Back in college (a lifetime ago, it feels like!), I spent a semester studying in Germany (“studying”? Um, SURE…). I had gone entirely because my best friend was going and I didn’t want to get left behind.
She had a German minor. I had taken 2 years of German in high school. She was a Geography major with a bent on immersing herself in other cultures. I was a Psych/CompSci major that felt vaguely uncomfortable in situations where I didn’t understand what was going and couldn’t get Taco Bell.
Despite this, I applied for the study abroad program, enlisted every ounce of charm and charisma during the interview and somehow shoe-horned my way in, with nothing more than a promise to take a German class over the summer. To this day, I’m not entirely sure how any administrator in their right mind would have allowed me into the program, but hey — I took it and never looked back.
And that semester ended up being one of the best things I ever did for myself. Not only was it a boatload of fun, but I did a lot of growing up and learning how to be independent and started the process of figuring out who I was and what I wanted. Didn’t kick start the process enough for me to figure out that I was gay, but I’m apparently a slow learner.
Now, this same best friend that I spent the semester with is going to Switzerland to spend a few months with her husband and kids, while hubby is there on a physics sabbatical. And so now she’s launching herself into this big adventure, much like we did 21 years ago (yes, I’m that old), and that started the both of us reminiscing and I even pulled out the journal that I kept (handwritten! It was 1991!) and read it through.
Reading my journal was a bit of an eye-opener: the way I described the semester above? Not entirely true. While I definitely had fun, I guess over the years I managed to remember the good stuff and let the bad stuff fade into the background. The semester wasn’t all good German beer and bakery goods (though – admittedly – that did comprise a large portion of the semester… and by the end it comprised a large part of *me*, too)… as it turns out, that semester started a pattern of behavior that I haven’t managed to break out of even today.
As I said, I was there with my best friend. But – above that: she was more a soul mate than just a best friend. I was as close to her as I had been with anyone else and as it happened, but this semester abroad strained our relationship.
See, I depended on her too much. Expected too much, as well. I wanted it to be like back at school: joined at the hip, very little that we didn’t do together. But, once we got to Germany, she had a talk with me — she wanted a little freedom to meet new people and be friends with others, too. Immerse herself in the experience. To that end, she chose to not be my roommate and, in fact, got a room in another dorm. Crushed me.
Now, before you get all up in arms about her behavior, it wasn’t like she dropped me as a friend, ignored me or anything like that. All she asked for was the freedom to be her own person and not have her identity automatically twinned with mine.
So, I spent a lot of the semester being moody and unhappy and passive-aggressively mad at her for not loving me the way that I loved her. I mean, I was there solely because of her, shouldn’t she treat me better?
She was probably the first person that I acted this way towards, but certainly wasn’t the last — it set a behavioral pattern up that I would wear out for the next 20+ years. And more than that, I can’t believe that it took me 20+ years and re-reading a journal I wrote when I was 20 to even really understand how I keep managing to sabotage relationships.
Perhaps I just needed to be older and wiser. Or something like that. I’ll admit, though, it’s taken me a long time to write this post. I keep trying to avoid it, as if by hiding it away it didn’t really happen — or, rather, isn’t really happening currently.
So, that’s the past, caught up to the present. And what does it mean for me now? I’ll save that for next time.