In high school, I was the definition of a puppy dog crush, chasing this girl around as best I could without being too obvious. She always seemed cool, collected, calculated, mysterious... all the things I was not, growing up. I was attracted to that, but also saw it as a barrier separating us; because, after all- how could a girl like that like a guy like me?
I was a holy mess. Socially awkward. Never quite sure of my place. Drifting in and out of close friendships, and never really feeling like I was worth the time it took to get to know me. But no way I was going to let anyone know that.
So instead of bottling it up and being shy and reserved, I did the opposite growing up. I told jokes. I spread myself around. I made sure everyone had a high opinion of me at all times, regardless of how tiring that eventually got.
Of course, the only opinion I really cared about at the time was that of my high school crush. Sometimes she paid attention, sometimes she didn't. Sometimes I'd hear she'd mentioned me in conversations with others, sometimes she would comment on my Xanga and MySpace pages... and sometimes I'd hear nothing from her for weeks at a time. I lived for the moments when she noticed me.
Because I was a wreck. I was figuring out who I was. And she appeared to have most everything already figured out.
Years later, I ended up marrying that same girl, and we have lots of conversations now about what life was like for us back then. I'm sure you know where this is going...
Kelli was probably even more confused, awkward, and socially inept than I was. She never fit in either, she was just good at hiding it like I was. I thought she spent almost every night partying it up with all of the school friends I wasn't cool enough to hang out with all the time; when in reality, she spent most every night of the week quietly watching television or playing video games with her siblings- pretty much the exact same thing I did every night during high school.
I grew up thinking I was the weirdest, dumbest, strangest person I knew. Everyone else around me had their stuff together, and I was just barely hanging on- making moves as I saw others making moves, hoping to be seen and noted, but only because I was cool like everyone else. But at some point you have enough conversations with people to realize that everyone is the exact same way.
One of my favorite episodes of the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey is called "Coming of Age." Little Jimmy Barclay starts going through adolescence; and he is confused, and feeling alone in the world. So Mr. Whittaker gives him one of the best nuggets of truth that the program has ever put forth: "Everyone your age feels the same way you do. No matter how cool or together they may seem on the outside, inside, they're just as scared and confused as you are."
A while ago, I was riffling through some old emails and came across one from a good friend years ago. "I'm a great liar," he confessed, "I'm a pro at the mask," he went on, before speaking more broadly: "It's not that you can't trust anyone, but seriously- everyone's messed up no matter how good their mask looks. They're a train wreck like everyone else."
These are just things I've been thinking about lately. There's no neat bow to wrap around it. It just is what it is. No one has a clue, everyone's just making it up as they go along. So, I guess, I mean it more as a stress reliever than a call to action.
Take heart! Everyone else is as stupid as you are. We're all in it together. Your confusion and insecurity is just more obvious to you because you're the only one who has to live in your own body.
So just rest in that knowledge, let yourself breath. Equipped with that knowledge, maybe find someone not so comfortable in their own skin and let them know they have a friend in you, because you have no idea what you're doing either. Thank Yahweh for it!
One of my best friends since senior year of high school is a guy named Barry. His friendship has always been greatly appreciated, because he's pretty much the only really close guy friend I've had since high school, aside from my brother and my father. But the thing is, Barry and I don't have much in common. We get along great, and we have fun, always. He's a great friend, and we've seen each other through a lot of good and hard times. But if I really had to sit back and think about it, I'd be hard pressed to come up with even a short list of similarities that we share. It's always puzzled me how we've stayed such good buds for so long. I related this to Kelli the other day- "Barry and I have very little in common," I said. "I think the only reason we're still friends is because he has stuck with me."
"Well, you've stuck with him, too," she replied. "You two have that in common."