You sit across from your best friend, and they feed you frosty dipped fries; they tell you that you’re better than that town, your small dreams, that boy. On your birthday, they show up with a white rose and a slice of your favorite cake; they just always show up. There’s a soft patch of dead grass in their front yard from your car always being parked there, and they have a way of making you feel like you’re the only one in the room.
Until you realize that they somehow can make every person in the room feel like they’re the only one. Until you get the text you won’t be able to forget even when you’re 23 and it’s been four years—the text that suddenly makes you question a decade of late night drives and them teaching you how to clean your windshield and eating ice cream right out of the tub.
Suddenly, what you’re left with is an armful of good times you find yourself trading in for the one feeling that none of it ever meant anything. You still remember the sound of their voice yelling at your demons; if you close your eyes, you can still smell their living room couch. Because when someone falls out of love with you, there’s always the hope of another first date. But when you find yourself missing a spot at your best friend’s birthday dinner, not knowing what they’re favorite movie is or what classes they’re taking in school—when everything you know about them is something you found out in a picture on a screen—you suddenly don’t know how to make your way through the dark; right side up becomes upside down; people still talk about them to you like you already know what’s going on in their life, and you just have to smile and nod and swallow hard. Because you can’t tell anyone. What would you tell people anyways? That every moment of the past 11 years is keeping you up at night? That you’re second guessing every conversation and convinced that you were just a space holder in their lives until they found something better?
When someone is gone, you remember them as something better than they really were—and you remember yourself as worse.
So you start speaking things over yourself: it’s your fault. If you just would have said more—if you just would have kept your mouth shut. You’re too much. The person who loved you when no one else did, well, they never really loved you that much, so why would anyone else? You’re just not worth staying around for. You were the only one that any of it meant anything to. You’re boring. You’re weird. You’re not dazzling or fun to be around. You’re replaceable and not missable. You’re forgettable. Something is wrong with you.
Little sister, can I tell you a secret about the art of losing people?
You are rarely the reason that people leave. When you get left, it’s not about you.
Because the truth is, if I could go back and take myself out of the situation, I would’ve seen the bigger picture. I would have seen that my best friend didn’t know how to be good at losing people, and when they lost the person their heart was set on—well, that’s where they fixed their eyes. In the last days of our friendship, all they could see was the pain and confusion, like tunnel vision. They probably didn’t even see me shouting from the stands, “I’m here! Let me be here!”
Hurt people hurt people, but it’s usually not intentional. You’re usually just the collateral.
People don’t run from other people, they run from pain. People don’t leave people, they leave what makes them uncomfortable. People don’t forget people, they do everything they can to forget what hurts.
Little sister, let your heart be a revolving door—let the good and bad come in, take what you need from all of it, but don’t keep anything. You’ll drive your hotel heart crazy trying to convince people to stay in a place they were always meant to just pass through.
Don’t forget that you’re just passing through, too.
You never know when someone is drowning until you feel them tugging at your leg, pulling you under to push themselves back up.
Don’t forget that you know how to swim, though, and your face will feel the sun again.
So little sister, this is how you lose people: let them go and forget yourself, because it’s easy to tell yourself that some people are just seasons but harder to slow down and realize that you’re a season in their life, too.
It wasn’t you they left. So close your eyes, and imagine a life for them: they’re working as a nurse somewhere now, just like they always wanted; they’re loved by someone who sits with them when they’re sad; they’re happy and healthy and run four days a week; maybe sometimes they still listen to the songs you used to sing together. But thank God they’ve finally found a way out of whatever it was that took up so much space in their life before—so much space that they didn’t have any more room to fit anything or anyone else, or even you. Thank God.
And you? You’re not a space holder. You’re not forgettable. And while you’re busy giving everyone else the credit, don’t forget that you’re the hero in someone else’s story; don’t forget that you’re still in the stories they tell.
This is how you lose people.