I am notorious for staying steadfast to the bitter end. I hang on to the last hope until I can’t deny it any longer. Some call me stubborn; I like to think of myself as very loyal. Loyal to ideas, beliefs, and people. For the longest time, I took pride in the fact that I was not easily swayed. It seemed to me to be an underlying strength to my character. Many times, it allowed my dedication to a skill or cause and served a great purpose. I stick to my guns, and that’s a good thing… sometimes.
In regards to relationships, stubbornness may not be such a helpful attribute. Now, it’s something I try to check myself on. After awhile, I couldn’t help feeling foolish for refusing to read the writing on the wall. It seemed that I was, in the end, just trying to protect my glass house, something that I was profusely against in other people. To do that, I would hear and see only what I wanted to. At one point I had to brace myself and face the truth that my friends are fallible, I make mistakes, and people are more than the roles they play for me.
I think we all like to believe the thought that, as Miss Pettigrew puts it,we possess “latent possibilities of achievement.” And if we believe it for ourselves so fervently (which I think we all do. How else are diets and lessons so popular?), we must acknowledge that others will change too. What they do, what they think, and who they like will all change. They will change who they are to themselves and who they are in our lives as well. Even though it may untidy our personal worlds a bit.
What happens in that scary moment when you look at a person and realize that they’re not who you used to know? What happens to someone when the one they’ve built a dream on isn’t the strong foundation they thought it was? I see it happening different ways. Many keep on building. This is what I did for a long time (and sometimes still do). When we build on these false foundations, our dreams either fall or we do something just in time to repair or stabilize the foundation. Otherwise, we buck up and accept that the dream we had, can’t be built, at least not the way we thought it could be.
A few months ago, I talked to a person who was a dream to me. I always convinced myself I was right about him. I’d felt so certain that we had this mutual understanding, that we had this unique, matching outlook on the world. It would be painful to admit that my instinct was so off the mark. No matter what he did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, I built up excuses to make my dream fit the reality I was faced with. Finally, I was sick of holding on to a painful dream that I suspected was doomed. So I bit the bullet and asked him an ultimate question that would either reinforce or destroy my dream of him. It turned out that I had, as I’d suspected, been mistaken.
It’s the same with people we love. We care about someone and want them to be successful, so we believe that all the good parts of them will inevitably shine through. We know who they are to us and we see their former selves as possibilities for the future. But sometimes people change too much to fit your visions of success for them. At some point our life starts to mirror that Steel Magnolias hospital scene when M’Lynn stays with Shelby, refusing to believe that she may be lost when everyone knows the breathing machines need to be turned off.
On the flip side, I’ve also had a few friendships evolve into much more than I had them made out to be. One guy I had pegged for a very stern, one-dimensional sort of person. He was so set in my mind as different from me or even against me that I couldn’t see him as anything else. As it worked out, he’s turned out to be a much cooler person and better friend than I would have ever imagined. Another was a loose friend from high school who I had set in his goofy, high school stereotype. On a chance second glance, I saw a much different person than my stubborn preconceptions had previously allowed. In each case, we completely changed our relationship for the better.
My point is, that all too often we make people who we want them to be, much to the detriment of ourselves. We want to believe others are innately kind, and we’re blindsided when they take advantage of us. We want to believe we mean something to someone, and we’re unprepared when we’re left in the dust. We want to believe things will stay the way they always have been, and we’re shocked when they leave. Most people aren’t steady in their roles in our lives. Most relationships change. If we fight it no one wins. I’m by no means advocating giving up when the going gets tough in a relationship. I just believe we need to get in a habit of taking a critical look at our relationships with people. If we want to be true to ourselves and those around us, we can only always look with new eyes.