Take Back The Night

As wonderful as it is being on a campus filled with so many different events, it’s a rare event that I ever take part in them. In some cases, work plays a factor in it. Other times, it falls upon my own self-interest.

One of my best friends I met through working at the caf had an event last month. She works at Western’s health center as part of their peer education team, and is a staff member of FIRE (Fighting Ignorance and Rape through Education), which I think is a wonderful thing that exists. It is so incredibly vital to educate as many people as possible about both the services available to rape and sexual assault victims, and about the fact that bystanders can play as important of a role as the people who commit these crimes.

On any ordinary day, most on-campus events wouldn’t bear much interest with me. But this one seemed important. Plus my friend was involved with the event, so naturally I felt obligated to participate. It provided me an additional bonus too; I was required to go to different events and places around Kalamazoo as part of a community learning portfolio assignment for my communications class, so shortly after 6:30, I left the confines of my apartment to venture to the nearly multicultural building, met up with two of my other friends, and strapped myself in.

Holy. Shit. This was so impressively moving and emotional, and for someone who has the misfortune of rarely being able to cry, this almost made it happen. The experiences these people have gone through is unimaginable, because it’s truly one of those experiences that completely takes away whatever innocence you have and makes it enormously challenging to trust any new person who comes into your life, out of fear for what can happen.

In elementary school, as remarkable as this sounds, I had a social life. I actually did things and hung out with people. To any person, yes, this is basic to a fault. It’s a given. But for me, it was everything.

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was around 6 and began taking medicine to curb it sometime around there, varying between different doses of Adderall, Strattera, and Concerta (not all at once; my mom and my doctor decided it best to switch brands and doses over the years). The hyperactivity was subdued. My attention span was intact. But by far my greatest struggle was my shyness. I didn’t have the outgoing personality and charm that so many in elementary school had. I had a few friends, sure, but they were definitely few and far between, so any opportunity I had to hang out with someone was the equivalent of Christmas morning.

And like any kid in elementary school, like any regular person, I had a best friend.

We did nearly everything together. We both loved Pokemon and video games. We were both into some of the same cartoons and TV shows. We both had very similar imaginations. And we especially both loved to have fun. His family was more on the religious side, but I never viewed that as anything negative. It was just there, it was just a fact of who he is.

Like any friends, we slept over at each other’s house. What I remember being my first night at his place, I had a horrible anxiety attack mere moments before we went to bed, forcing his dad to drive me back home (which was a very brief 30-second drive as we didn’t live very far from each other at all).

The second time turned out much differently.

We went to put our pajamas on, and he wanted me to take off my underwear, which was something I was very uncomfortable with. His bed was not very big and I wasn’t too keen on sleeping on a couch, so I was forced to share it with him. And as far as I can remember, he attempted (and failed) to take advantage of me sexually, making me swear up and down not to tell his parents, like it was a new game he invented.

Naturally because we were friends, I was more than willing to go along with it. But some time later, the story was uncovered: He and a group of about 20 or so other boys in the area had all, at one point or another, tried to sexually harass and assault a group of 20 or so other people who were labeled as their friends, both boys and girls.

In elementary school, my best friend tried to sexually assault me. That’s not exactly an easy thing to carry around, at least it wasn’t back then.

And when I fully grasped what had happened, it broke me. My friendships with the other people I was friends with (who happened to be friends with him by extension) broke off. My social life came to a complete halt. I was terrified to trust people again, out of fear for what could happen. It was a hard position to be in: I wanted to make friends. I so desperately wanted to reclaim the life I had lost, to actually feel like a normal person. Yet my fear is what kept me in a cage, in my own personal imprisonment. Sometime later, the song “Outside Looking In” by Jordan Pruitt became very relevant to my life.

But over time, I realized I had to continue to try to talk to people, because I certainly wouldn’t get anywhere living in fear. And over time, I’ve managed to make friends…though sparingly. The constant, recurring theme I’ve been running into are people who I truly and genuinely want to be friends with eventually get sick of me and refuse to have anything to do with me after a certain point, and it sucks, mostly because there’s nothing I can do about it.

Recently, I had a very unexpected conversation with the guy I previously mentioned in my last post. Out of nowhere, he mentioned a recent conversation we had over FaceTime where I (jokingly) said he wouldn’t be in a relationship with me because I thought he didn’t think I was attractive enough. It may have been in jest, but in actuality, it’s one of my legitimate fears and insecurities, and when he said he wanted to explain himself after I already knew what was coming, I simply told him I learned a valuable lesson about perseverance, I’m not mad, so on and so forth, but, not enough to deter him, he said that he believes my very first relationship shouldn’t be long-distance.

Honestly, that’s a much better reason than what I was mentally prepared for, or even what I had believed up to that moment. I can 100% see where he’s coming from, because as much as I want to believe I can handle whatever’s thrown at me, the fact I’ve been single my whole life isn’t exactly the best-case scenario for me to be in with this situation. And while I wish the promise of “waiting on me is 100% your decision” could have turned out much better in my favor or, perhaps, I didn’t get so attached so quickly, this would’ve been easier to handle. But honestly I had my mental breakdown the month before, so aside from the ever-classic heart sinking to the pit of your stomach feeling, there wasn’t much sadness left that I could genuinely feel that I hadn’t felt already.

It did feel nice to finally come clean to him about how I felt, and it would’ve been nice if this conversation happened once I actually met him in person and validated my feelings, as I initially planned on doing this summer before those plans got ruined.

Maybe if I was better, maybe if I avoided more of his deal-breakers, this could be different. We remain friends, with me having to pretend like everything is fine. I know he’s moved past it already. I wish I could do the same and get over it just as quickly. Believing for 10 months you have a shot at dating someone only to end up being rejected unfortunately doesn’t do much to help that, because that’s a lot of emotional baggage to shift through. But once again, nobody cares but me.

