Growing up, having friends was difficult. Actually, having them now is hard as well, usually resulting in me only having a couple close people to speak with on occasion.
My first companion was more happenstance, a bored young boy stuck at his grandma’s house after school while his parents worked, looking to stage off boredom. At the time it was less friendship, more a mutual agreement. I would bring over “Pogs” (oh the good ol days), or marbles, and we would play for a couple hours.
It wasn’t until grade three I’d make actual “friends”. Before then I would spend my recesses bouncing a rubber ball off the side of the school, in an area few frequented. The ball itself was slightly bigger than my hand, and painted with red, white, and blue stripes; a gift I requested from my grandma upon seeing it in her place. I enjoyed myself. The rhythmic “thud” sound helped calm my mind by giving it a pattern to focus on, and the quite area allowed me a chance to breathe, having been tense from overstimulation.
To others though, it looked like I was lonely, isolated. My older sister especially worried about me, usually spending her recesses hovering around or checking in on me. It’s not like I was sad for not having friends, honestly the concept never entered my mind at the time. My focus was surviving the school day. Enduring the chaos of sounds, interactions, and people constantly around me.
When I eventually made what would be considered “friends”, they were much different than I had imagined / expected. I grew up on video games and books. That’s how I learned to understand the world around me. Parents were of no help, offering little explanation to why things happened, and normally opting for “Because I said so” or “That’s how it is” phrases in order to end the subject.
If anyone reading this is familiar with RPG’s, specifically JRPG’s (a type of game genre), they would understand the outcome. In these games friends sometimes fought, or even separated for a period of time, but they always returned and always made up. They would face unimaginable odds, often needing to save the country, world, or universe together. While they had weapons and tools to help succeed, ultimately it was the friendship, trust in one another, which lead to their success.
Real people were / are not often like video game characters. They will leave you without warning, expect more than your best, and would rather make fun of one another then save the world. I didn’t understand this, still don’t to be honest.
Keeping friends felt like walking on a tightrope, one wrong step and I’d plummet downwards with no safety net and no one reaching for my hand. Unfortunately this lesson, coupled with instruction and “encouragement” from my grandma, quickly gave birth to the notion of being different in order to fit in. “If they didn’t like how I am, does that mean I need to be different?”. An idea I wish was never learned, and created a ripple effect negatively impacting my entire adolescence…
There was this boy in my class in grade one, having a difficult time. His parents were getting divorced and other children were making fun of him. I felt bad. One day, when leaving for recess, I saw him sitting in a stairwell near the exit, crying. I sat next to him and asked him what was wrong. He spoke to me for a short period, about some of the troubles he was having. In turn I decided to tell him a secret I had told nobody. Something to me, at the time, was so embarrassing I couldn’t comprehend how I’d react were people to find out. I hoped, he would feel better knowing others were also sad, or having difficult times.
The boy, to my absolute surprise, stopped crying after I told him my secret. He wiped away his eyes, began to laugh and proceeded to call me a name before getting up and running out the door; excitedly declaring how he would tell everyone in our class my secret. I can’t properly express the snowball of emotions erupted in that single moment. I simultaneously wanted to cry, scream, dissolve into nothing, run after him, curl up into a ball from the confusion, and for a split second, I even considered kidnapping and hiding him somewhere in the school until he promised not to tell anyone.
I opted for crying.
Such an experience would not stop me in the future from opening up to others, doing my best to offer love or support where needed. However, the juxtaposition of our thought-processes would act as a representation for most of my future relationships, friendships, and general interactions with people. Even though now, I can understand a little better why he did it.