Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Consolation Prize

No one wants the consolation prize.

"What?  You got last place, here, have this consolation prize and try and cheer up.  We know you're in last place, but you can still have this prize as a reward.  Keep pressing on!"

The consolation prize is never as good as the winner's cut, and let's be honest, in comparison it's not much of anything.  After all, it's only given as a manner of formality; for appearances only.

At different stages of my life, I've often felt like I was the consolation prize.  The only reason someone would be in my company me was because I was the only option available--the winner's prize was taken and I was all that's left.

That hurts.

When I was in elementary school, I was never part of the "in" crowd and as such, often felt like I was on the fringe of society.  If any of you have ever read the picture book The Snowchild by Debi Gliori, you can get a pretty good picture of how I felt.  Katie only wanted to be on the "inside" but she always seemed to play the wrong games at the wrong times and the other children left her out.  It wasn't until she met Jenny that she found a friend who wanted to spend time with her for her.  Like Katie, I longed for that kind of friend.

Because my family did a lot of camping and I often had to amuse myself in foreign playgrounds, I wasn't a stranger to making friends.  I grew up learning to introduce myself as, "Hello, my name is Rachel, wanna be my friend?" or "wanna play with me?"  I remember using this one September in grade six.  It was the first day of school and there was a new girl standing by my portable classroom.  I walked up, and introduced myself, and in a matter of minutes, we were friends as only elementary school kids can be.  She seemed kind of shy and so I was quick to bring her over to where a couple of the other girls stood talking.  For a few months after that, I wondered what would have happened if I hadn't done that--if I had stayed talked to her until the first bell rang would that have made a difference or only prolonged the inevitable?  You see, after she had met the others, it was like I wasn't important.  They were the prize and I was not.

I remember a few other moments from those years where other students would talk and laugh with me--but only when I was the only one around.  If we were in a group, these same students wouldn't always talk to me or really look at me.  I was a friend of convenience and it was only convenient when I was the only one.

Talk about painful.

I experienced similar kinds of situations near the start of high school, but as I reached grade twelve and then university, I'd finally found people that valued me for me.  Friends that wanted to spend time with me because I was the prize.

This post is not easy to write.  Not because it hurt back then, but because recently I've felt the same pain and I've started to question whether I might have done the same to someone else.  The wounds that I thought to be healed have been torn open again and I lie once more bleeding on the floor.  Friends who were as akin as siblings won't give me the time of day anymore.  A few times, I've tried to make arrangements to hangout--even if it's just for an hour--just to talk and catch up, and yet I'm told that they are too busy or worse, I hear nothing in return.  This behaviour sends the message that I'm not worth the effort, sometimes the little effort it takes to send a text.  I've come to expect disappointment from these friends.  I've come to expect them to flake on plans, to ignore me, and to make no effort to meet me half way.  Without realizing it, they are breaking my heart and I'm nearing my limit.

I find it difficult to express how this betrayal makes me feel.  I'm sad, yes.  But more, I feel like someone is slowly beating me with a bat.  Not hard enough to make any clean breaks, but enough to bruise me repeatedly. Even the toughest wood will splinter under repeated abuse, eh?

It takes two people to make a relationship work and I can only call out so many times before I take the hint that I'm not a prize worth fighting for.

And yet... I'm not saying that I'll cut these people out of my life because I don't think that's right either.  If they decide to reach out to me, I will be waiting.  Friends do grow and change with time and people grow apart, as sad as that may be.  No matter the distance, a part of me will always wait with a hand outstretched toward those who've left me behind.  With nostalgia clinging like early morning mist, I can't do otherwise because I will always cherish the time we had together.

And now I feel like I've talked myself into a circle.  I hate feeling like the consolation prize and it makes me feel angry, bitter and so utterly sad, and yet I can't hate the friends that have made me feel that way.  I still love them and wish they'd fight for me, too.

In the end, maybe that's a reason I make a good consolation prize...

Je ne sais pas.

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