In some ways this is a confession.
I have been a terrible friend, and have done things to intentionally hurt someone I really cared about, just because I couldn't cope with that feeling that comes with rejection. No one likes rejection and I deal with it a lot more poorly than others. It's not really a story that needs to be told, but I feel a lot better having verbalised it and then writing this blog. This, all of it, is old news, and my apologies to the people who know the rest of it or think they know who it's about. I have tried so hard not to share what isn't mine to share, and anyone who knows me should know what I mean by this. We get caught out telling other people's stories, but this one is mine.
What started as a simple search through the memory banks to find a reason for something triggered off something old and mostly forgotten in my mind. It started like this:
I was thinking about my reasons for wanting to be a chaplain and youth worker, both of which I did and enjoyed, but for me, this period of my life was just for a season. Whatever, I said I wouldn't write about vocation anymore.
Then I remembered that some of this started from attending a workshop at Planet Shakers in 2002. The workshop was on school ministry and the importance it plays in the life of young people. I have pages and pages of notes of this session and the flawed statistics presented. I made a big statement after the workshop and it went something like "If This Guy had a Christian chaplain or counsellor to talk to, well, none of this would have happened."
And Gareth, bless him, said "You can't live your life on ifs, ands or buts." Which is kind of true, but I didn't believe him. In fact, I believed wholeheartedly the problems my friend had could be solved by someone from the Christian faith helping him work through all of his issues. Which, is again, probably not very accurate.
Where do I start, and where does someone else's journey take over my own?
Simply put, I had a friend who I knew through church and we spent every day together, literally. In my typical fashion, I discarded all my 14 year old friends to spend time with this guy. Fine, cool, whatever. We did everything together, he called my mum Mum, we had all these traditions and rituals and quirky things we would say and do.
He was a few years older than me and thought he was a lot wiser. My friend was the first person I spoke to about the future - what we would do when we left school, where we would live, our interests beyond music and movies. I had good friends before, and none of them were that superficial - we had talked about important stuff - but until that time of my life I hadn't had anyone to share my thoughts with on a regular basis.
It was like being in a relationship, except we weren't. He would say things like 'oh, I don't want to lead you on', but then spend hours at my house watching movies until 4am. He made me a birthday present and did favours for me and all the things that you kind of get in a relationship, but without any hand holding. Everything seemed good... but then, well, things started to get messy, and not in a jelly and Twister kind of way.
My new friend had a lot of issues, heaps and heaps of them. It didn't seem like that at the time, but eventually it got to the point where every week there was something from the past to deal with, or something from the present that had upset him in a major way. It wasn't that I didn't have friends with some kind of problem - I have always had a bit of a saviour complex - it was just that this stuff was too much for my poor little head to deal with. And when I think about this time in my life (and I was fifteen by then, you can probably start putting pieces together if you want to), I start reminding myself that I was only a kid and there wasn't a lot I could do to help. I could, I could distract, I could be there for my friend, but that's about all I could do, and I thought it was enough. Eventually he was referred to counselling, but he wasn't overly interested in this avenue of assistance either. Instead of dealing through talking and advice seeking his activities and interests and friends changed virtually overnight. I spent the school holidays mostly cooped up inside my house waiting for him to come around, which he kept promising to do and didn't.
Then, well, I have detailed exactly what happened in a blog I wrote awhile back about The Worst Day of My Life, in which I basically went cuckcoo-bananas at him for being a lousy friend. Because I just couldn't deal anymore, even though I really wanted to. Of course, my life got a lot better at this point because I was really surrounded by a negative and difficult situation I had no control over, or ability to help heal. The worst day was totally worth it just to be back to being a better version of Vintage Lisa.
What happened after my friend changed completely was difficult to be a part of. People I knew would say really useful things like 'we never see him anymore' and 'he's totally gone off the rails' and 'he's screwing up his life'. We have all said things along these lines about people we know, but it kind of pains me now to realise that a lot of this was really just an unanswered cry for help... and no one wanted to help him. Or perhaps they did, and couldn't or didn't know how to.
I told Stephen the story, and a much less condensed version, and he reminded me of two things, and I liked them so much that the blog is about this.
A heart made of stone.
Although theologically incorrect, it's pretty impossible to plant a seed in a heart of stone. Great parables, etc etc. Our new house has a dirt on top of concrete, and of course, what grows there? Weeds. That's it. Nothing actually useful.
