Today, I unfriended an old acquaintance on Facebook (where my remaining “friends” list, I can now report, may conveniently be counted on the digits of one normal human appendage.) I found myself unexpectedly moved to melancholy by this simple action.
It’s not that I can claim to miss this person. She and I have been almost completely out of touch for approximately ten years, and I rarely think of her. We were friends for a couple of years as teenagers, when we shared many similar sentiments and interests, as well as the general feeling of awkward individuality that accompanies being a gifted adolescent. Despite living three hours apart, we would spend weeks together in the summer playing Celtic music, walking through the fields, and laughing at dorky jokes. However, as time went on our similarities dwindled. While I was digging deep into my last year of homeschooling before starting early at university, she was going on to public high school, mingling with crowds of new friends and pursuing an exceptionally active, confident, and successful lifestyle. While I was holed up in my room reading Flaubert, she was being admitted to the National Honor Society. We argued a few times, fell out of touch, and forgot each other.
When I met up with her briefly in early 2011, at her invitation, I was uncomfortably reminded of both our similarities and our differences. I still found that we shared a lot in common. We spent a lovely weekend together and spoke as comfortably as we once had, which given my social difficulties, is fairly astonishing. Our shared sentiments and interests haven’t really changed that much. However, while I still inhabit my scared, gawky alienation like a moth-eaten sweater, she has blossomed into something new. She has a huge circle of friends about whom, I got the impression, she genuinely cares; she’s pursuing her dream career as a stage actor while rising at 3 AM to pay her bills with bakery wages; any time she wants, she can dress up, drive into the city, and feel completely comfortable having a sophisticated dinner. Alone. In public. If I could think of a stronger word than “unfathomable,” I would use it here. I felt like prostrating myself and begging, “Take me to your leader, O most enlightened alien being.”
Seriously, though, I have to admit, it hurts just a little to see someone with whom I once identified now seem so unreachably distant that it’s like she’s on another plane of existence. It makes me question my own decisions, but it also makes me resentful because I wonder how much choice I ever had. I know deep down that I could never have done what she did: excel in high school, make so many genuine friends, work to pay my way. She’s earned everything she has, and I don’t begrudge her that, really. But the truth is that I’ve had to work just as hard for a lot of things people like her get for free– things like basic social skills and feeling comfortable in a workplace. Realistically, we don’t all get the same payout for our efforts. I already knew that. That’s why characteristics like mine are considered disabling. Still. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
For the record, I did not unfriend this young lady out of spite or resentment. I took her off my list because we simply don’t speak anymore– we haven’t since our visit last year. It was a simple act of tidying up, which is why it surprised me to be reminded so acutely of how the last ten years have felt to me: like standing on the shore watching the tall ships sail away, and disappear.