Everyone has someone. Winnie-the-Pooh has Christopher Robin, Harry Potter has Ron, Sherlock has Watson, the list goes on. You can’t write a story without a supporting cast, right?
This is the thought that has haunted me through attending four schools and during countless sleepless nights. Growing up with my nose in books meant that I was subject to the influence of narrative tropes, including that of the best friend. I read about friends who knew the other like the back of their hand, friends who would pick up the phone before the other had even called.
Inevitably, I was disappointed when I looked and couldn’t find that for myself, no matter how hard I tried.
I watched friend groups form around me, as if I was sitting behind some impenetrable glass wall. I never fit in anywhere, so I heard everything. I was a safe ear, because I had nobody to tell secrets to. So I heard about the sleepovers, the parties and the first dates. I never got an invite, but for a while, the others’ stories were enough.
Eventually, it wasn’t enough to hear about the people around me living the life I wanted. I wanted in, so I tried to claw my way there. The thing about forcing friendships with people that don’t really understand you, or even really like you, is that you always feel like a visitor.
For all of middle school I felt like I was being punished for being different. Growing up LGBTQ+ meant that I couldn’t relate to a lot of my peers’ experiences. It felt like there was an insurmountable obstacle between me and the people whose acceptance I wanted.
When I got to high school, I tried again. A new pool of people meant a new little waiting room- and maybe this one would be easier.
Unfortunately, it was the same old story. Only now I was fighting depression, anxiety and AP classes. I still didn’t have a person who would stick by my side.
And then when the world shut down, just like everyone else I became really, truly alone. With so much time on my hands, I looked inside myself. I looked around in the waiting room I felt trapped in and realized that I had fortified it. In waiting for this magical person to come around, I had accidentally made myself impossible to reach.
Then came the hard part: opening the windows, repainting the walls, putting up posters. I realized that if I was going to be alone with myself, I might as well be a person I like spending time with.
Two years later, I was accepted to Bradley University and all of a sudden I was registering for classes and packing my bags.
Three months ago, I moved into a room with a person I’d never met, surrounded by strangers.
I felt my old fears creeping back in. “What if they don’t like me? What if I’m still alone? What if I don’t know what to do, or say or be?”
It was different this time, though. I like who I am and I’m not afraid of showing that person off to the world. I’m comfortable in the room I built, and I’m not afraid of other people sitting in it with me.
Now, I do have friends I can count on. I know that when I call for help, I’ll get an answer. We go out for boba, talk about first dates and crash in each other’s rooms. I might not have a BFF, but if all else fails I know I can go back to the person who knows me best – me.
And it turns out that knowing myself is enough.