I very much like to deny what so many others also delude themselves about: my unparalleled ability to assume that I know how others see me.
Take my close friend Petra, for example. She’s incredibly intelligent and she knows it. She has the MENSA certificate to prove it. When we became friends, her intelligence is part of what I admired about her. But like my grandmother always said: familiarity breeds contempt and I’ve accumulated quite a bit of contempt for our Petra. She has a tendency to talk to me like I’m one of her toddler kids and when she does that I want to get in my car and drive over her. And then reverse and drive over her again. It took some strong introspection for me to realize she does that with everyone when she’s agitated.
Now I check my annoyance and resentment at the door. At least, I try to.
But there is one person in my life whose perspective of me is not a figment of my overactive and oversensitive imagination.
Let’s call her Melora. Melora come from one of the wealthiest families in my town and when we were 6 years old in our fancy ass school, she was the princess and I was one of the invisible kids with my lower working class folks and apparent lack of talent for anything but shying away in a corner. I liked her but was too painfully shy to ever show it, so I just sort of sat near her and her friends during break times until, eventually, I became part of her circle of friends.
But as the years moved on and the universe shifted on its axis, our stars changed. A lot. But that has done nothing for her position on who I am. She mocks me about the same things, she still considers her parents worthy of admiration and mine ‘simple but good people’, and she still sees me as a poor little poor girl.
Now let me throw some clarity at you: I’m not wealth by any wild stretch of the imagination. But neither is she…in a big way.
And you know what, that’s fine, I don’t care what she thinks when she’s schlopping along in life. But what I care deeply about…what I hate, in fact…is that I see myself exactly the way she does whenever we meet to ‘catch up’.
Isn’t it strange how we can fall back into roles when we engage with childhood peoples? Like our minds refuse to move on and divorce from what we used to be. And what do we do about it? Do I cut her out of my life completely? Or do I muster the inner strength and by a series of interludes with this ‘friend’ force myself out of this mental quicksand?
Many years ago I moved to a large city in my country to finish my master’s degree. I lived in this city for three years and my hands-down favorite thing about this time was the freedom I felt to blossom into who I was then…without the contamination of historical views. It was wonderful.
We tell our kids to hang on to childhood friends. I heard that so many times as a child and young adult. But I think now that one should be careful in the hanging on. Hang on to those friends whose eyes can adjust to who you’ll become and leave behind the memories of who you were.
Time for wine. And I think tonight I’ll crack open the good bottle…