Loyalty

I wanted to start early with one of my heaviest of weaknesses, of a feeling (not a tangible item) that I am powerless against. Sometimes the greatest character traits, the things we most aspire to, can hold us back from our own achievements or self-love.

This story starts more than 10 years ago. I had met a boy in high-school who, aside from being totally in love with (young foolish child love, not the real kind as I would learn years later), was also my best friend. The kind of best friend that usually only exists in the movies or in a good book: I could look at him and just KNOW what he was thinking. He would should up to my house late at night without the need for an invitation just to talk. We dreamed together, laughed together, and shared our insecurities together. We even went to prom together, although merely as friends, and promised to stay in touch no matter what in college.

Of course, that is much harder to do than say. Things changed on both sides, as they inevitably do as you get into your 20’s. My father was fading into alcoholism and I didn’t know how to reach out to anyone, so I plunged myself into my studies and boyfriends (more on this another time). He joined the track team and became heavily involved in eco-travel and peace studies, something I couldn’t relate to. Days turned to weeks which turned to months without talking…and neither of us really seemed to mind.

When his girlfriend broke up with him in 2010 and his mom reached out I called immediately, because it was the only thing I knew how to do. I had always been terrible at letting go, or protecting myself from heartbreak, so I dove back in head first. When they got back together, we inevitably stopped talking. When my grandmother died suddenly in 2012 he drove 3 hours to the funeral, and left promptly afterward. Friendship (and loyalty) are funny like that: time may move forward, but the emotions stay grounded in the past. Despite the time between conversations I occasionally felt obligated to pick up the phone, as if my heart (and my head) were permanently stuck in the halls of our high-school. I moved back home soon after…and it was as if we had never let go. We were best friends again and practically inseparable. We spent a whole summer as if the years apart were just a dream.

Our story does not have a happy ending. As they typically warn you about in the movies, we considered acting on that school-age foolish love, and when it never moved forward I never got past it. I spiraled out of control; admittedly my own fault. He made choices I couldn’t agree with and couldn’t not vocalize; he refused to talk with me through our problems as we had as teenagers. We grew apart. We both met significant others that lasted…and the few-and-far-between phone calls grew even farther apart. I tried to rekindle our friendship, to save it when I finally got past the feeling of having my childhood heart crushed…but there was nothing left to save. He had moved on too, and asked me to stop calling.

That was 2 years ago.

I still think about him. Nearly every day.

I am powerless to loyalty and friendship. Our story is not one full with an abundance of happy memories: instead it is full with a smattering of smiles covered in pain, heartbreak, and confusion. Yet, I can’t fully let go. Everything tells me I should. I am only hurting myself by still thinking about him. My other friends tell me I am better off, but am I?

I know in my heart of hearts that if he were to call, or we were to run into each other in the small world that is South Jersey, I know I would not be able to walk away. I know I would find myself in the locker-filled hallways of high-school again. I know I’d jump to his beck-and-call because I don’t know how to turn that part of me off. He is engraved in my life…and I am powerless to my loyalty to him.

He could discard his friendship. He could move forward. Me? I’m stuck.

Don’t get me wrong. Powerless-ness does not mean I am not bitter. I’m angry that he let go. I’m hurt that I still feel a connection for someone who feels so little for me. I’m confounded by the fact that my emotions can run such a gambit. I am powerless to my inability to move forward, but I am bathed in negativity towards the situation.

By admitting that I am powerless to my loyalty, that I am haunted by my inability to close a door, maybe the failed friendship will slowly start to take a back seat to my story. Maybe I won’t remember a missed birthday. Maybe I’ll stop counting the days. Maybe I’ll fold up our story into a little box that can be locked away as happy memories, and let it live where it is supposed to.

Maybe I’ll learn to be loyal only when it makes ME happy.

And maybe I’ll stop always trying to be loved by someone else, and start just loving myself.

-Joanie

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