I was trying to explain to someone sometime in the past month about being alone and what I meant by that. In the strictest definition of the word, I am not alone. I have people in my life, in fact, I’m surrounded by people. But you can still be alone in a crowd.
But that’s not what I mean by alone.
The best metaphor I could figure out was the difference between being on the sidelines versus being on the field/pitch.
The field/pitch is where the action is and where everyone focuses. The folks on the sidelines are pretty much ignored/forgotten. In fact, in most cases the folks on the field/pitch could give two shits about the sidelines. They’re the key players, the important players, the team core, first string, etc.
Until we’re needed.
Then the sidelines are remembered. We are called in to sub, literally substitute, for one of the key players. And it looks like you belong, like you, the sub, fits. But in reality you are a placeholder for the first string player everyone is waiting to come back on the field/pitch.
The folks on the sidelines are also used/asked to fix things for the people on the field/pitch, or help. Bring something. Fetch this. Trade their broken thing for your non-broken one so they can keep playing while you fix theirs for them. We’re reliable. The key players know we’ll be there.
But as a sideline player, you aren’t included as a contributor to the win. You’re not first string. You’re secondary, and therefore your contribution is considered less than. Even if you end up doing/playing more than the first string that game. It doesn’t matter. The credit still goes to the key players and team core, and us sidelines folks are pleasantly surprised (and often shocked) if we’re remembered.
But you, the sideline player, are sure as hell used as an excuse when it’s a loss.
And then you’re forgotten again. Until they need a sub or someone to fix/help or meet a need they have or they need an excuse.
As a sideline player, you don’t know who, if anyone, you can lean on, rely on. Just because you’re on the field/pitch now, and it appears to observers that or sometimes even feels like you are part of the core, you never really are. You aren’t privy to the intimate communication between the key players. You are there, but not included. There are little gestures, inside jokes, etc. that as a sub you never learn and no one ever tells you.
As a sideline player, you try leaning on or relying on someone. But inevitably they aren’t there when *you* need them, but only when they need you.
I’ve been the sideline player for most (all?) of my life. I’m the “sub” for the friend that isn’t available. The one they call when they need help. Moving and being the new-kid/person every few years (with no support community like the military) didn’t help my sideline role. Everyone new starts on the sideline. How you get chosen to be first string, part of the core/key players I have no idea. I’ve never figured it out.
Maybe I’m just not a good reader of people. I choose to believe in the best of everyone, and give credit where credit is due. I believe that if I’m there for them, they’ll be there for me. I try to refrain from judging other people’s journeys and decisions. Maybe that makes me less able to figure out who I can trust, or maybe I’m just naive.
Because I usually get it wrong and trust the wrong person/people. And then end up floundering. End up reaching out into nothing. End up going it alone yet again.
Total trust fall fail. And as anyone that has experienced a trust fall fail, it really fucking hurts when you hit the ground.
If I get nothing else from my mid-life breakdown/decent into depression, it is showing me who I can trust. And per my trust fall fail pattern, who’s been there and who’s not has surprised me more than once. Who is sincerely in my corner, and who’s just biding time until I can be “useful” to them again.
I am sincerely grateful for each and every one that has reached out, been patient, didn’t give up on me, hold it against me, or take it personally when I stepped off the carousel of life for awhile. It gives me hope that I won’t always be on the sidelines. Maybe I, with all y’all, will change the game instead.
*Mind you, I’m only talking about my personal life and friendships/relationships. Work involves a whole other set of factors, including internal local politics, internal culture, power games, etc., all on a much grander scale than an individual trying to figure out who the friends are that they can trust if they need help and reach out.