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Crumbling Pedestals

Idealization is not love

By Shay HaasPublished 2 months ago 6 min read

It took me nearly 20 years to realize I never really loved you. That sounds harsh, but it’s not. It’s just true. We knew each other when we were 13. We knew Winget’s art class. We knew endless jokes and laughter, music sharing, poem swapping, commiserating over our adolescent life experiences, and the fact that no one else understood us. When you moved out of state in the middle of the school year, my teenage soul was crushed. In you I had found a twin flame. Our home lives and pasts were entirely different, but we found familiarity anyway - and safety - in each other. I wrote to you. I knew you struggled with the move. I felt sad for you, and for me. I was quite a romantic child and admittedly haven’t changed much…I romanticized the notion of soul mates. I dreamed of us reuniting one day. I wrote about you in my journal a lot. I had crushes on other boys, but I felt innately connected to you in a way I’ve never been able to explain.

After those initial letters, some years passed. Seven or so. And when I was 20, I found you on social media and we reconnected. You posted a lot of beautiful floral photography that had this moody lighting and atmosphere to it that tugged at my stomach a little. You also posted photos of yourself in cool clothes and poses, eating things like Pockeye and McDonald’s cheeseburgers in the bathtub. You were beautiful, seemingly edgy and interesting, and a total enigma. I became obsessed. Though I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I thought I was “falling in love” all over again. I knew we were meant to be.

For years after, I sent happy birthday, Merry Christmas, and sporadic hope you’re well texts. I think we were 24 when we saw each other again for the first time. We had essentially swapped places in the world - I had moved to Oregon and around the same time you moved back to Texas. Later I found out that we were both in Oklahoma as young kids too. And now, we’re both here. But more on that later…All that is to say, I kept finding things to give meaning to. To add to my idealization of you.

I was visiting Texas for the holidays, and I reached out to coordinate a reunion. I borrowed my best friend’s car and met you at a park near your parent’s house where you were staying. I had thought about this moment so many times. I was beyond excited and nervous to see you. I can remember the outfit I was wearing and it makes me cringe to this day. I don’t know who I was trying to be. Anyway, we walked around the park reminiscing and learning about each other’s lives over the last 10 years. We laughed and I felt pure joy in those moments. When we parted, I gave you a mixed CD that I had so carefully curated. I even drew a perfect mandala for the cover art - and probably wrote some sappy note inside. I don’t remember. I wouldn’t see you again for another 6 years; so the happy birthday, Merry Christmas, and hope you’re well texts resumed.

When I was 29, in the midst of the pandemic, I moved to Idaho. I promise I didn’t follow you. Though when I did make the decision to move here, it seemed like an added bonus that I might get to reconnect with you again. I think we got together within the first month I was here. We met up to walk an easy foothill trail and check out the views of my new home. All these years and two failed relationships in between, I never stopped thinking about you. We met up for coffee, walks, and a few chess games. And after a few months, I admitted that I had feelings for you. You nervously expressed that you had a lot going on in your life, a lot of transition, and that you weren’t looking to date anyone right now. You told me you were glad to know how I felt about you. I took that as a sign to wait. Maybe you’d be ready in the future. I clung to this. I know I shouldn’t have. You kept meeting up with me, being kind to me, always looking so beautiful. A year later, I sent you a valentine, exposing my feelings once again. You never replied. 4 months passed and I didn’t hear anything from you. I finally got the courage to reach out. To say your reply was disappointing is an understatement… “I didn’t know what to say. Especially because I started seeing someone recently..” I felt mortified. Angry. I told you that ANY reply would have been better than nothing. That I had felt there was a certain level of care and respect within our friendship to not leave me hanging like that. You couldn’t inconvenience yourself with a bit of uncomfortable conversation to be truthful with me. That made me feel so small and insignificant. To this day, I don’t know if you ever actually wanted to be my friend and spend time with me, or if you let your people pleasing nature run the show. I truly had been trying to foster a friendship with you. With this person I felt I had known my whole life, hoping it would turn into something more. But it turns out, we only knew each other once. And it was a long time ago.

In the end, I realized that the connection I had with you was based on an attachment that I had created when we were young, during one of the most difficult times in my life. From age 9 to then 13, I was living in a severe hoarding environment with my mom and new step dad who was a gigging musician. My older sister was going through her own angst, dropping out of high school, experimenting with drugs and spending most of her time outside of the house with friends and eventually getting a job. My mom had gotten pregnant fairly soon after we moved there, and then got pregnant again two months after giving birth to my little sister. In a year, I had gained 2 new siblings and became the babysitter by default. I had a hard time existing in that space on my own as it was, and suddenly I felt responsible for keeping them sane too. I loved going to school. I loved learning and being with my friends, laughing and not paying attention to the fact that I’d eventually have to go home for the day. You were someone who was extremely special to me. I felt seen and understood by you. Art class was my safe space. With you. You made me laugh uncontrollably. You read my poetry and would write poetic replies. You always made weird, interesting projects that didn’t make sense to most of us in class, but Winget loved it. I loved that you were so different and didn’t care. We never had romantic exchanges. I even wondered at times if you might be gay because I never saw you with or heard you talk about other girls. It didn’t stop me from clinging to you for life. For connection.

But no, I never really loved you. I needed you. You helped me survive. I stayed blissfully in longing for you, instead of in the pain of life and love. I occupied my mind with dreams, conjuring lifetimes of could be’s in order to get out from under the boxes and piles of messes that surrounded me alongside the dysfunction of my family. And as I grew older and collected unloving relationships, never processing my early trauma; I clung to the one person who I felt knew me and accepted me back then, in all my shame. Or rather I clung to the idea of you. It took me nearly 20 years, but I know now that I never really loved you.

FriendshipTeenage yearsFamilyChildhood

About the Creator

Shay Haas

So many things would be so boring if I didn’t believe in magic...

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