Not Everyone Has to Like You: a story of having a transformative experience, but everyone treating you like you’re still the same person you were ten years ago.

by Michelle

I am in this sort of weird position, where the only two boyfriends I have ever had are socially connected (despite leaving Tacoma for 5 years and meeting them in totally separate situations). So with my current boyfriend, I often have to see people that nine years ago treated me like shit, but I assume are different people so I am cordial and even friendly to them. Most of them don’t have anything bad to say to me, but there are a couple that have felt the need the air grievances of things that may or may not have happened, proving only that they didn’t change much. One of these happened Saturday night, ruining my evening out for halloween, and it’s been bothering me ever since. Which is bullshit. I have spent the last three days feeling like shit for something someone else did to me, with the intent to hurt my feelings.

I am not totally sure how it started, my boyfriend got up from the table and during the short time he was in the bathroom I made some off hand comment that apparently triggered a memory that this guy had been holding onto for almost ten years. He then zeroed in on me and made me feel like shit, which by his demeanor was exactly his intention. He wasn’t looking for an apology or to chat about it, he was looking to make me feel like shit and to let me know he doesn’t think I could have changed. I honestly didn’t know how to react, I wanted to defend myself because I don’t think the incident actually happened, but memory is so subjective and can be manufactured so if he’s spent the last ten years thinking this happened, I probably wasn’t going to talk him out of it. I wanted to defend myself because even if it did happen, I was in a really bad place when I was 18, terribly unhappy and angry with no real idea that it was an issue or how to begin to handle it. I wanted to defend myself because he and many of my ex’s friends were terrible to me for the entire time that we dated, openly hating me for no reason, and somehow I came out looking like the monster. Mostly I wanted to tell him what a fucking baby he was and that maybe the reason he hasn’t changed or still holds onto this is he’s never fucking left Tacoma and hasn’t grown as a person because he doesn’t care to. But none of that seemed worth my time or energy, it would get me nowhere and only make me look bad. So I calmly got up from the table, found my boyfriend, and told him what happened and that I’d like to leave. My boyfriend handled it the best way he could, standing up for me and then taking me home and spending the rest of the night trying to make me feel better.

But I still feel like shit, and that isn’t fair – which is I guess why I am writing this. I need to get it off my chest, get it out into the ether, and hope that people understand that I am different than I was ten years ago.

I guess I should start with where I was mentally at 18 years old, though it starts much further back than that. When I was 16 my dad and stepmom moved myself and my brothers from where we had lived since I was in the third grade (we moved around a lot before that) to Gig Harbor, WA in some sort of fucked up effort to save their marriage. I don’t blame them for what happened, I think they really thought it would help – but it didn’t. They split up not long after we arrived. Before that I had spent years having a not great relationship with my dad largely due to heavy manipulation and lies about him, told to me by my stepmom. When they split up, I was very much put in the middle – my stepmom asking me if I wanted to come live with her but telling me I wasn’t allowed to tell my dad she asked and my dad really spiraling out of control for about 6 months. He never did anything really bad, he was just incredibly unhappy and I think sort of broken, making his judgment off. If my dad reads this I am sure he won’t be happy, and I am sure he remembered it differently because he has a different point of view, but that is what happened from my point of view. Both of them endlessly talked shit about each other to me, my grades suffered – which I got in trouble for – and I slipped into depression. Of course, none of this was ever addressed, I am not sure I even knew at the time I was depressed. I lashed out at the people closest to me and never really recovered in terms of creating friendships. The older of my two younger brothers actually found a really great niche for himself, and to this day he has friends who he can call family that he made in Gig Harbor. I, however, did not. It wasn’t until junior year of college that I began to create deep and meaningful friendships again, and even those are marred by the social anxiety I developed after this experience.

So, when I was 18 I was in a bad place. I was in a relationship that didn’t really work, but I didn’t really know that at the time, it was my first relationship and I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I also had developed bad anxiety that has stayed with me ever since. Anxiety makes you irritable, it makes you lash out, it causes panic attacks that are terrible when they happen and in the hours leading up to them. Anxiety is like this indescribable feeling that something bad is going to happen, you just know it. Most of my anxiety comes from deep-seated abandonment issues from when my mom left, but some if it is merely chemical as evidenced by my panic attacks (which are rare). All these symptoms of anxiety are very hard to control when you don’t have any idea you have it. You lash out for no reason without knowing why. Your stomach always hurts and it even makes it hard to eat (thought I found a way, obviously. Do I look like a girl that misses a meal?). When you’re aware of the problem, controlling your reactions is hard but doable, and I have found many ways that don’t include medication of any kind to calm myself and work around my anxiety. Do I wish I wasn’t like this? Of course. I hate anxiety. But it is a fact of my life.

Around age 22 I started realizing the issues I had and have spent the last almost six years working on them. Working to be a better person, a more understanding person, a less reactive person, and mostly a more trusting person. I think now, at 27, I am wholly different than I was at 18. That isn’t to say I have been perfect; I have been far from it. I have hurt people, been a dick, been selfish, and made many mistakes. But I have also loved people, cared for them, provided support, and done many things right – one friend even calls me very sweet, which is shocking, I know. All humans are both good and bad, and walk the line between self serving and caring on a regular basis. I don’t know one person who hasn’t treated someone like shit, been selfish, or said something awful at least once in their life. I once had a friend attempt to “help me be a better person” all the while being totally fucking shitty to me, but she didn’t even know! People do terrible things sometimes, and it’s not on purpose.

So that takes me back to today, sitting (actually I am standing at my standing desk) here feeling so down about what happened this weekend, because despite leaving the state, spending years actively trying to be a better and different person, and changing so much, I still am paying for a small infraction that happened during the worst time in my life. Frankly, I don’t give a shit about that guy – he can suck a big fat dick for all I care. What he did was on purpose and was meant to hurt, and that is fucked up. What I do care about, is that I am so different and still have deal with people regarding me as I was many years ago – which by the way, I don’t even think I was that bad. It’s something I hate about living in Tacoma and why is makes me hard to see myself there for the long haul. It holds so much pain and bad memory, and the people who refuse to give me a second chance make it hard to move past that pain and create new good memories. And I don’t think it’s fair, because no one should be prevented from feeling happy.

Look, this is rambly and too long and not particularly well written. Most of what I wrote above is something I don’t share with people. But, that’s okay because maybe no one will even read this. I don’t really care, I just needed to get it out of my head. Because I am tired of feeling sad and shitty about something someone else did to me. I deserve just as much happiness as everyone else does. Though I think that guy deserves a dick in the ass. Because in the words of Ice Cube, “big dicks in ya ass is bad for ya health.”

Anderson out.