I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
There was an air of superiority in her tone. Something that comes with being exceedingly successful in one’s career but never having put in much time healing one’s insecurities. The prime motivation for most addictions, people surround themselves with distractions to keep from confronting and attempting to overcome their past. So they go out and get wasted, or constantly have friends around them to talk about banality of life, or they obsess over dating websites, or they smoke something to get to sleep because that’s when the memories sneak back in. And just like any addict, there are the over-achievers. Some who keep their face crammed inside of texts books until one day they look up and they have a PhD and years worth of unresolved childhood issues.
We all have our distractions. I am far from being immune. But make no mistake, a distraction can be a distraction whether it ends with a DUI or a PhD, but regardless of where you end up it is how you spend that time either stepping over the holes in your heart or stopping to fill them that truly matters.
She said, “But what could you possibly know about me or my life?”
And it was that kind of goading arrogance that said “Come on, I dare you” that really got to me. So I thought, okay. I’ll take the bait.
I said, “I don’t know your specifics but let me take a shot here. Let’s see – despite the amount of friends you had as a kid, you always felt like an outcast. You felt a little weird in your skin and even when people would tell you that they envied you, it never made much sense. When people told you they thought you were pretty you thought they were being cruel but then you realized that everyone else sees a different you than you see in the mirror. As you got older, you found that you could entice men to like you and even fall in love, but it was never the right one. It was like you have been cursed with the ability to attract all the men you don’t want and the ones that you actually DO want are never the ones who ever truly invest themselves in you.”
She looked at me with a combination of shock and embarrassment. She opened her mouth as if to tell me how wrong I was but she couldn’t find the words, so I interrupted her.
“And right now you’re pissed because you thought you were this enigma that no one could ever figure out. But now here is some weird tattooed guy who makes poverty wages and rode his bike to this date telling you all about your life. You hate that he’s right and you hate that he knows more about you than you want someone to know on a first date.”
She paused, snapped out of it and said in a child-like playground voice, “I can’t help but be angry with you right now but I don’t get it, how do you know?”
“You are beautiful and accomplished and you have spent all this time moving forward but your demeanor and arrogance screams that you never truly dealt with your past insecurities.”
“But how do you know this?”
“Because when you’re damaged and insecure, you can see it that much easier in others.”
“You think I’m damaged and insecure?”
“Are you telling me that you’re not?”
Her mouth hung open again for a few seconds before she said, “Well, I… I mean, I’m not saying that I’m not. I just… I… ”
“Am surprised that a guy like me noticed?”
“I’m surprised anyone noticed. So what else do you think you know about me?” She asked with a bit of sass while unconvincingly attempting to hide her curiosity.
“I know you’ve been hurt by so many men in your past that it prevents you from opening up as easily. You feel like you wasted a lot of your best moments on people who didn’t deserve it so you rarely let anyone see who you truly are anymore. And that kills you because you’ve got so much love to give and no one knows it. You just want to feel comfortable with someone enough that you can tell them how much they mean to you and not feel like a fool afterward. You just want it to feel fair and it never has. And while it would be nice if they were as successful as you are, you wouldn’t care as long as they could make you feel loved and appreciated every single day.” I waited a few seconds for that to sink in and said, “Am I wrong?”
She couldn’t hide her emotions. Her face told me everything. “But… how do you know all this about me?”
“Because we’re not all that different.” I said, “Me and you. Us and them. The only real differences are how we deal with our insecurities. Some of us are just further along in our progress. We are all damaged in some way and because none of us are perfect, we all have some level of insecurity. We are all a work in progress. But yes, I know you because we know our kind when we find each other.”
“You’re right, you know?” She said, “I hate that you know this about me.”
She paused and took a long sip of her coffee and said, “So how does this work out?”
“You and me or in general?”
“Well for right now I’m enjoying your company. I don’t know how we turn out. But in general, the only chance we have to be happy within a relationship is to believe that it is still possible while learning to be okay alone in a dark room with just our thoughts and memories.”
“And how do we do that?”
“Well what works for me is to stop running from the memories and start running toward them. I mean, fuck it. They’re coming for us either way. We can’t outrun our damage so we might as well give it a real fight. Let the memories sink in. Face the rough nights and stay awake and cry it out and keep asking why. Why we believe things happened. Why we can’t move past certain memories. Why we project our self-doubt on to other people.”
I took a sip of my coffee and looked out at the people walking down Diversey Avenue.
“You know, we have more similarities with people than we realize. Deep down almost everyone you meet wants those two things: to be loved and appreciated every single day. And when we make that realization… well, life and dating become much easier when you learn to empathize with the people like us.”
“And who are we?”
“The damaged ones.”