What I have to give

Photo by Allie Ghisson, Student Publications

Today, while I was talking to a friend on the phone, I realized that this week marks my third month of living back home. Three whole months living in a home I have not lived in for three years. 

These past three months have contained so much, not even to mention all that has happened within the past week alone. So, here I sit, alone in a bedroom that has only recently started to feel like mine instead of the guest room. I have 14 unanswered text messages and several half-written letters to friends who have been on my mind, but for some reason I do not know what to say to them anymore.

I have always been the one who gives more in friendships. The one who loves more, shares more, cares more and does more. I do not really know who I am when it is not defined by what I give, which is why all of this distance has been such a crucial blow to me. All the isolating, seeing people I love from six-feet-apart, scheduling phone calls: it has taken more than my independence and routine; it has taken the very thing I thought made me who I am.

Lately, I have felt like a bad friend. I do not call my friends enough, write enough letters, send enough texts. In fact, I avoid my text messages. Most of them are simple, “how are you?” messages that I have no idea how to answer, so I do not even bother looking at them.

Whether I answer those questions or not, I know that this cannot go on forever. I cannot continue to support this endless feedback loop of feeling like the people I care about do not care about me while simultaneously avoiding the ones who so clearly do care. I want to be better than that, I want to break the cycle that has done nothing but push my head under every time I come up for air. 

As much as I would like to say that from now on I will leave no text unanswered, make an effort to call every person I think about or write someone new a letter every day, I know that is unrealistic. I know that right now, I am not the self that I was. I am a version of myself that wears thin most of the time, a version of myself who is trying to accept where they are while also not feeling quite ready to let go of where they were.

So, maybe instead of setting goals for myself that will continue to make me feel like I am falling short, I will be honest. Honest with my friends that responding to messages is hard for me right now, but I am trying to be better. Maybe this is a time where I stop expecting myself to do and start learning how to ask for what I need.

The pressure to maintain my friendships and to preserve the closeness that I found with my four roommates, does nothing to bring me closer to any of them. It only makes the truth harder to believe. 

The truth is that the people who are far away, the friends I play phone tag with more than I actually talk on the phone with, the friends whose messages remain unanswered, none of them are going anywhere and none of them love me any less for feeling confused in all of this. Chances are they feel the same way.

Perhaps it is time to shift this narrative that is driven by shame in my shortcomings and the fear of losing the things that I love. Tomorrow, I will wake up reminded that we all could use a little bit more grace as we learn how to accept where we are and do our best to love each other with what we have to give.