Most of my conversations have orbited around the theme of vulnerability and forgiveness over the last week. I don’t know if this is due to the influence of some astrological phenomenon, hormonal surge or the sheer number of hours I’ve spent listening to Sufjan Stevens. It could very well be a combination of all the above.
I’ve taken a lot of time to step back and look at life for what it is, spent a lot of time thinking about transformation and growth. I think of where I’ve been and the gulfs I’ve crossed to get to where I am now. Then I think about where I’m headed in the future and I relish in the fact that I’m no longer filled with insurmountable dread with the mention of a life beyond today. The uncertainties arouse excitement now, as opposed to fear, and I am grateful to feel anything remotely resembling positivity again.
Periodically, I find myself born again and this process is akin to shedding old stagnant skin. This time round, it feels very significant after a period of dormancy and struggle, as though I’m approaching a milestone. I can feel it. A weird tingle in my limbs as if I were on the precipice of a big change, toes curled over the cliff edge as a gentle breeze whips through my hair. Recently everything seemed to speed up and now I’m hurtling towards the beginning of a new chapter in my life with a new job, a new attitude and a renewed (albeit limited) sense of self-confidence.
Yet simultaneously, the frayed threads of old friendships and the dull ache of unresolved situations have resurfaced, demanding acknowledgement. I’ve been reconnecting with friends dispersed across the country and some even further away, oceans apart. There’s been a lot of nostalgic pangs and a pining for the simplicity of things, before all the drama and discord. There’s also been a lot of reflection, a lot of dialogue about the situations and people who have left us feeling aggrieved over the years, never fully at peace.
It’s weird how life carries on but there’s always a niggling temptation to turn back and finish the unfinished, even if that means digging up all the unsaid things and the feelings that were so overwhelming, we had no choice but to bury them. We’re all distracted with the hustle and bustle of our lives but every now and then, a memory cuts through the noise and forces us to take a minute.
There’s always the urge to reach out and say hi, to be candid, to abandon double entendres and smokescreens. However, these situations usually end with fingers hesitating above the keyboard, blank spaces remaining blank in the messenger chat-window, beneath the face of a stranger who was once a close friend.
The problem is: vulnerability has become synonymous with weakness. Opportunities for dialogue and restoration have been dismissed in favour of anger and denial because people aren’t emotionally mature enough to accept the responsibility of their own actions. One thing I have been thinking about is my role in past situations and my tendency to try to justify people’s toxic behaviours, to try and understand how they came to harbour intolerance even when it’s at my expense.
I’ve put up with misogyny, racism, classism and above all, a lot of inappropriate advances from people I’ve called friends. I’ve forgiven most of these encounters or failed to confront them, out of fear, shock or just sheer exhaustion. Schooling people who aren’t open to thinking or feeling beyond their perspectives are generally akin to non-receptive brick walls- it’s a futile battle.
I have expended time, energy and emotions into attempting to restore. This is a frustrating cause when it seems you’re the only person able to take full accountability. Historically, I have apologised for things that aren’t even my fault because I like to pacify situations and because others seem unable to generate conversation, stubborn in their silences, bound by emotional immaturity.
I don’t believe in regrets. I believe in mistakes and I believe in seeing everything, whether good or bad, as imperative steppingstones. It’s all part of a learning curve, if you choose to use it that way. I’m choosing to use this week of weirdness as a sign- unlike others, I don’t struggle with apologies. I don’t struggle with critiquing myself or accepting my fallibility, in fact, these are my strengths because my self-esteem is abysmal. However, my goal moving forward is to embrace another type of vulnerability that is challenging for me personally. So, from this point forth, I am accepting that I have the right to boundaries and that I should practice enforcing those boundaries, even when I’m super uncomfortable. I’m choosing to respect myself by accepting that other people’s actions do hurt me and that I am entitled to feel that hurt. I shouldn’t feel obligated to always make it easier for the other person, to pretend I’m unaffected. I shouldn’t put their feelings, as the perpetrators, above my own when I have been mistreated or disrespected. I shouldn’t expend my energy on vampires and I shouldn’t feel as though I have to tolerate the toxicity of individuals who I’d be better off without. Some people are worth the work and others, sadly, are not. This is okay. This is something I have to learn to accept or else I’ll spend the rest of my life systematically burning out, carrying the weight of other people when my own weight is tough enough.
To the people I’ve left behind:
I feel the comfort of your familiar faces and remember the way we used to laugh until we could no longer produce sound, the way the wine bottles were full one minute and depleted the next. I find myself curious as to what became of you all. I wonder whether I could have tolerated more but also respect myself enough to know you treated me badly. I feel guilty for walking away but also bound to my decision out of principle, because I tried until I couldn’t try anymore. I wonder what more I could have done to change the outcome we ended up with but I also take pride in knowing that I’ve acted with dignity, confronting situations honestly and as maturely as possible. I wonder whether it affects you at all, whether you ever stop to think about your role in the picture we occupied before we both abandoned the frame. I wonder why you’re all still afraid to apologise, why you evade the uncomfortable truth like a figure-skater holding onto the rim of the ice-rink, afraid to let go and roam into the middle.
I’m here and I’m ready to bury the hatchet whenever you are. Only, this time it’ll be on my terms. If you want things to be resolved, confront them and come to terms with your behaviour, your mistakes, your grievances. It’s not my job to do it for you and I can’t hold your hand or pretend I don’t need acknowledgement and/or apology. I’ve given all that I can. I’ve extended olive branches and you’ve laughed back in my face. I’ve tried to initiate some sort of peace treaty, on multiple occasions, only to have more experiences of conflict afterwards because people perpetuate the same disgusting patterns of behaviour.
Unresolved things bring me great dissatisfaction. Degrading myself for twenty-five years so that other people can feel better about themselves has brought me even greater dissatisfaction. No more.