One of my friends had a baby in December and will make their Broadway debut in August. Two other friends recently performed together in a concert version of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” in NYC and crushed it. Another friend returns to Broadway this month after being away for almost eight years.
The catch? None of these “friends” know I exist.
I have a habit of getting fully invested in something. If I like a movie or theatre show, I will spend hours researching all the behind the scenes moments, interviews, and looking up the actors and actresses to see what else they’ve done. I also have a habit of living vicariously through other people. If they’re happy, I get happy for them. If something sad happens, a part of me hurts too. I know it sounds cheesy, but welcome to my world. So, as I get to know these people through their work and online presence, the closer I feel to their lives.
To me, these men and women are not just actors or actresses. They’re real people with real lives, and they deserve to be seen that way. I enjoy watching the bits and pieces of their lives they share with the world on social media, just as I do with my best friend of 17 years (who actually does know I exist!).
I grew up often pouring more into others than was poured into me. I have always enjoyed encouraging and helping others whenever I can, so it didn’t feel off whenever I rearranged my life to help someone but the same wasn’t done for me. I didn’t (and don’t) resent any friends for not prioritizing me, because I genuinely didn’t think I should be first in anything. So when I give someone encouragement or celebrate their victories with them, I’m used to it often being a one-sided thing. That’s why following the people I do on social media and getting genuinely happy, excited, or even emotional over things that happen in their lives doesn’t feel strange to me.
I’m realizing though, I do need people to do the same for me, as much as I didn’t think I did.
I need people who know I exist, who text to check in and see how life is going, who celebrate my victories, and who don’t ignore or judge my darkest moments. I need people who prioritize me as much as I prioritize them. I also need real, human interaction in everyday life, not simply watching someone’s life through a screen.
And I’m coming to understand that I’m not selfish for seeking those relationships. It’s okay to want to feel important to people. It’s okay to want to have people who will listen and not judge me for what I’m going through, but instead support and encourage me. It’s okay to want even give-and-take relationships, instead of the uneven balance of me giving all the support and effort and often receiving little or none in return.
This is not to say I expect every relationship to be equal give-and-take, as I know that’s not logical. Every person is in a unique situation in life, and sometimes you need to be the mentor that pours into someone who genuinely can’t reciprocate because they’re in a very different stage of life. That’s okay. I want to be that for others, and I need people who are that for me. I just also need more relationships that involve equal effort and support from both parties.
I will still follow the people on social media, get unreasonably excited when something amazing happens for them, and melt with happiness when I see two of my favorites work together on a project or just hang out together in real life. I will still view them as my friends. But I will also look for friendships in my daily life where we both value and interact with each other in equal measure. The kind of relationship where we support each other and appreciate the other’s time, energy, and existence. I have slowly begun surrounding myself with such people, and I look forward to going through life with these and other awesome, real people.