do know.

After I saw the pictures of them all hiking and having fun without me, I was crushed. I didn’t understand how people could be so cruel and kept asking myself what I had done to deserve that kind of treatment. But while they were feeding me crappy excuses, I realized I had two choices: I could sever all ties with them and go through my last two years of high school completely alone, or I could take those feelings and bury them down deep inside myself and figure out how to look past the whole thing. I stayed friends with them because I had no one else. And each time they did things that made me feel worthless, I did the same thing- I buried my feelings and pretended not to be hurt because at least they included me sometimes. At least I had someone to sit by at lunch. At least I had people to talk to.

By the time I was a senior, I had found a different group of people to hang out with, and began to drift apart from them. I still talked to them on a regular basis, still sat with them at lunch once in a while, and still hung out with them at times. But after I graduated, I moved on with my life and never looked back.

The thing is, I have been excluded my entire my life. In my AP Government class my junior year of high school, the other nine people in the class moved to the opposite side of the room leaving me to sit completely alone on the other side. I had friends come over to my house almost every night during the summer growing up to play night games, but I always picked last when it came time to pick teams. I did group projects alone because everyone else had friends to pair up with, and I was left alone. When I was in eighth grade, I begged one of my classmates to let me be in her group for a video project so I wouldn’t have to be by myself. When I got to college, I thought I was finally with people who accepted me when I joined rugby, but when we were scrimmaging for practice, I was once again the last picked. Every. Single. Time. I’m no stranger to being left out, but I always promised myself I wouldn’t let people treat me the way my group of friends in high school did ever again.

Flash forward to now. I’ve been out of college for over a year and have what I think is a solid group of friends. All summer, I’ve been telling my friends I want to go to a popular amusement park. They say “We’ll find a weekend,” or “Why don’t we wait until the fall?” About two weeks ago, I’m scrolling through Facebook, and I see a picture of the four of them at this park. I was, once again, crushed. When I called them out on it, I got half-assed excuses like “We figured you were working,” “It just happened last minute,” and “We didn’t know you wanted to go.” Talk about déjà vu. I decided that I was done being the one to reach out. I was done being the one to start conversations and make plans. I spent a week fighting the urge to send messages or tag them in Facebook posts and waiting for one of them to reach out to me (and not in response to a group chat with a separate group of people)- to show me they actually did care about me. When none of them did, I again found myself faced with that same choice. And again, I chose to stuff my feelings away, ignore the hurt and anger I felt, and figure out a way to move on because I felt that something that seemed so minor was not worth ending friendships over. It wasn’t worth isolating myself over and it didn’t negate all the good memories. So, I reached out. I buried the sadness and frustration and pretended I wasn’t still hurting.

Except now, I keep asking myself if I’m just making the same mistake again. Will things like this happen over and over again? Will I tell this story years later and have people ask me “Why did you stay friends?” Will I, once again, be continuously left out and forced to pretend that I’m okay with it? Will I be edged out and pushed away? I ask myself why this keeps happening to me. What is so wrong with me that I keep finding myself back here, feeling like I don’t matter to anyone? What more do I have to do to prove that I’m a good person who is worth being friends with? How many more times will I find myself doing things for my friends, when in the back of my mind I know they wouldn’t do the same for me? Am I stupid for choosing to overlook this incident and move on? How many more times will I be stuck feeling this way?

And the hardest part is that I can’t even bring myself to tell them how I feel- to tell them how much they hurt me because I don’t want them to feel bad. I don’t want them to think they’re bad friends, because they truly are the best friends I’ve ever known. They’re the people who come to my rescue whenever I have car problems (which seems to be often). They’re the first people I tell my good news to. They’re the people who take me out to celebrate my success, like getting a new job. They’re the people who ask me to be a part of one of the biggest days of their lives. They’re the people I take vacations with, and don’t even care about what goes wrong. They’re the people who come over just to spend time with me. They’re the people who come to my house at 3am just to make sure I’m okay. They’re the ones who make me laugh in my darkest hours. They’re the ones that put up with my mental health and all the baggage that comes with it. They’re the ones who listen to my problems without trying to “one up” me. They are the people who help me find humor in everything. They are the ones who accept me, even though I have a million flaws and annoying habits. They love me even when I’m not very lovable. They are the people I can’t even picture going through life without, and I just can’t seem to stop trying to show them how much they mean to me. I make their favorite baked goods because I know how much they love them. I ask questions about things I know mean a lot to them, because I know how it feels to have no one to talk about your passions with. I stay up late even when I’m exhausted, because spending time with them is more important to me. I sit outside and freeze for three hours to watch softball games, because I know how it feels to have no one come to support you and I don’t want them to feel that way. I send them pictures that I hope make them laugh to brighten up their day just a little. I tell myself they didn’t mean to hurt me, and that it was just an honest mistake, that it doesn’t bother me, and that I’m over it. I laugh off the hurt and the sadness because I don’t want them to think badly of themselves. I ignore the voice in my head, no matter how loud it gets, that keeps asking me if I’m just making the same mistake.