I Used to Be One of Those Toxic People

In a response to a recent Thought Catalog post, I felt it necessary to write that I used to to be a toxic person and it’s possible to be better.

1. I used to talk more than I listened.

I used to be completely narcissistic. If it didn’t bother me, I didn’t care. I would always listen, but always thinking about what my next point would be. In my current job working with college students where my main job is to listen, I learned value of just being there. Most times, people don’t want advice (unless asked) or my opinion. They just want to speak and speak freely. What I have to say or think rarely matters.

2. I could never be wrong.

I used to think being wrong was a flaw. In the past few years, I learned that being wrong is a moment of growth. If I knew everything, what fun would that be? I embrace now embrace my downfalls. Each one teaches me a valuable lesson about who I am and where I’m going.

3. Drama followed me wherever I went.

There was always something wrong. Always something that would upset me where I could be pissed at each person I came into contact with. Thought Catalog was right that I would always search for an excuse for why advice given to me wouldn’t work or why something could not be fixed. I tend to look on the brighter side of things today. I embrace the comments of others and their thoughts. Each person knows something I don’t. That’s worth something.

4. I forced relationships.

I used to strive for unique relationships with other people. I used to have this thought of what it meant to be in a romantic relationship and what it meant to have a best friend. I would try to manipulate each of those relationships into what I wanted it to be. Today, I understand these things happen on their own. I cannot force a romantic relationship. I cannot force someone to love me or to stay with me even though I’m the most difficult to be with. I cannot force my best friend to talk to me after months of emotional abuse for reasons why they suck. I cannot control everything. This is hard, but I understand the reality of it.

5. My experience is the standard and the only experience that matters.

If I think that waking up early in the morning is the only way to live, then it was the only way to live. If my level of ambition was higher than yours, than you were under achieving. I could not separate that each person has their own experiences and wants that are valid in their own right. I used to think my ex-girlfriend was not striving to be her best because she values slam poetry and would give up everything to write each day without hope of a paycheck. In fact, she was probably braver than me for wanting to chase her true dream. I wish I never told her how she should downplay her slam poetry in a job interview for a job she got and is doing incredibly well. I wish I never thought that she wouldn’t do anything unless I pushed her to. She was braver than me.

6. I often lied.

I  would tell stories that benefited me in some way. My happiness was more important than your happiness. I think back to when my ex girlfriend in our sophomore year of college went to see a friend perform in a show. I made her feel so guilty for not spending time with me and lied that I was sick and how dare she go without me. I was made she was happier than me – having a better time to me. Truth is, it’s no one’s fault that I was miserable except my own. It’s my own fault that I was difficult to be around. No lie or embellishment that makes me sound more interested could change that.

7. I lacked general tack and general courtesy.

Okay, everyone. This is the moment where I admit that what I think doesn’t always have to be said. This where I say that my “brutal honesty” wasn’t always necessary. I lacked empathy. I told it like it was. However, I couldn’t take it when it was directed at me. At some point this the last year, I’ve been able to admit my faults. It’s not easy, but I do it because I know that I’m not always right. I know that not all of my thoughts need to be broadcast and decide that it’s okay because I am “being honest.” I’ve learned to be more courteous to feelings of others beyond my own. This one is seriously hard to write about because my motto used to be, “Whether or not want to know, you’ll always know what I’m thinking.” I should be honest with my feelings, but I don’t have to be mean about it. Lesson learned the hard way multiple times over.

Also, I could have been better with general courtesy regarding my friend Jackie. When I wrote a post awhile back that spoke of all my friends moving, Jackie got offended and rightfully so. I should have been more thoughtful to her situation and how my words could have been seen as an attack against her. Although it wasn’t, it doesn’t change how it made her feel. It should have been me apologizing instead of her apologizing for how she felt.

8. The exhibit controlling behaviors.

Whew, okay. If the last one was hard to talk about, I don’t know what this one will do to me. I had to pour a glass of whiskey.

