It occurs to me that I’ve been lost in a make believe world for a bit too long now. What started out so strong and positive has been robbed of any and all merit because the weeds have definitely overrun the garden.

When I started on this particular journey I discovered a part of myself I really didn’t know I had. I was able to be myself, a small piece in a bigger puzzle, and I found that I was valued not just for my presence but for what a unique presence that was. I grew strong and proud in the acceptance of new friends who made me feel like I could do anything. There was never even a question otherwise. If I wrote a book they’d read it. If I joined a cause they’d support it. I was incorporated almost instantly and never made to feel like an outsider. My efforts were praised and shared and my presence was welcome and appreciated. It was as though when I had no status to offer I was able to freely be myself. In that freedom I grew and had a social network that grew along with me.

It was such a rare and wonderful group that I felt so blessed to be a part of it.

Somewhere along the line the old crowd of faithfuls drifted out and a new crowd drifted in. It happened so gradually at first I barely noticed the subtle changing of the guard. Eventually I was the last of the elders to stand, and it became clear that the newer crowd coming in saw my position as nothing more than a stepping stone. Suddenly I was in a coveted position or worse – in the way – and the manipulation and head games began in full force. My presence was no longer valued based on individual merit but what I could do for others as I was overrun and discarded.

These people did not support me, they just wanted something I had. When they got it (or thought they did) then I could clearly see their true colors.

This hurt me because I take relationships very seriously. I am not a social butterfly, I don’t want a bevy of friends. I want to surround myself with people I can trust who care about my well being rather than their own selfish gain.

This phenomenon was random at the beginning. I was able to pick myself up and brush myself off – wounded but still positive that the overall experience was worth it. However the more I did to prop up something so coveted the more I became a lightning rod, attracting way more drama than I’d ever wanted.

Worst of all, the further down the rabbit hole I fell the less “me” I was allowed to be. All the things I freely shared that drew people to me in the past I had to speak about in code, because I had too many interests to protect. I juggled it all to try and be there for everyone.

All I ever really wanted in return was just a little consideration and respect for all that I offered. I got it in crumbs for a while, and that was enough.

But a few years ago it began to dawn on me the efforts of these newcomers were more valued than all the silent support I’d ever done. Not only did they step on me to get higher up the ladder, someone above was actually lending them a hand. This type of person was *preferred* despite all I had done to earn respect.

It really threw me for a loop.

I don’t think I ever regained my footing since. This blog has bitched about it A LOT, in code mostly. At first it really chopped at the root of my ego. It’s taken a long time to realize all the things I thought I knew were big fat lies, and some of the people I respected most were just paper dolls with carefully crafted images. What other explanation could there be when the evidence is black in white in how I was treated? Where I thought I had value I was interchangeable. Where I thought there was true affection or concern, there was dismissal and negative judgment. That crowd grew bigger, while the like-minded people I could depend upon shrunk away from the scene because they were wise enough (and apparently secure enough) to say “enough’s enough.”

I was told several years ago I would outgrow this very major part of my life. I couldn’t see it then but the growing pains are undeniable.

It had boggled my mind that the very same thing that drew one crowd in could attract such a vastly different group of people, but it became clear that the tide was definitely turning and not for the better. I think this has everything to do with the source of attraction changing as well, doing things the old crowd would never have expected. In this cosmic shift I found myself wounded and battered by people I *thought* were friends, but when the dust settled I realized where it counts I was all by myself.

Even though I know that’s for the best, it hurt. I’m a tenderhearted soul.

So I’m having a little trouble dealing with the fact I’m alone and invisible now, especially since I have to hide the pain and keep it undercover. In a blog where I’ve talked about being raped as a child, losing my son, dealing with domestic and emotional abuse, I can’t say what’s really going on in my life when it affects so much of everything I do. I am still faithful to the friendships I’ve chosen to protect because that’s what benefit comes with that friendship. (Friendships that these friends no longer want – the irony.)

But it’s undeniable that when I shifted my own focus onto branding something else I lost my identity somewhere along the way. Now that I’ve broken apart from this destructive pattern I’ve lost all the “fans” I thought I earned. I got some lip service on how wonderful I was but at the fork in the road this group definitely chose to follow the brightest star. When it’s all said and done I’m nothing to this group if I’m not standing in the shadow of someone else.

It’s frustrating, and disillusioning, to realize how easily I was able to slip away without any resistance. My absence, though it must be glaring, is greeted with silent acceptance. This makes me wonder if anything I ever did made a difference, or if I was just another face in the crowd.

I certainly faded away from memory easily enough.

But I can’t go back to the way things were. I can’t stomach keeping up appearances or the fake concern of those who could let me go so easily. It wasn’t necessarily a test but the lesson, for me, is inescapable. Everyone has their own life to live of course, but it has not escaped my notice that those I dropped everything for to support have been the most silent, in effect the most eager to see me go.

I leave a big spot to fill. It only makes sense those who have the benefit of the illusion would seek to fill it, to get whatever “benefits” it was thought that I had.

But this particular journey was a narrow road at both ends. It started with little, gained a little ground, but ultimately narrowed to nothingness the longer I lingered in the shadow of another.

So depart I must. What I thought was real was nothing more than a convenient illusion for those who needed something and I happened to be handy. I could easily have been anyone else, there was no value that belonged specifically to me.

Like I said it’s good to know this, but it hurts as well. And it puts me all the way back at square one. I must find a new group, go back to being a newcomer fighting for her place in the pack. I must start over building my brand from scratch again, only this time with myself as the focus, because I do have many gifts that are unique to me and deserve the same honor they had in the beginning. I deserve that; I don’t deserve to wither and die on anyone else’s vine.

This is what happens when you aren’t being fed. Weeds grow accidentally. Roses are the ones that need to be pruned.

With time (and pain) comes a certain wisdom, which makes all the time I spent chasing the moon worthwhile. Next time I know better than to get distracted, especially by those who couldn’t care less whether I come or go.

It may seem a bit self-centered to hit the gas full throttle on branding myself and making an independent name for myself, but instead of propping up the career of anyone else I need to focus on my own. My talent is just as valuable as anyone else. This is for my family and for my legacy. I am more than just a cog in someone else’s machine.

All this time I’ve been waiting for a “me” to do the things for my career I’ve done for others. I have to be my own tireless PR person, my own street team leader and my own biggest fan. Anyone I offend doing it was simply one of the newer crowd who didn’t believe I was worth what I used to do for anyone else. Losing people who don’t support you is really no loss at all, is it?

Going forward I will welcome the efforts of others but I’m acutely aware now I can no longer rely on the kindness of strangers, especially those strangers I thought were my friends.

I hope you come along. I promise that if you do support me I will keep this lesson in mind to learn how to treat the people that best support you when you need them the most. In doing so I hope that the crowd I attract, both now and when I’ve reached some other marker of success, will be one of like-minded people who will lift each other up to be the best we can be, just like the old crowd used to be.

Because this other stuff? It sucks. It sucks bad. It hurts good people and in the end it’s just a huge waste of time and emotion. The only people that get anywhere are the ones who don’t give a shit, and that’s not a world I want to belong in.

I want everyone who supports me and anything I do to know they mean more to me than that.

I’m in this for real. I’d like those around me to feel likewise.


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