It all started when I was a freshman in high school. A good friend had moved in with his dad, 200 or so miles away. He came back to visit his mom, as kids of divorce do, one weekend, which just happened to be the weekend of Valentine’s Day…or the school Valentine’s Day dance, whatever…so I invited him to come as my date. See old friends, have a good time. Right? The way the gym was set up for the dance, there was the DJ at one end with all of his lights and festivity and one row of “house” lights, so as you moved farther away from the DJ the room got progressively darker. Naturally, that was where the teachers/chaperones didn’t want students and where students with dates naturally drifted. My “date” and I had done exactly that, toward the end of the night and somewhere around the middle of that last dance, he kissed me.
Then he went back to live with his dad and we talked on the phone and saw each other occasionally. That’s how long distance relationships work when you’re 15.
But, for some reason, that became my life. I “dated” him for a while, then his friend (there’s a bad teen romance story if you ever want to hear it…). Then, I dated a friend who had moved to a neighboring town when we were in the 5th grade. By then we were 17 and “dating” was a little more plausible.
Then I moved away to go to college and the serial long distance dating stopped. But halfway through my sophomore year, my best friend moved from Colorado to Ohio because her husband had to leave school and move back home. So then I became the girl whose best friend was halfway across the country. Not to mention, this was the height of AOL and chatrooms and I had met two amazing women through that who are still, a decade and a half, my best friends. So I wasn’t dating outside of my zipcode but I now had three best friends in far away lands.
So, long distance relationships (both platonic and romantic) are kind of a pattern for me. I don’t know if it is some elaborate form of escapism or what to attribute it to but I’ve been at it since I was 15 years old.
In an unrelated series of events, I have developed something akin to abandonment issues. And the internet only makes those issues worse. To borrow from Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, “Now I am finally seeing, why I was the one worth leaving.”* I feel like that most of the time. Like, if someone just decides one day that they don’t want to be my friend anymore, I always assume it’s because of something I did.
It may not be that I did something “wrong,” per se, just that I did something. Maybe I wanted to be their friend too badly. Maybe I like something they don’t and being friends with me meant being exposed to that thing all the time. Maybe I reminded them of someone else they didn’t like. And a less emo emo kid would look at those things are “their problem, not mine,” but not me. If I come on too strong and scare someone away, I need to chill. It doesn’t matter that I’m a prototypical Scorpio and approach every relationship I get myself into with the same level of passion and intensity. When I love, I love hard. It’s just how I’m programmed. But I also, as a Scorpio, blame (and punish) myself any time any little thing goes wrong.
I have found myself in that position again.
But the trouble with the internet is sometimes, regardless of how strong a friendship is, you pigeon-hole yourselves into one line of communication. You are Facebook friends so you only ever talk on Facebook. You never even considered exchanging phone numbers. Then one day, your friend is just gone. They’ve deleted their account and you have no way of contacting them.
Okay, so it’s actually happened a few times. But, I’m going through it right now.
And it’s so much worse than just a friend disappearing.
This person isn’t gone. He’s still on social media, pretty regularly, in fact. We have never fought about anything. We joke around and have a great connection and he just kept stressing that we were friends and I could talk to him about anything. But then one day, I couldn’t. I tried to talk to him and he wasn’t there. That part of me that assumes everything is automatically my fault and I am the one worth leaving is the same part of me that wants to be more than just his friend more than anything in the world and that part is pretty goddamned positive that I did something horribly wrong.
But, he seems like a rational and straightforward kind of guy; why doesn’t he just tell you you did something wrong?
Because I am the one worth leaving.
* Taken from “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” by the Postal Service