The Empty Space

In 2nd grade, my dad divulged to me something that my teacher said about me at a parent-teacher conference. “She said for you to make lots of friends, not just one,” he said. At 8 years old, I was incredibly offended. Who is she to tell me what to do? I thought. Whenever I thought about it for the next several years, I grew annoyed. I had always been someone who preferred having a few close friends rather than numerous acquaintances. Quality over quantity, you could say. I loved having best friends; I’ve always had one really close friend – and if we somehow grew apart, I grew close to another one for the next several years in my life. One person there to share happiness with me was enough. We’d talk to each other about nothing over the phone, asking each other’s parents if we were there to speak to, even if we had just seen each other at school for an entire day. We’d chortle on the couch from the most absurd scenes from movies that weren’t supposed to be funny at all. We’d skim through Facebook photos of the girls at our high school that we despised, all the while secretly curious about their seemingly perfect lives. This was happiness. This was enough for me.

Then when I was in college, I learned a lot about independence and dependence. I learned that people could change, even those whom you believed could never ever change. A close, close friendship deteriorated and grew apart, pathetically, regretfully, naturally, accidentally, unfortunately. I heard a lot of this during this time of my life: love yourself. I knew what that meant of course, but when I contemplated on that phrase I couldn’t figure out what the hell it exactly meant. Love yourself. It meant be your best friend. It meant picking yourself up when you surely thought you got an A on that last exam but it was actually more of a poor assumption when you flipped to the last page to discover that you got a C. Or when that guy politely said he was going another way as the two of you were leaving class, making you regret building up the courage to say hi to him in the first place. Loving yourself meant being your number one supporter, with or without anyone there doing that for you. All of this was easier said than done. But I began to see the real meaning behind those two words when I no longer had a best friend in my life. I had always ridden through this thing that we call life with a best friend, someone always there to cry to, to laugh with, to celebrate with, to share absolute, useless information with like what we had for breakfast that day. Then I began to see only the imprint of my best friend’s presence on the seat next to me. I was so used to always having someone there, but I was now by myself, alone – a lonely company that I never had to be a part of before.

When I was utterly lost on figuring out what loving yourself meant, I began discovering its meaning as I crossed streets by myself with a determination to get somewhere, even if that place was as mundane as the supermarket. I began to love myself when I ate lunch a lone for the first time in between classes, not giving the slightest shit if anyone looked because I was just too damn hungry to care. I began to love myself when I kicked off my bed sheets and threw myself on my desk to whip out my notebook and pen to write and write and write. I began to love myself as I sat for hours on my favorite plush chair as trying-to-read-a-600+ paged book for class became something that I slowly treasured and appreciated. I began to love myself when I firmly bellowed out an order for a chai tea latte rather than timidly asking for one. It was the same when I asked for directions from strangers. The hollowness of the empty seat that my best friend left and was supposed to fill felt sharp sometimes or it was like a heavy cloak over me that I couldn’t shake off of myself. But when I began to live – just live my seemingly boring, dull, habitual life even if it felt too painful or just too plain sad – I slowly didn’t turn to see that empty space anymore.

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