My ex-girlfriend. Sorry that she’s been the example for much of this, but she’s the one that dealt with the brunt of these behaviors. I needed to control everything in that relationship. If I was sad, I needed her to feel bad for me. If I felt like she didn’t care, I would manipulate the situation until she did. I really wasn’t a bad guy. I just had a lot of growing up to do. I needed to learn that my idea of a relationship wasn’t realistic and I did not do my significant other any favors while I was growing up. My immaturity cost me a great relationship and a great person. It’s hard because without ending that relationship, I am unsure if I would have ever grown as a person.

My ex has been, and will probably continue to be the most unforgettable person I have ever met. This isn’t because I’m not over her  (we’ve been done for almost two years), but the things she’s taught me without even knowing it. She deserves all the happiness in the world. My only regret is that I cost her nearly three years of that.

9. I loved to talk about other people.

Oh, yes. I lived for gossip. Being the hold of gossip meant power. I would use the misfortune of someone else to better my image. It’s not that I would talk negatively about other people, but I would definitely not acknowledge their accomplishments and would rather speak on where they screwed up than what they are getting right.

I strive to be better than the list above. I spent the spring and summer of this year focusing on myself. I stopped paying so much attention to what people thought of me. I started caring about what I thought of me. I didn’t like what I learned in my first few weeks. I worked to change how I viewed me in hopes that others would view me in kinder light was well.

It’s never too late to grow and change. It’s never too late to become who you want to me and acknowledge that you may not have been the best person, but you are working to become a better person.

The Best Gift

Every Tuesday night I have a staff meeting with my RA staff. This week, one of my RAs wanted to have a team builder and she asked us all to bring something of significance to explain. I realize that whenever I have this activity, I always pull out the same item because it means so much to me. It’s a gift that was given to me at my 18th birthday party. Here’s the thing about the gift. It is not necessarily flashy or expensive, but it is thoughtful. It is by far one of the (if not the) most thoughtful gifts ever given to me.

Tonight, I felt weird showing this gift. When I normally show this gift, I tell a story about how I met my best friend Danielle. We met while on a debate club in high school and were introduced by mutual friend because we both like Cher. The mutual friend figured Danielle and I would be friends because we like Cher. I automatically was turned off by the friendship just because of how we met. As it turned out, Danielle was pretty persistent with wanting to talk and I thought she was pretty (teenage hormones). What started out as a “eh” friendship, turned out to be out to be one of the best friendships I ever had. Danielle truly became my person. From sophomore year in high school and all through college, we talked constantly. In high school, it was over AIM and having conversations until way after midnight (big deal in high school). In college, it was not as often because we were off doing our own thing, but we were always able to fall back into things without effort.

For my 18th birthday, Danielle made me poster with a letter attached. It as a Cher collage of some of my favorite pictures. Danielle made it as something I can take with my to college and to remember her by. Ever since that day, this collage has lived wherever I have lived. Even when I had to temporarily relocate this summer while the hot water was being worked on in my residence hall for a few weeks, I took this with me. It is something that makes me feel at ease and gives me a taste a home. It reminds me what it was like to have such a great friend with that person never needing to ask for anything in return. After we graduated college and spent time transitioning into real world jobs, Danielle still did her best to keep in touch over text. There was never a detail we kept from each other (most of the time) and she is truly one of the most patient people I have ever met.

I felt weird about showing this gift tonight because for the first time, I couldn’t tell that story. I could not tell about how Danielle and I are so close and talk all the time. This summer, Danielle and I had a fight. Truthfully, I had a fight with myself texting Danielle and Danielle decided she had enough. In retrospect, it is amazing that Danielle didn’t drop me as a friend sooner. At some point, it became the friendship where I asked for everything in return and somehow it was never enough. I took for granted that no matter how mean I could be there, Danielle would still be there. I had to learn a lesson the hard way this summer about what it means to lose a friend as an adult. While I like to think that most days I’ve proven that I can function without Danielle, there are days when I just miss it. It has been instinct for long to have her be the first person I talk to in the morning. Danielle got me through some of the darkest times in my life all while being hundreds of miles away most of the time. I needed to be more patient and I needed to be more understanding about what her needs were. I don’t blame her for deciding to take a step back and not talk to me – there’s no way I can. I showed Danielle a pattern of behavior that said that I wasn’t willing to change and Danielle showed me that a person never deserves to be treated that way.

