The Happiest Place On Earth

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The relationship was over. No band aid was going to fix what I had said. Not only was I severing ties with my best friend, I was breaking off ties with an entire group, my lifeline.

Fresh from high school graduation, we boarded the plane to the“Happiest Place on Earth.” No parents. No rules. We had been planning this vacation for months. Although we were sad to leave one of our crew back at home, the four of us were ready to make lasting memories.

Two days in, I wanted to charge the travel agent with false advertisement. Happiest Place on Earth? Bullshit.

What happened that summer was nothing short of tragic. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew that these relationships would, or could, never be the same again. I wasn’t one to let many people in. For months, my friends had been judging most of the decisions I was making. Looking back now, they may have been justified in some instances. They had a knack for making me feel I wasn’t as good as them. I couldn’t have always been walking down the wrong path. Just because my choices weren’t their choices, didn’t make them invalid.

I felt as if I was breaking up and making up with my best friends on a daily basis. The relationship was on rocky ground for months. Afraid of being alone, I held on. Eventually, I started closing up. I became really good at hiding the truth, even from my best friends. On the heels of one of my greatest disappointments, I started lashing out at the wrong people, and I knew it.

We broke up at the Mad Tea Party, aka, the Teacups.

I will admit that the reason for my breakdown was fairly ridiculous. Let me preface this by saying that I despise amusement park rides. During my childhood, I rode countless rides and roller coasters and I never enjoyed myself. Add in motion sickness, and you can understand why I am very particular about the rides I do go on.

In case you do not know, the Mad Tea Party is a spinning tea cup ride in Disney World. The ride theme is inspired by the Unbirthday Party scene in Disney’s Alice In Wonderland. This ride is infamous for causing a great number of guests to spin into motion sickness.

Picture me standing in front of the teacup ride with my best friends. Just looking at those pretty pastel cups made me feel queasy. I wanted to sit this ride out. They persuaded me on with a promise they would keep the wheel still. I conceded, not wanting to become the butt of another joke. Turns out, we spun so fast, I couldn’t even see straight. As we made our way off the ride, I felt so sick. The only words my best friend had for me was, “Go put your head in the garbage can.” Her tone was so curt and without compassion that I snapped. The words may have come from her mouth, but they could have easily been said by any of the people who were hellbent on tearing me down. I was really tired of feeling like I wasn’t worth anything. At this point in my life, she was one of the only people I could rely on, and she just laughed at me like I was a joke.

Their teasing was innocent enough, but there was a history. I couldn’t take any more betrayal, from anyone. Their laughter burned right through me.

Teasing or bullying? Where do you draw the line?

Blindly, with tears burning my eyes, I walked in the opposite direction. Removing myself from the situation seemed like the best idea at that moment. By the time I turned around, they were gone. There I stood, smack dab in the middle of the park. Even as I watched thousands of faces pass me by, I have never felt so alone.

The day had only just begun. What were my choices? Head back to the empty room or wander the park aimlessly. I chose the latter. While I watched the stage show in front of Cinderella’s castle, I scanned the crowd. Were they watching the same show as me? I walked the park and retraced my steps hundreds of times. How could it be that I didn’t encounter them once?

Embarrassed, I called my mother collect from a pay phone. I tried to get in contact with the airline, in the hopes of running away. I didn’t want to face my friends. Were they still my friends? I would have rather hid than face any more conflict.

There were no flights available and my mother must have thought I was a fool. At this point I felt beaten. Hanging up the phone, I must have looked like a wreck. This was not how I envisioned my vacation.

Back at the hotel, I don’t remember what was said, but I know I was nasty. Deep in my heart, I knew my friends were not going forgive my outburst. Once the words were out of my mouth, there was no turning back. If I could have hit rewind, I would have. Instead, I held a grudge. I didn’t admit my mistakes. My attitude turned icy and cold. Instead of trying to make things better, I only made them worse.

If only they could have staged some sort of intervention to figure out the root of my anger. They never asked why, and I never offered an explanation. Unfortunately, at eighteen years old, we were too consumed with ourselves and our own wants and needs. I pushed them away and they didn’t pursue.

The rest of the day was a blur. The rest of the trip was a disaster. I don’t remember much, but I can still feel the tension.

The airplane ride home was extremely painful, and not because I had sun poisoning.

I was only one spoke in the wheel of our friendship. Their new journey without me may have started out a little wobbly, but they could still roll along.

Did they even miss me?

Never again would I gather with the girls on Friday nights to share secrets and laughs. The bond we had was shattered and I was alone. The worst part of it all was that I had no one to blame but myself. The dynamic of our close knit group was rocked. This very complex break up involved four people. Mutual friends were left in the awkward position of choosing sides. Through it all, I remained silent, putting on the mask of one who was unaffected by the change. Looking back, I should have reached out, but I was stubborn and self righteous.

Could I have resurrected these relationships with an apology?

It was the summer before I left for college. Three of us would be attending the same school in September. The bigger issue I faced was our plans to dorm together. Should I call the school and have myself removed from the room? Would I show up on the first day and find myself alone? The stress was overwhelming at times.

Distraction came in the form of a summer fling. I stepped out of my comfort zone and started building new relationships. Some days, I would forget and start to dial those familiar phone numbers from the past. Before the phone started to ring, I would hang up.

All I was left with was this burning question. Who do you call when you lose your best friend?

We did speak here and there. Mainly it was just a formality in planning our living arrangements. Who would bring the TV? Would we share a phone? Inside I was screaming. How was I supposed to live with people I had broken ties with? In marriage, once you divorced, you parted ways. I didn’t want to back out of our agreement, afraid that I would be giving them one more thing to hold against me.

I held out hope that we would see each other before school started. We needed to hash things out once and for all. Maybe once we cleared the air, we could start again. As much as I wanted to, I was not brave enough to make the first step. It was not a surprise when the phone call came in late August to cancel our planned trip to the city to see a play.

Before I knew it, it was Labor Day. My family and I headed to the dorm where I expected to be told that I needed to report to a different room, or worse, an empty one. Surprisingly, they were there. The dorm room felt awfully crowded with the brick wall I had built around me. In the weeks since we had seen each other, the two of them had grown closer in relation to the distance I placed between us. We exchanged pleasantries and unpacked. Instead of three friends rooming together, I was a third wheel. Each night, I would put my headphones in and cry into my pillow. Part of me thought they were happy to watch me suffer.

Due to the circumstances, we learned to live with one another. In time, we progressed from struggling through strained conversations to starting to build a new relationship. The dynamic would never be the same. Bits and pieces of what we once had occasionally resurfaced, but it never lasted long.

New friends started filling in the holes, but the cracks still remained. In strengthening the bonds of other relationships, I, in turn, grew stronger. Finally, I could recognize that I was trying to hold on to something that wasn’t there anymore.

If I didn’t let go, I couldn’t grab onto the new relationships waiting for me.

So, I let go.

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