“What if it’s just you?”…
I’ve heard this sentence two times in the last month, both with very different meanings. It’s made me think about all the times I was desperate to throw credit or blame to another person, and all the times that maybe it was really just me.
When you grow up feeling like you’re special all the time, adjusting to the adult world of knowing everyone is actually sort of average, even those who are exceptional, is rough. It takes a lot of discomfort to get out of a coddled childhood mindset and accept the fact that nobody’s really one of a kind but that doesn’t mean they aren’t “special”, either.
I have a problem where I either blame myself – for everything, or nothing. I have absolutely no middle ground for who is responsible for the good and bad things that happen in my life. And sometimes, I guess, it’s just me.
In the last year, I ended a relationship that was mutually toxic. Both people were suffering, and at first, it’s very easy to exclaim – THIS IS ALL MY FAULT – and then way easier, later, to say NO, IT’S YOURS. But neither one of those statements is entirely true. As a result of the terminated relationship, I cut ties with most mutual friends and acquaintances, and took a leap into the true Facebook purge that everyone threatens and deleted, unfollowed or even blocked about 300 – 350 people in the last 9 months. Some of those people I still like or care about, but I am better off without a constant update on their lives. Being vocal about my dismay, I have no issue complaining about how lonely this feels, and how it feels like nobody likes me.
As per the usual, I made a complaint on Facebook about how my luck with dating women hasn’t really been that great. A social media friend of mine made the comment “What if it’s just you?”, in other words, and went on to say that if all of my romantic pursuits were failing the same way – that I actually may be the toxic factor involved in them, being that I am the only constant. Although there is a bunch of merit to the proposition, it takes some breaking down. Psychologically and emotionally, people tend to attract the same sort of situations. Men and women in abusive relationships are more likely to move on to other abusive relationships. We all have “types”, so to say, even if they are unhealthy. The fact that most of my relationships start off extreme and then taper into a rough and awkward silence could be due to the fact that I inadvertently attract people who will eventually react that way to me. That maybe I’m not necessarily toxic in general – but that I am toxic to whatever kind of person I am attracted to, which would explain my many lonely years of unrequited love and the feeling of a general unfairness of the world. Since this, each time I interact with someone and it goes badly, I wonder… “is this just me?” I’ve accepted the times it has been, taken lengths to apologize to a few people, and also made a point to move on from the relationships that were beginning and ending that way. It’s like carrying a dead weight along the road with no real destination, and the pained interactions were not benefiting the carrier or the weight. It’s okay to accept that you meet awesome people, and sometimes you just aren’t compatible as friends or more, but that doesn’t determine who is “good” and who is “bad”, sometimes it’s just not.
On to the next phase…
I’m in New York City. I’m seeing Amanda Palmer for the first time in concert. I’m overwhelmed and full of love and a happy heart. At the show, I befriended two strangers (a couple), and we ended up going out for pizza afterwards. Myself, my friend B, and our two new friends traveled to some questionable pizza shop via bus in NYC in the middle of the night. I was talking about how my experience meeting Amanda was just sublime and how the month before I had met another one of my heroes, and I rambled on about how grateful I am to know so many wonderful people and have all these great experiences. I said I couldn’t believe how wonderful all the people in my life are. One of our new friends says, in other words, “What if it’s just you?”
This time it meant something totally different. Instead of throwing a blame at me, he was offering me credit. Credit is just as hard to take as the blame in a lot of cases. He was suggested that the reason that all of these great things happen to me – the people that I meet, the friends I make, the interactions I have are because I am good and worthy of them. I asked him, “What do you mean?” and he said “You seem to be the one that’s great.”
WHAT IF it’s possible that the reason that I have these amazing experiences has nothing to do with luck, or chance, but rather that I am actually the good person I’ve always striven to be, and despite the fact that sometimes I am the reason that things go wrong, that it’s okay to also accept that sometimes I am the reason that things go right. And that there shouldn’t be any burden to taking the credit. Things like this come full circle.
I’ve spent all this time re-evaluating all of the experiences I’ve had recently, wondering where I need to pick up blame and where I also need to pick up credit. Which scorned friend, which wrong path I chose to walk. I find, like most things, the good and bad balance themselves out – just not always necessarily at the same time. Sometimes the see-saw is stuck with the heavy kid on the playground for a little too long, but the good always pushes back up… and if he doesn’t, well, the big kid will eventually have to go home – he still has a curfew like everyone else. Nothing is permanent, which is alleviating and scary.
So… What if it really is just me? What does that mean? What does it mean to take full responsibility for how you treat people, and how receptive you are of the treatment from others? It means growth. It means stepping back from living your life as a self-centered young person to take the time to observe the true meaning of consequence. Dwelling on the past is always unhealthy, but can be used as learning process, as it should, but we can’t copy and paste our new found thought practices into the backgrounds of our lives. We must move on from them.
So here I am, 23 years old. I have less friends than ever – but more friends than ever. They are different kinds of friends. More people, now than ever, have an opinion about me. I am not responsible to live up to that opinion – good or bad, because what other people think about me is usually not my business. When they taunt “takes one to know one”, it really just means that we attract what we are – the good and the bad. So for the people I’ve brought into my life who end up being toxic, negative or even traumatizing, that means I’ve been that person for someone before, too. The good people who gladly welcome themselves into my life – that means I’m that good person, too.
If I open my eyes entirely, without wearing the shades of the past – I see something like truth:
Good things will happen to you if you let them. Bad things will happen to you if you make them happen. One of them takes a lot more effort, but it’s the easier one to do (and which is which is up to you to determine). It doesn’t take much to re-wire our default settings… sometimes it just takes one sentence… “What if it’s just you?”