“A friend? Well..to me it means someone who you can rely on. Like someone you can trust with stuff.”
When I was in my twenties, I got my right shoulder tattooed with 2 dragons intertwined. It’s a cool tat but the meaning behind it isn’t. It was my statement to the world that my social skills or lack thereof, were dragons, but if they were behind me, they’d never catch up and have a chance to eat me alive.
However pitiful that might be, there it is.
I’ve been a loner for a long time.
It may be hard to believe now but I wasn’t always that way. I remember consciously making the choice to become an introvert early in my teen years. After everything I had gone through and was still going through, retreat wasn’t an option but a necessity.
I much preferred the silent comfort of books, vivid imagination and my own company; newly acquired quirks and all. None of those things demanded I talk.
I lived for myself, within myself. It was much safer and came with no risk.
My reasoning was that if I kept people at arm’s length, I didn’t risk the pain of losing them and protected my heart and emotions at the same time. If I didn’t open up and allow them in, it wouldn’t hurt nearly as bad if they went away.
Except this coping mechanism became a way of life. The give and take of what makes a friendship work started to feel foreign to me and the few social skills I had grew rusty with disuse.
“What makes a friend? I guess it’s like knowing they have your back no matter what. I don’t know, why do you ask?”
Small talk became one of the dragons I gave up trying to slaughter. Interpersonal communications, the other. Both of which were a mental strain, utterly exhausting and just not worth the prize. After I had said all I could say on topics revolving around the weather and gas prices, I was done. Convo over. Buh bye.
I was sooo much fun at parties as I’m sure you can imagine.
Before I decided to take one last ride to another road, I didn’t let myself have friends. Not really. I had acquaintances. It never was getting them that was the issue, it was keeping them without giving too much of myself. That was the challenge and it never worked for long.
And if they chose to move on, so be it. I wasn’t invested. Easy come, easy go. On to the next one. And the next. And the next. It worked for me. But things have changed.
A click happened. I went to bed and woke up changed. I’m living (mostly) fearless and part of this means I am allowing myself to open up again. It doesn’t come without having to slay some dragons and it’s not without it’s missteps, but I have help now.
“Being friends means I accept your weirdness and you accept mine. I’m not as weird as you though. Oh, and being there when they need you most.”
I have 2 friends. Yes, actual friends. Much better ones to me than I am to them, but I’m still having to re-learn what I’ve willfully forgotten over the years. Both of whom are my mirror opposite. Calm and reflective where I am not. Patient, tenacious, and even downright twisted when dealing with a reluctant, making every excuse in the book (and inventing a few on the fly) me.
It’s working. I’m being brought out, though with decidedly less grace than I’d like to admit, and back into the world once more. I’ve been to a book fair, been to see a bridge under construction on the first day of fall, and another bridge lit up for the night while the cooling air kissed across my skin.
I’ve been to the other side of the river and I’ve had my perception changed. While I have to admit that that side of the river is prettier than mine, Hoosier drivers are crazier. Take that as gospel from a driver who can drive fast but still uses turn signals and is competent. Can I get an amen from the Hallelujah choir?
I’ve had drinks after work in places where conversation has to be made and have started to hold my own in the convo department. My small talk may not sparkle just yet, but at least it’s more than more than gas prices and weather.
I’ve tasted calamari for the first time (live fearless, remember?) in a quiet restaurant and was so far out of my comfort zone that I could barely look up from my plate for fear of what I was supposed to talk about next. But I did it and I liked it.
“Friends listen and comfort, they don’t run when you tell them the painful things.”
I’ve decided that it’s okay to be myself, good and weird. Because if that friend is a true one, they’ll stick around. Every day gets better now. I’ve come so far in 2 months. I hope that I can live out loud for the rest of my life, because my dragons are officially dead as doornails.