Anyone can be lonely.
Even those with all the friends in the world can still feel like they are all alone amongst the sea of friends in a group. A lot of the time, that’s just how I feel – kinda like the smallest fish in a school of fish – there, but not really noticed. Hell, I came into this world with a built in best friend who looks like me, and I still feel alone more often than not.
It’s been like this since around the time I started middle school. It’s gotten much better over the years, but I feel like I have not been able to shake this feeling. Looking back now, I can see just how stupid I was for letting little things that didn’t matter affect me as much as they did. But back then they were anything but little things.
In 6th grade I had this friend, who I thought was my best friend; he is who I would always hang out with. While I had a big group of friends, we hung out together the most, and it felt really great. Eventually I started opting to have other friends over instead, and he was not a fan of that one bit. He became this monster who would take any shot to belittle me and make me feel unimportant and useless. When you’re hearing these things from your supposed best friend, you really take them to heart. He would tell me nobody, not even my brother, really liked me, and that I was only “tolerated” because of my brother. That one got to me. After that, I stopped talking to him, and we went our separate ways.
But that last comment really left a mark.
There’s where the self-doubt and anxiety kicked in.
Is this true?
Does everyone just tolerate me?
Is there something wrong with me?
Would they rather me gone?
This was why 7th and 8th grade were horrible for me; I was convinced that my friends weren’t really my friends, and I was just this annoyance they had to deal with all the time. I got quieter, didn’t want to do anything and didn’t want to instigate anything, all due to the absolute fear of rejection. Of course I didn’t want anyone to know that, especially my parents, so I acted like everything was fine. I played sick. I went to the nurse probably 3-4 times a week just to try to escape, and hope that everyone thought I was quiet because I was sick.
By the way, the nurse and I got to know each other well.
Whenever group assignments were assigned, it seemed like everyone in class immediately chose others to keep me out of their group. I was forced to either join a random group, or just work alone. Maybe this was due to people thinking that I was always sick, but still. Anyways, that’s how I spent the rest of my days in middle school.
While I was happy to leave middle school, high school was a beast I was not ready to tackle. I had shaky self-confidence at best, and I was still feeling like nobody liked me. I felt like this new nurse and I were going to be best friends for the next four year of my life.
But then, things changed when this pretty senior came up to me during the freshman club fair and yelled: “You! You’re signing up for the drama club!” So, I did just that, because when a senior girl tells you to do something, you can’t really say no. This was the best decision I could have ever made. I found out later that her twin sister did the same thing to my brother, so he signed up too. I was nervous as hell, but after those first days of drama, everyone wasn’t sick of me. Hell, they all liked me! I didn’t just have new friends from drama and rediscovered friendships, but I had a new family, and it was the happiest I had been in a long time.
The majority of those people are still my best friends to this day.
I did become the butt of a lot of jokes in this time. I would do something or say something stupid and it would become a “Classic Pat” moment. Eventually I was known for out of every ten jokes I tell, nine were to be horrible and one would be the funniest thing said that night – a reputation I was very proud of. One of my friends once said “I just want to be a fly on the wall and follow Pat Jost around for a day, just to see what he does” ; this was just as I came walking up with a dolphin shirt with a huge smile on my face. Needless to say, I accepted my role with open arms.
Of course my self-doubt eventually had to come creeping back in. As our friend group grew larger, I grew smaller. Any plans made would be told to my brother and not to me, assuming that telling him was enough. Nobody would see if I wanted to just hang out, but they always asked my brother. When we did have people over for “Friday Night at The Jost House” every Friday, he was the social butterfly, while I was left out of the many conversations going on. I didn’t want to force myself into conversations because I just figured I was left out for a reason. So I just listened in. I know not many people can relate, but feeling like the inferior and unwanted twin really sucks. I even had a girlfriend on and off for 2 years, and still I felt so horrible about myself. Things got much better senior year, and I was able to go back to that happy family feeling once again, but that only lasted until I left for college.
I have not had the best college experience. I started off with a roommate that I didn’t exactly see eye to eye with, to say the least. I made some friends, but with my fear of being just an annoyance, I never really instigated any hangouts. It was like my anxiety and fear had paralyzed me from even texting. So they all formed their groups of friends and I was left alone. So every weekend I was back home doing nothing, but it was better than being stuck in that room with nothing to do for two days. When I did try to make plans with those friends, it was met with silence, and that basically put the nail in the coffin for my social life. I was alone and trapped with only two days a week to really be myself. My grades suffered, and I went from a B/A student to a D/C/B student. I was really just a shell of myself. Even though I switched rooms that year, and lived with a new roommate each semester the next year, I was still just barely getting by with my grades.
After what seemed like forever, my roommate situation began to work itself out. While I never became best friends with any of them, I could at least get along with them or hold a conversation. Yet I was still home every weekend, but that was also to see my girlfriend at the time, and that was my time to be social and with someone. The rest of the time I, was alone.
I finally got my act together junior year, made the grades I needed and was decently happy. I had no friends at school and was alone 5 days a week, but I was also in love and that made the loneliness worth it for the weekends (even if I wanted to stay up more weekends and find some friends). While I did make some friends here and there, they all had their own groups, and I didn’t want to be a bother.
But after two years, I eventually drifted out of love, and then I was alone again. But it was on my terms this time.
And I wanted change.
This all being said, 2015 has been a good year for me socially and academically. This past summer I made some amazing friends at my job, who liked me for me! They don’t know my brother, so I’m not just some pity tagalong. Everyday instead of eating lunch alone either alone or with my friend from work I made a few years back, I was with a big group and actually contributing to our conversations. After the summer I started this past year off with good grades and that confidence is still burning. To keep with the theme of theater being a source of friendship, I decided to take an acting class and through there, and I have made actual friends at
school. I’m a few years older than all of them, so they all call me the dad of our class. Just being able to go grab dinner, or head to the gym with friends is a welcoming change. I’ve had the best college experience so far and I now know what my anxiety robbed me of at the start of it all.
Of course I still have low days. Days where I feel like an annoyance to everyone and should just lock myself in my room and not do or say anything. Actually, I just had one of those last night, which inspired me to finally finish this piece. I still feel alone. But just believing in myself and putting myself out there has reduced the bad days those days to a rarity. If there is a moral to this story, it is to not let your fear control you. If you do, then you’re just going to be robbed of experiences like I was. Be confident, get out there, and you will find the place where you belong and be all the happier for it. I know that is much easier said than done, believe me.
All I’m saying is try, because you’ll never know what you’re capable of until you do. All you’ll be surprised at what we are all capable of.
Thanks to Patrick Jost for submitting his story. Feel free to leave him some love in the comments. Always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.
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