char sent out a request for us to share 'what i learned.' a life lesson, something gained. char is quite the inspiration, her words and photos. (my goodness, her photos.) i am honored to participate.
two weeks into sixth grade, we moved. i was made fun of the first day in class and shrank into my eleven year old skeleton, hung back in the marrow, away from the surface. one girl, 'em', was nice to me after that. she became my first friend. for awhile, my only friend.
i missed my best friend from elementary school so much i cried daily for the first few months. i was not myself.
it started small. we spent time at em's house, not much at mine. she liked her house better. we played the games she liked to play. we did the things she wanted to do. she would tell me when i looked stupid in an outfit and she would laugh when i mentioned a crush on one of the popular boys. i fed off her negative image of me, it made sense. almost immediately, we were inseparable. co-dependency feels good when you're lost in the unknown.
her house was filthy. so bad that my mom used to make me take a shower whenever i would come back from spending the night there. i remember my mom and step-dad taking em and i to disneyland and i thought they were so awesome because they immediately shelled out big bucks buying us the sweatshirts we wanted right when we got there. my mom told me years later it was because em's clothes were so dirty and smelled so horrible they felt bad for her. i never took my shoes off in her house. there was animal feces on the floor. i brushed my teeth in the kitchen sink because the bathrooms were unsanitary. no one in the house seemed concerned with the issues, however, so i ignored them too.
it's amazing what you can adapt to.
i know we had fun together. i remember going with her to her dad's house in san diego for the weekend on numerous occasions the summer between sixth and seventh grade. we lived at the beach, barbecued and ate ice cream. we read books and watched movies. we talked about our dreams and it felt like what having a best friend should feel like. until we got back to school, seventh grade.
all of a sudden, we weren't in the same class all day. in fact, we didn't have any classes together. our circle of friends grew to include a handful of other girls and tensions started to rise. one of the girls invited me to her house after school one day without em. and i was told i wasn't allowed to go. that if i did, it would mean i wasn't loyal. that i wasn't a good friend. i didn't go.
the "popular" kids started being nice to me. inviting me to things. one girl in particular was hosting a beach party the last week of school and wanted me there. i asked if i could bring em. NO. NO WAY. i didn't go.
our circle of friends shrunk. em had a way of driving away everyone, until it was just me and her. i used to watch these other friends go and i wanted to turn to em, blame her, tell her to just BE NICE TO PEOPLE but i was terrified of her. she had a horrible temper and, after two years, i was really good at keeping it deflected away from me.
finally, the summer before eighth grade, one of the few girls that still talked to em convinced me to end my friendship with her. she sat me down one afternoon while at her house. i had lied to em about going to this girl's house and was making her promise she wouldn't mention anything to em about me being there because i was so terrified of what she would do if she knew i lied. this girl said no, she wouldn't lie. and then she took me outside in the fresh air and held my hands as she said: you need to not be friends with her anymore. she is mean to you. she makes fun of you in front of other people. she puts you down and friends don't do that to each other. if she loved you, she wouldn't want you to feel bad. i know you're scared, but i love you. and i will be there with you if you want. she's not your only friend. i'm your friend, too.
who knows what her exact words were. i just remember her hands, forcing me to listen and that's what i heard.
i broke up with em the next week.
and i started to breathe again.
eighth grade was, quite possibly, the best year of my teenage experience.
thank you, becky carter, for teaching me that i'm worth it.
for teaching me how friendship really works.
for chasing after me when i started walking down the road paved with abuse and manipulation. and for walking back with me until i found my feet again.
you saved my life.
**in response to char's request for 'what i learned' i found myself completely stumped. until i thought about what it's like to be a pre-teen and how we start to become the adults we are. and i remembered, so vividly, the fork in the road where i stood at the tender ages of 11-13. how easily we bend to others' views of us and how easy it is to believe you are unworthy of love. and i felt myself so overwhelmed with gratitude for having becky in my life right when i needed her. and wherever she is today, i hope her life is full and happy.**