I've been thinking a lot about guilt, lately. Guilt has always factored heavily into my life, and I can't seem to get over the toll it takes on me. I think everybody carries around a lot of baggage from their childhood; wrongs they committed against others or others committed against them; cheating, stealing, lying, and lying by omission. I wonder constantly if there were clues I should've seen to make better choices than I did, but I also wonder how to make more reckless choices now.
I feel so much pressure, and I don't know where it's coming from. My parents are the ultimate in relaxed - I don't have a curfew, I've never been grounded, and they're okay with underage drinking - so I guess it's not from them. My therapist puts a little pressure on me, but it's her job to be attuned to my needs, and she knows I'm heartbreakingly fragile. The pressure isn't from my friends - I don't have many of those, anyway. And that's where the problem started, I suppose.
I used to be a mean girl. I was friends with a girl whose grandfather started our synagogue (my family was there from the beginning, but no one ever mentions us). She had some sort of supreme power - everyone knew her name, knew her family, and thus, she was treated like royalty. So we pranced along, getting away with pretty much everything, from age three to age thirteen. At summer camp, we were bullies. In Hebrew School, we were brats. But when I was thirteen, I walked away from all that...and for the first time, someone said out loud what I had been feeling all along.
"You're a freak!" was the battle cry of girls I once thought cared enough to protect me from hateful words. The ringleader told me to "get some friends [my] own age." And it's true, though I've long tried to deny it. I have always gotten along better with people older than me - I'm quiet and careful by nature, and with my grandmother as one of my mostly companions, I learned quite early how to be respectful and polite.
As with most turning points in my youth, this happened at camp. I usually befriended my counselors, but there was one in particular I developed a closeness with. We'd hang out on field trips; that progressed into going elsewhere together. We'd go to dinner after work, and she'd take me home. It makes me sick to my stomach to write about how she kissed me, in her car that smelled of pineapple and musty velour. After all this time, a part of me says this was my fault. I was too clingy, too vulnerable, too...young. I was stupid and heartsick and I loved her. I don't know if we were "dating" - I know that technically, she didn't break the law. And as thankful as I am for that, I can't help but still feel broken when I remember the cruel words she sent, via text, telling me that I was "a burden" to her, and that I had to stop calling every night just to hear her voice because she had "more important things" to do.
Sans kissing, this story has played out several times in my life. Always, always, it ends with me crying on the floor of my bathroom while "Daydreamer" plays melodramatically in the background. So if the continuing thread is me, I must be the problem. And thus, guilt.
I find it hard to separate fact from fiction, sometimes. When I watch a TV show, there's usually a character I latch on to right away. The trope term for it, I believe, is "the underdog." That's my vice. The character that everyone else hates? Automatically my spirit animal. The patsy or weak link in the cast? Somehow has to do with me. And attacks on the character become personal; the attacker turns on me, beating me with their club of justice. And I feel like I deserve it, usually, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.
A character on Newsroom fits that MO. This character has had a series of missteps, and they recently experienced what I know all too well - they made a mistake, and the people they thought would always back them up (or at least hear them out) completely deserted them. And not only that, but they did it in the most humiliating and excruciating ways possible. And I just wanted to cry. I still do. I am crying, right now. Because that pain is not yours to laugh at. That pain is not yours to applaud. That pain is for me to hold; to keep me up at night; to taunt me in moments of joy.
People who love me (or who feel sorry for me, I suppose) will try and claim that this isn't my fault. That I was used and abused by lesser humans and someday, my princess will come. But then they turn around and argue that someone else had it coming. Those people are me - I am all of them. And I will fight until the day I die to protect them, because nobody protected me.