I was the angsty teenager in headphones. The black hoodie wearing, tattoo yearning girl with dark eyeliner and an air of moody misery. Sixteen years old and the world was against me.
Loud rock music blaring in my ears, adding fuel to my fragile emotions and intensifying my misery and self pity. I hid away in corners reading books and cycled for hours until my depressed feelings seeped into my aching muscles and I turned my depression into exercise.
Oh, poor, poor me, standing alone in the corridors, reading deeply in the library to avoid being seen with no friends.
One day a glamorous girl I was severely envious of came up to me in the library, in the spot where I always sat, reading a book.
‘Oh my God you’re such a loner!’ she said, her voice high and cheerful and her smile infectious. She nudged me.
‘Come hang out with me and the girls.’
I thought it was a pity ask. Our mums were friends.
‘No, it’s ok, I’m actually really into this book.’
Me with my oversized hoody and deeply emotional rock music. She tried several more times but I always thought it was her mother making her. Her mother knew nothing. I found this out years later.
I had no friends. For lack of trying, honestly. I lacked the try. I did not try. I expected them to come up to me and want to be my friend.
They did, as well. They actually did. They were curious, they asked me questions. I was shy. So I maintained a stony demeanour and answered shortly, avoiding eye contact and being blunt and dismissive.
Once a girl told me she felt I was ‘indifferent’. Like I thought I was above everybody else.
There was a boy in one of my classes who spent the whole lesson, every lesson, talking to me about everything he could think of. I enjoyed his chatter. I got first hand information on all the popular kids because he was down with the cool kids. In fact he was friends with everybody.
I was ‘indifferent’ to him too but he kept badgering me.
‘Why do you always sit alone in the library?’ he’d asked once, in between telling me about this girl he fancied like mad and who always sat next to me in Chemistry.
‘I like to,’ I told him, airily, ‘I don’t like you college lot. So I don’t wanna hang out with anybody.’
He laughed so loud that we both got told off and separated. Next class, he was at it again, asking me to talk to the girl he fancied for him. I didn’t. She didn’t like him, and had made that pretty clear to me many times beforehand, so I kept brushing him off.
We never hung out, despite his numerous invitations.
I never made friends there. Not real ones. I sat alone, and plugged my earphones in, and let the sad music wash me away to my own island of depression and misery, believing the world had given me a really bad deal and feeling dreary and lost because of it. I cried a lot at home, I told my mother I was miserable, and watched her heart ache for me because no mother wants to see their child struggle.
Sometimes those headphone days creep back on me, six years later. Making me feel lonely and depressed again. Reminding me of my sadness and my loss. Peering over my shoulder of a sunny day and stealing my joy, sucking it out of me until I am a melted heap on the floor. Self piteous idiot. Why should I let my own incompetence affect me now? I am not like I was then.
In hindsight, I should have gone with that girl. I should have asked those kids questions back. I should have sat with them when they called me. I should have made my own friends. I let fear rule me, you see.
I learnt something magnanimous from that experience. I learned that the world owes me nothing, it exists as it always has done and always will. It exists and it is up to me to get off my sorry, self piteous backside and explore it and take from it what is mine. The world will give me nothing. It has everything and it leaves it all there for us to take.
So, take! Take those damn headphones out with their manipulative music and clear your head and breath some fresh air and shake some hands. Smile a wide smile and ask people questions, and hell, bake them some cinnamon rolls. Indulge, enjoy, enter into other comfort zones, explore, learn, create! It’s up to you to make something of the world, because, as harsh as this sounds…
The world owes you nothing.