As sad as it is to lose Danielle, I still smile when I think about her. Danielle taught me something major about what it means to be an adult. I have to learn how to let the little things go, love a little bit more, forgive more often and understand that truly isn’t about me all the time. These past few months showed me that I can’t depend on her and I needed to learn how to survive on my own. It’s not fair to take out my bad days on someone I love. It was never fair to manipulate situations that made her feel like the worst human being. I’m glad I had a chance to realize those things and I am glad I had a chance to realize it with her. Whether or not she knows it, her last act in our friendship was the biggest act of love a person could show me – she forced me to grow up.

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The best gift ever. Thank you, Danielle.

Friendships Are Complicated

Friendships have always been complicated for me. A lot of has to do with the fact that I am naturally a guarded person. It’s not that I am not willing to be vulnerable and open up, I am just not going to willingly volunteer information. It takes a while to build trust with me and I know that about myself. Growing up, I was burned so many times by people I thought were friends that I feel like it has permanently scarred me. I also feel that the people I’m friends with do not consider me in the same category of friends that I consider them.

In life, friends typically fall into these categories:

Acquaintance: This isn’t a bad spot to be with a friend group. You see this person every so often, wish them the best on Facebook birthdays and maybe consider getting dinner or drink with this person every six months just to remember what they look like.

Good Friend: This might be a friend you text a few times a week, give up information when prompted and meet up once a month or so to keep the title of “good friend.” This is not the person you text when something awesome happens to you and can be a person do not even think of text until they text you. I usually see this person as the one that you make plans with a week in advance and then the time comes and you’re all, “I don’t really wanna go anymore.”

Best Friend: This category gets tricky. This is a category where you can start to get hurt because there are all these expectations that you’ll talk to this person constantly, information about each other is a two-way street and you can stop everything for this person. This type of friendship comes about not necessarily because you want to be best friends with someone, but because you’ve known them for a long time. Either you’re friends from middle school or freshman year of college. Since there is so much history, you feel obligated to put this person into this category when more often than not it ends up being a chore to maintain at times. However, sometimes this friendship kind of great and it works out – sometimes.

Your Person: This is the friendship that is effortless. This is the person that wants you to tell them what time you woke up in the morning and you can’t wait to share such meaningless info. This is the friend that can talk you into and out of everything and tell you what you’re thinking before you think. This is the person that hears through the grapevine that you had a terrible day so they surprise you with all your favorite things. This person is who keeps you sane. This is the person you trust more than yourself.

For me, most of my friendships never quite leave the good friend stage. For me, I’ve placed people in the best friend category while I was only really in their acquaintance category. Having this unbalanced friendships are tough. What makes it harder is when you never have the someone that you’re person. What’s worse is when you lose someone that was in your my person category. I’ve lost two of the people this summer and while I still survived, I am still not quite sure what to make of it or what to do about it. It’s hard and lonely. Friendships are complicated.

I’ve taken an inventory of my friendships lately and it’s looking like the clearance rack at Wal-Mart. I’ve two people who were in the “my person” category. I’ve recently had a friend I considered to be a pretty close friend (I’m probably in her acquaintance to sometimes good friend category) move out of town for a job and I haven’t heard from that person since. In fact, hearing from that person a month before they were leaving was pretty rare and getting together to say goodbye seemed like the last thing that person wanted to do. A close friend got married in May and now this person is off doing married people things. There’s another friend who has moved a job  and another one moving to Denver at the end of the month. Do I smell or something? Everyone is moving!

While people moving for jobs, school and a change of pace isn’t them saying “I don’t want to be friends with you,” the fact is these friends weren’t all that close to me anyway. So, now that they’re all gone, there is definitely no reason for any of them to text or call. Considering that I have at least a solid 8 months left in Rochester, friendships are going to be necessary. I’ve had days where I’ve gone three days without getting a text message and nothing makes you feel lonelier than that (sad, but true). So, this post isn’t meant to be a woe is me type of post, but more of a, how do I make friends and keep them? Better yet, how do you make friends and keep them? Ideas appreciated!