I’ve never been one to gather a crowd around me. I don’t have a Friend Group. I never have, really. I might be found on the fringes of a group, but I’m not the ringleader and I’m not the one people follow.
Over a decade ago, I met someone who is the nucleus of her own world. She draws people into her electron shell seemingly without effort.
We met at a writer’s conference. She’d emailed me out of the blue in advance of the conference, reaching out because a blogger she and I knew told her to contact me. The first day, while I was sitting in the dining room with a couple of other friends, she came up and introduced herself. The four of us spent the rest of the conference hanging out and in two subsequent years, shared housing.
I realized the second or third year that the group of us were really just an entourage for her. She was the life. She was the party. I was just attached because I was part of the support crew. I was okay with that.
She mentioned me in the acknowledgements of her first book: “To my writing community–Denise, Shannon, Sarah, Brad, Melodee and Linda. Your words make me want to be better at everything, including life. Keep on, friends.”
When the book was picked up by a major publisher and re-released, that acknowledgement read, “To my writing community–Denise Hildreth Jones, Shannon Primicerio, Sarah Markley, Linda Vujnov, Emily Freeman, Ann Voskamp, Melanie Shankle, Sophie Hudson, Lyndsay Rush, Angie Smith, Amanda Williams, Kelley Kirker, Ellie Holcomb, and the (in)courage writers. Your words make me want to be better at everything, including life. Keep on, friends.”
Wait. What? Was I replaced by Ann Voskamp? I believe I was. My feelings were so hurt. I declared that she was dead to me to my poor husband, the innocent bystander in my drama. But I honestly could not believe that she had flicked me out of her book/life like some kind of useless bug.
I am the most loyal friend you could dream of having. And yet. No room for me in the electron shell.
In college, I made my first friend by virtue of happening to sit near her during a welcoming event. Or maybe it was in the dorm. I’m not sure, but we were instant, giddy friends but poorly matched on every level. She was only 17, cute, confident, tiny and talented but our initial connection fizzled out.
Then I met another friend who ended up being a lifelong connection.
We had long conversations and a deep connection. Once we borrowed a car and drove three hours to surprise the men we were interested in (and actually married later on). After college, I visited her in her new city. We exchanged regular chatty letters and had occasional phone calls. She helped pick out my bridesmaid dresses.
But then at the last minute, she said she couldn’t be in my wedding. I brushed that off, but it stung. Then, she managed to get engaged and planned her wedding on the very same day as one of my other friends–who had already asked me to be in her wedding. So I had to decline. I was so sad.
The years passed. I visited her and her new husband. We continued our regular letters and phone calls. We’d see each other once in awhile. I felt connected to her for so long but recently, I’ve had to admit to myself that while I consider her one of my closest friends, she must consider me an acquaintance because how else do I explain to myself that she does not reach out to me? That past year was incredibly difficult for so many people, but the past two years (maybe even three years) were traumatic for me in a dozen different ways.
Did she call me? Did she email me? Did she notice?
No. But she recently flagrantly posted on social media how much our mutual friend meant to her during the pandemic. She posted pictures of them together and I thought, wow, I am alone. I tried to not feel jealous but what’s the point in ignoring how you actually feel? I felt jealous, bereft, lonely, discarded.
Listen, I know I sound like I’m fourteen and trying to navigate my way through junior high. I get that.
But I just am not sure what is wrong with me. Why do I have such trouble making friends? Why do the friends I have wander off the second we don’t live in the same town? What is an introvert like me to do when she looks around and finds herself utterly alone and wonders why?
It doesn’t help that I have moved from one state to another when I was 33, then again at age 46 and yet again at age 55. Do Not Recommend.
(These are all rhetorical questions. No need to provide answers. I’m just a girl, sitting at my keyboard, trying to not make myself late for work while pondering life’s mysteries.)