There will be that conversation you’ve been putting off for as long as you’ve known you’ve needed to have it. There will be those words that you’ve rehearsed over and over–in your car, in front of your mirror, in your bed in total darkness while staring at your ceiling–that tumble out of your mouth inelegantly, tripping over each other to make it out just so you can get this over with. There will be that ugly ball of thoughts that hangs in front of you, the thick, opaque cloud of words that formed in between you, through which you cannot breathe. There will be that moment where you try and scoot away, wanting to disown everything you’ve just said, ready to scream at the top of your lungs just to cut the silence.
And there will be that moment, that brutally delayed moment, where they respond with a shrug, a sigh, a casual dismissal of all that you just implied. They will demonstrate with unintentional precision just how uninvolved they are, how little they have emotionally invested, just how very little this has all mattered to them. There will be the moment you struggle to physically scoop up every humiliating statement you made and all their brutal implications and cram them, hurriedly, back in your mouth. You’ll fight back tears as your cheeks fill, blotchy and red, like a veteran alcoholic. You’ll linger on the cusp of wailing, of running in any direction until your lungs ache–but you won’t. You’ll shrug and vaguely shake your head, pitifully mumbling something along the lines of,
“Oh, of course…right. No, no, that’s cool.”
You will awkwardly walk away, feeling the burn on the back of your neck as you know they are watching you with a combination of pity and discomfort. You will play the situation over in your head again and again, physically cringing every time you think of what they must think of you now–what they must be saying, through cruel laughter, to their friends.
But it will pass.
There will be that cutting, cruel thing you heard through the grapevine that stretches and winds relentlessly through your social group–that unfunny, hurtful joke that even friends saw fit to participate in. There will be that moment of domino-like realization that you were being laughed at, not with. There will be an overwhelming feeling of utter injustice–you will forget all the nasty things you might have said about others and know only the searing pain of being on the wrong end of mean-spirited gossip.
And there will be the knowledge that, sometimes, you are entirely alone–that we can all be ugly, mean, jealous creatures that will put another down to step just one rung up the ladder. You will realize that even close friends are not immune to the snake-like charm, the temporary high, of the kind of sentences that start with, “Did you hear…?”.
There will be things about you that others see fit to mock, to laugh at, to talk about in breathless little circles to which you were not invited. There will be a sense of overwhelming insecurity–what am I not included in? What am I not worthy of? What is being said behind my back that cannot be said to my face? The entirety of some friendships, of an acquaintanceship that seemed so utterly benign, will come into question. Gossip will put itself into the brutal clarity it can only achieve when it’s happening to you, and for a moment, you’ll feel the whole world is against you.
But it will pass.
There will be that thing you do–that job you don’t get, that class you fail, that interview you completely blow–that is no one’s fault but yours. There will be a certain amount of effort that you just didn’t put in, that you know you could have, that you were more than capable of. Procrastination, laziness, and insecurity will form a lethal, purpose-sapping elixir that sloshes sloppily through your veins. There will be a distinct sense of missing a target, an almost out-of-body experience that washes over you as you refuse to fully accept that you cheated yourself out of something that you deserved–that you could have had.
There will be a moment when you have to look people in the eye–people who support you, who love you, who believe in you–and tell them that you failed. Perhaps you counted your eggs long before they hatched; perhaps you had begun bragging about things that were never sure, but that your ego was all too happy to let you believe were in your pocket. There will be the uncomfortable, brutal announcement that all you were so sure about had been abruptly pulled, along with the rug, from under your feet.
Worse, far worse, than the angry accusations or cries of frustration that a lesser person might have heaped upon you, there will only be a pitiful shaking of the head. There will be a sense not that you upset them, but that you let them down. You will long to scream, to grab their shoulders and shake them until they hate you the way you hate yourself. But they won’t, they will only stand solemnly in front of you, a silent reminder of how much more you were capable. They believed in you, and you proved them wrong.
There will be a longing to go back in time, to grab the hands of the clock and force them to just a few hours before when you still had the chance to make things go the way they were supposed to. You will feel the need to justify yourself, to prove that you are still worth all that people expect of you, but you will not be able to. You will have to linger in your cloying, static failure as you accept that if you want something, you will have to work harder. And next time, you will. Next time, you will prove yourself. But now, now you have failed, and you must swallow that ugly idea, along with your pride, as you accept the disappointed pats on your shoulder.
But it will pass.