I lost it today. Completely and totally lost it. And I have never been prouder of myself.
When I was 16 years old, I was at the pinnacle of my loneliness. I had just moved to New Jersey, away from the people I had know my entire life. I was alone and sad all the time.
At that point, a gentleman suitor came into my life. It didn't occur to me at the time, but at 25, he was a pedophile. He didn't have any bad intentions, we just spoke on the phone. We only hung out in person a couple times, actually. Still, he was chasing someone 9 years younger - a minor.
Eventually, he ended up giving me a ring. It was a tiny silver ring with an itty bitty diamond, a custom shape, and 2 tiny rubies. It was sort of his way of "proposing". I don't think he intended to get married, though. He just wanted us to run away to a forest, have a million kids, and never communicate with anyone ever again.
I didn't intend to marry him, I didn't intend to run away with him, and I definitely didn't intend to abandon my family. But, at 16, this cool musician wanting me was flattering. I had no other guys in my life, so, heck, I figured I'd get my kicks from this love-hypnotized fella.
For MANY obvious reasons, nothing came of this. When I "broke it off", he threatened to kill himself. He made all kinds of claims. Finally, he moved to Florida and I didn't hear from him again (not until 5 years later.)
However, that skimpy ring remained on my finger. I switched which finger it was on, and it even went missing once or twice. However, inevitably, it would always show up again. I would make sure it did and I figured it would never go away. I clung to it and all it represented. When I was lonely, it reminded me that once, someone wanted nothing else in the world but me. It reminded me of an exciting part of my life. This was THE ring.
I have had many "rings" throughout my life. Sometimes it was art or dolls or whatever other assorted items that were mementos of good things that happened in my life. In some part of my mind, I recently realized, every time something good happened, I believed it was the last. I held onto unhealthy friendships and held onto useless STUFF because I didn't think I'd have another opportunity. If I lost these things and people, I would end up with nothing. For better or for worse, I had preferred the things I didn't want over having nothing. I felt that was the best I was going to get. It was all I deserved.
Recently, this has changed for me. Following the decision to become a regular at a bar near my college, my life began to evolve. For many, frequenting a bar becomes their downfall. For me, it has become my cocoon. I enter a timid 16 year old with no friends and masses of loneliness. Throughout the night, I open up to new people, new friendships, and a newfound empowerment. The friends I have made there have given me confidence in my ability to like and be liked. Even my outside relationships have improved. Previously, I assumed people were all the same, the moment I let them down or wasn't perfect, they'd run away. Turns out, not all people are this way. The people in my life right now are true and beautiful, loving people.
I've learned to tell people "no", and not to put up with abuse. This has led to me ridding of toxic relationships and discovering who the people I really want in my life are. Because of this, I don't find myself anxiously canceling plans or avoiding people. I have a whole cast, albeit, a crazy cast of friends I can adore. I absolutely cannot wait to see them and invite them places and be friends with them. It's a new sensation for me. I feel like a young girl whose discovered her first crush.
I had no idea I could be this happy with people. I always assumed I was naturally anti-social and introverted. I was destine to be alone and sad. Turns out, I was just wasting my efforts on the wrong people. My mind and body knew better, and all these years I've been ignoring the signs!
It's ridiculous and corny and almost unbelievable.
Honestly, I brag about having these friends! I mention them and include them every chance I get. No matter their vices and challenges, I am so proud of them. They each have their difficulties. We all do. But now I know I can have my flaws and they can have theirs, and we will still have this magical, incredible thing called 'friendship'.
I feel as if I've been given a second chance in life. A chance to be happy. Maybe it will last this time.
Sometimes I worry it's just a mania, and any day now, I'll fall down again and lose them all. Or, sometimes I think, I just haven't made the wrong mistake yet. I'll say or do the wrong thing and mess it all up again.
Something else makes me doubt that, though. I am really optimistic about everything right now.
I don't know if these friendships will last forever. Every relationship has its strain and can go wrong, but they also may not. I may be friends with these people for the rest of my life. I might watch them each get married and have children and I might be called "Auntie" or, at least be invited to his/her birthday parties. I'll be part of a group, a person with a definition. Not only remembered by my family for being their daughter or sister or niece, but loved by people who chose to love me and let me in their life. People who saw past my "quirkiness" and the way I blush at the most ridiculous things. The people who know what it feels like to love your dog more than anyone else in the world. People who will dance with you, even in the middle of the street or hug you and tease you, knowing you'll tease them right back. Not because they have to or because they're trying to play the part. Instead, because they are happy to see you and you are happy to see them, and you just can't be around these people without feeling a tingling in your heart. The only possible way to release the joy you feel is to laugh and smile and take pictures (as evidence that this is really your life - that this is really your experience! This is really happening to ME!)
Today, I lost that ring. I took it off at the gym, noticed an hour later, and didn't care enough to go back. I am realizing now how that ring would drive me nuts. I would fidget with it, it would slide around, it made it difficult to weight-lift and play guitar... it was constantly getting in the way. I kept it on because I was scared to let it go. I didn't know how I'd feel or what I'd do without it on my finger.
Now, I lost it... and I have no regrets.