True sentiments, to be sure, no matter how Hallmark Cardtm they may seem. But that's not all I learned. It wasn't all kumbaya.
Yesterday I just made the choice to stop looking back. Here's what I've learned 10 years later.... I have been given a gift to still be here - ten years later. I honour it by looking forward. I was a 19 year old twink when it happened. Heck, I'd only graduated highschool a few months earlier! And where I was in my life was not a positive place. It was a life of hurt. I'd just Come Out, I was full of self-doubt and insecurity and out of my teenage desperation for validation I was (at the time) dating a guy who in truth certainly didn't like me very much, let alone love me, and yet we insisted on inflicting pain on each other for way too long because, hey, that's what stupid young dudes do. Two incompatible Kids playing Grown-Up.
It's a pattern I repeated in many relationships in my life. All kinds of relationships. Kristin Wiig's character in "Bridesmaids"?? Hi, Me! For real. Seeing that was like "Ouch, me."
But I'm not that anymore. I won't kneel (unless you make it worth my while, *wink wink*) and I won't allow myself to be mistreated by people and (mis)used by them as a tool to repair their own deflating egos or angers.
In all areas of my life I let people use me. My acting teachers pointing it out - I "apologize" with my pelvis when I stand - the pelvic tilt; subconsciously physically submitting to people, letting them control me. Friends who kept me around because they liked having a "sidekick", not an Equal. Work - employers and fellow employees who treated me like shit because I let them. Relationships - boys who liked how I made them feel about themselves; desired, sexy, powerful, in control. Sex. They didn't like me, they liked being a King.
The years spent allowing myself to let other people use me for their own intentions. I have let myself submit to people, and I have allowed them to use me. It was my doing. A codependency I clearly sought out. It's self-punishment.
Not the most expected lesson to be gleaned from the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, yet I can't deny that that's what I was feeling. That's where my mind is today - and that's where I was 10 years ago.
It's been ten years. From 19 to 29. Nineteen - The kid who let himself be used by anyone and everyone in the hopes that one day they might be 'nice' and thus make me feel like I was finally worth something. The kid who would go running back to a 'boyfriend' that not only didn't love me but didn't even actually *like* me, because we clearly were more scared of being alone than of being unhappy with each other. Being terrified of sex at the same time as thinking of little else. (hi, I was a teen). I mistook a case Stockholm Syndrome for Love with the first dude I was ever with (that's sorta canon for all of us, right?) and that was a fun beginning to my association of sex and my sense of self-worth. I was involved in a "secret sexual relationship" with a guy, at age 18. I asked him why we couldn't date publicly and was flatly told "We can't...everyone will laugh at me." That's my first experience being with a guy - being told, straight up, that we can only be together in secret because people will laugh at him if they find out he's seeing me. And I believed it. And I carried that for years, and didn't even realize it. People didn't want me, not the "me" that existed in public. Young enough, insecure enough, and in truth SAD enough to want something to be something it utterly was not, nor really should have been. You hold onto pain and pretend it's love because at least it's something.
I know that you can't love anyone else, and nobody else can truly love you, if you don't love yourself. It's the main thesis of every self-help book ever. There. I just saved you buying one and reading it. That's the message. Most importantly, at this junction in my life, is the acceptance that some cycles will repeat until you put your foot down and demand that they end. Things "keep happening to you" because you let them. People "hurt you again" because you allowed them to. You can't care too much if they don't care as much. Just accept it and step back as well. It's cool. I'm 29 now. Homey gon' play dat.
It's amazing what you learn in a decade. In a post-9/11 world where countries and cultures still wrestle with racism, bigotry, religious fervor and phobias, lies and wars and fights. Truth in art and lies in politics. Forging friendships with people who (finally!) speak the same instinctual language. Friendships, even seemingly "trivial" ones, that are incredibly meaningful, and caring no matter how brief your time together. The person whom you can call up a few times a year on the phone, and rather than any sort of guilty "I know we haven't talked in a while" energy you both just pick up right where you left off. You get it. We have our own lives in different places and spheres of social existence. But we still care. We reach out to each other and respond to each other. Sometimes you reach out to someone, and the response takes a while. Maybe a few weeks. Maybe months. No ill will, just not priority. Sometimes the response never comes. Sometimes we deserve it. Lord knows I've earned it. You try again, and then again. No response. And then you feel like an idiot, an asshole, an annoyance and a failure. Gut kicked, you then realize that you do this, too. It's not "bad", really. Not even negative. At least not always. You just don't care. That's really it. "You'll get back to them." They keep reaching out, and you (for whatever reason) just go "uh...meh....uh.." because you just don't care. And you're allowed not to. And you may get back to them, and you may not. In life there are many types of relationships in which you care about someone more than they care about you. And we all do it, and we've all had it done to us. Friends. Lovers. Partners. Acquaintances even. Energies change, energies shift. Sometimes one feels it, sometimes you both feel it. Most times, though, one person feels it more than the other. So they step back. I've stepped back. I've been stepped away from. We don't all run in sync forever. And that's ok.
Like that Tori Amos lyric, "Girls, you've got to know when it's time to turn the page, or when you're only wet because of all the rain." *Yeah, I was that boy in high school with his Tori Amos obsession. Blame her for all of this.* I apologize to everyone I clung to too hard. I apologize to anyone and everyone I've pushed away. I also forgive everyone who hurt me. Yeah. I forgive you for everything that you will never apologize for, or even admit to. Those that used me know that they used me. And I'm saying that I know that you know. And you won't apologize. I forgive you anyway. I'm just ending a pattern in my life that's only ever hurt me. Its hurts badly, eh? But it's ok, because we all go through it. And we all mend. Standing there, on two feet. Like little Rory Calhouns.
And then, at age 29, a kiss that changed my life and made me know that it's all worth it. That someone can actually like me because they actually like me, not just that they like the way I make them feel about themselves. And it happens with different people, and it's almost magical. The moment your energies just go *ZZZING!* and you snap into each others orbits. I think of my incredible flatmates in London whom I love so dearly. Did you notice I said that sorta British-y? My love for my best friend in the entire world, Ryan, who for ten years has allowed me to grow and stumble (but never so hard that I can't get up) and accepts my weirdness and calls me on my shit because he loves me. And I love him. The people you share your life with whom you connect on an instinctual level. I don't know how else to describe it without sounding like a hippie.
And that kiss. Oh, that kiss.
No matter how far away we are, or whatever crazy turns the universe throws at us, nothing will ever change the truth and purity of it.