And yes, as time as gone on, it’s become easier to handle. Time has been a marvelous remedy. I am fine being friends with him, but there’s still a part of me that wishes it could be different.

A guy I’ve been interested in at work for the past three months shot me down a month ago via text. “I don’t know how to say this so I’m just going to say it. I don’t have feelings for you. I like you as a friend, but that’s it.” It was a lot more blunt than I was prepared for, and for the last several days of the semester, I was stuck in a horrible mindset of feeling not good enough, because maybe, just maybe, if I was a better person, a better friend, a better something, he wouldn’t have rejected me. But the constant theme of my life is coming so close but never actually getting what it is I’m after.

And yes, it hit me hard, because I spent the last two months attempting to get to know a guy who didn’t have any keen interest on getting to know me. I chased after something and someone in the belief that maybe, just maybe for the very first time in my life, a guy would actually give me a chance, but now I realized that all my efforts to include him in me and my friend’s plans whenever we had something going on on the weekends were not always convenient homework sessions for him; in some cases, he may very well have turned down those offers out of fear something between me and him would’ve happened, and I’m kicking myself I didn’t catch on sooner.

Once again, this is something that only affects me. It only matters to me. This is almost a month-old occurrence and by now he’s more than moved on. For all I know, he sent that text and never gave me or the whole situation a second thought. And out of embarrassment, I was determined to avoid him at work. How can you pick up a friendship, or what little there was of one, after being rejected like that? Even now, I wish we actually had more opportunities to get to know each other, because the only interaction we had was between shifts at work where he was usually getting done and I was typically clocking in. If he had rejected me after spending a decent chunk of time getting to know me outside of work, I probably would’ve handled this much better, considering the only two times we’ve hung out have been times where he was drunk. Disappointed, yes, but then it’d make more logical sense to me. And quite honestly, no, as tempting as it might be, I don’t even want to know the big reason why he’s not interested. I’ve had enough critiques and criticisms about me as a person, and I don’t need more unsolicited comments to add to the pile.

And yet, I’ve found it hard to ignore someone you almost inevitably see on some of the days I work. And sure enough the last Thursday of finals week, I had signed up to work most of the day, and around 2PM when I walked over to one of the milk machines to get a drink, boom. There he was. And our conversation was literally like nothing ever happened. It was like we picked up right where we left off the last time I talked to him (which, prior to that, was a week and a half ago). Nothing earth-shattering had happened. No awkwardness. Nothing.

Was I expecting an apology? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. But after that, and after one of my friends told me of a get-together he was having at his place the following night, I realized being friends with him was better than nothing at all. It’s only an extremely bitter pill of irony that my third opportunity to finally hang out with him happens after he rejects me, and I have to settle for being friends.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m nice and sweet and amazing and things like that, and as flattering as it is at times and as much as I occasionally disagree with their assessments of me, the one thing that still frazzles me is how, if I’m supposedly such an awesome person, I’m not able to get a boyfriend, someone I can physically see and hang out with and feel? Something about me isn’t good enough, and either the people I’ve come into contact with have been hiding it from me or I’m just too blind to realize it for myself.

Maybe I’m too short. Maybe I need to lose weight. Maybe I need more friends, more of a social life. Maybe I need to be more outgoing. Maybe I need to be less clingy at times. Maybe I need to overreact less. These and so many more things are things I certainly agree with and want to desperately work on, and then, maybe then, I’ll be lucky to get a boyfriend.

Something about me, between the guy from work and the guy I met from Twitter, isn’t good enough. I need to find out what that is if I have any hope of having any sort of future, because after college if I don’t have my life together, I won’t have a life at all.

I’ve spent too much of my life feeling like I’m not, nor will ever be, good enough, and that has to change. I have to believe I’ll be good enough for somebody. And as nice as it would be to have someone call me theirs, I need to make sure this is a person that’s within the same zip code as me, or at least someone I’ve physically seen and hung out with first. Yet the only way this may happen is if I get lucky.

It’s going to be an uphill battle. And after going to my friend’s event and realizing all of that, I know I have a lot of work to do. I’m not where I want to be, not even remotely close, but I’m slowly getting there. I may have suffered some setbacks, and this will not be the last time I’ve had these negative feelings about myself, but I’m still determined to find the strength to move beyond it.

My life has continued to be a gradual series of coming so close to what I want, but never fully getting it. And in a way, I’m fighting the same fight I did in middle school and high school, but rather than try and regain a social life, I’m trying to get a life, a future, something that lets me know I’m actually worth it to somebody, because the only thing I’ve typically known is how much I’ve been treated like an empty space.

And maybe that’s the reason I’ve strived for positions like section leader and drum major in my high school’s marching band, and continuing to work with them as a pit instructor and drum major coach, not to mention becoming a supervisor at my on-campus job. It’s not just been for personal benefit; I also want to feel like I actually matter in some aspects to people, because it’s been a feeling I haven’t had a whole lot of for much of my life. I’m not a selfish person in the least, nor do I believe the world revolves around me in any aspect, but for once, I want to feel like I genuinely matter to somebody.

Plenty of people have told me how nice and sweet I am, but I want to feel it. Because physically feeling an emotion is far better than reading it on a screen. It’s nice to have people say things like that to me. It means a lot. But I want to physically feel what that’s like.

I still have a lot of work to do. But I feel like I’m slowly getting there. It’s been a constant process of two steps forward and one step back, but I just have to remind myself that someday, everything will be fine.

And eventually, the night will be mine again, along with everything in-between.

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