My friend probably wasn't in a great place to be receiving help from people who weren't in the right place to deliver it. He needed professionals. My experience in this crazy world has been that it is really hard to help people who don't want to be helped or who really just want to deal with an issue their way. That's totally their right and it should be respected. On the other hand, it wasn't fair that so many people were saying that things had gone wrong for this guy but weren't interested in continuing their friendship with him. Why do we continue to do these things to ourselves and to each other?
Because guys are different to girls. And seasons.
"And then what happened?" said Stephen.
The long story short is that we weren't ever really friends again. Okay, so we saw each other a couple of times a year, but every single time it was like he was a Brand New and Improved Person with totally different goals and interests. It got tiresome and I wasn't loving it at all. It couldn't continue the way it was though because we were going off in two different directions and he wanted his new friends and to do cool and rebellious things.
After some discussion with my resident Boys Expert (yeah, that's Stephen), I learnt something new, or a least a new theory, that guys are different to girls in how they relate to other people in friendships. He said it's totally normal just to have a friend for a season, even a really intense friendship, and then move on. But, he also said that girls aren't like that at all. Yay, go girls!
The hard thing about this friendship was that I was the one who did most of the work, even after the intense stage was over and done with. It's okay to be chasing people... at least sometimes, but you want to know that they enjoy spending time with you too. And, also, you want someone to have your back. I have people I would drop everything for if they needed me. At one point, he was that person. Now, we haven't spoken for a really long time, and to be honest, he probably never had my back at all.
Now, back to the original topic, which was looking for a reason behind my career choices. I think a lot of what I believed during that stage of my life was driven and sometimes manipulated by emotions. Emotions I felt, other people felt and things some people I saw as leaders and mentors would suggest should be a guiding force behind my vocational search. I wish I taken a little bit more notice of what Gareth said that night though, or at least talked in out with other people to get a second opinion. What did happen, of course, is that I saw plenty of other events unfold during my youth, many of which had dire consequences. And, at some of those times, I was that person who said "So-and-so is doing the wrong thing, they have changed, they are screwing up their lives," when actually i could have been a much better friend by not saying these things. Hindsight, is, of course, a beautiful thing. Do I think a Christian influence could have changed the course my friend took? In my professional opinion.... probably not.
For a really long time I have been holding onto these months of my life. It was the beginning of young adulthood - I started working, I started doing SACE subjects and I was in the process of creating some really important spiritual connections. I had great friends who I quickly abandoned to spend time with this guy - who welcomed me back with open arms when it all went horribly wrong.
I can't say it is a time I miss, but one I am very glad I have experienced.
All the same, experience shouldn't come with a cost. I inadvertently hurt a lot of people through this journey of mine, and I have probably painted a really good picture of myself, when actually I was just a crazy kid who liked a boy a lot and tried all sorts of crazy ways to get him to like me, get jealous, get mad or realise that he had hurt me. Because, your first broken heart hurts the most, even when the person doing the breaking never loved you (or liked you in a romantic sense) in the first place. For a few months after this time a few of my friends from school did give him a hard time, but this probably wasn't just due to my influence. That makes me a bully, I guess. That word is used too often, but it all makes a lot of sense now.
For the four or five months we weren't friends, after our break up that wasn't, I had a journal which I used to use as an open journal. My friends would read it and write notes to me in it. Soon though, things got too much for me. Something big happened in my life and at the same time, the person this blog is about was going through some major changes. And so, I closed my journal to the world, so that only I could read it and be allowed to be honest.
When I was honest though, I found that I had a whole less amount of angst, and had fallen out of "love" with the person in question. Although I was still mad, I was a whole lot kinder to everyone else, especially myself in the process. In some ways, closing my journal was a sign that it was time to close down my innner-thoughts to other people, and to choose carefully who I shared them with. It was really hard to be honest with myself because I kept thinking that I should feel more than what I did, that his life and all the problems that came with it, should weigh more heavily than someone else's seemingly wonderful life.
My mum often says that the story should be a fictional novel as it's pretty darn good. And, these are just the bones of what happened. But it's a story I have tried many times to capture, and I can't. I just don't have the passion, and I know that the story ends badly, especially considering we aren't even friends anymore.
I am glad I made some of the career choices I did, and allowed myself to be inspired by the work and ideas of others. Do I think my path may have prevented more stories like this from being told?
We live in a fallen world, and people need to make their own choices. As soon as I started making my own, everything fell into place a little better. I regret how I treated people on the path to self-discovery, nor would I wish someone the same journey, but it's a story that will be told time and time again, because unrequited love deserves to be shared and felt by others who know exactly how it is.