My roommate Angela and I are very close. So much so that my mother calls us The Siamese Twins. Perhaps we are indeed a little co-dependent, but in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with having someone by your side. Someone you can confide in, who knows you deeply. Almost better than you know yourself. Angela is the kind of person who speaks bluntly, cutting through the sugarcoating, and I appreciate that. Sure, it might be hard to hear sometimes, but her straightforwardness has steered me through tough times and sticky situations.
Let me rewind to when we first met in primary school. I struggled to fit in and the prospect of being a perpetual outsider bothered me. It's a tale as old as time. So, I hatched a plan to befriend Mimi, one of the girls from the popular group. It took a lot of courage, complimenting and self-deprecation to be able to get to this girl. But it worked; I climbed the social ladder, and soon I was part of the in-crowd. The girls kept calling me Mini-Mimi, which I found to be quite irritating, but at least I wasn't lonely on the school playground.
However, my joy was short-lived. I started noticing a shift one day – my newfound friends became elusive, intentionally avoiding me and excluding me from weekend plans. I would urge my mother to bring me to school even earlier in order to make sure I could find the girls before the beginning of class. But to my dismay, they were nowhere to be found. It was as though they were playing a game of hide and seek, so that I wouldn't find them. Confused and hurt, I feigned sickness to avoid the lonely moments at school. But then I met Angela, a new girl who, while not overly exciting, became my friend. She observed the social dynamics, offering advice and warnings about potential pitfalls.
Through high school, uni, and job number one, Angela stuck with me. From fashion tips to social acrobatics, she had the playbook. She taught me to keep quiet when a boy had hurt my feelings - not to be a drama queen. She explained the difference between being a fun friend and a boring friend. Inherently, I was a boring friend, so she taught me the tools to becoming a fun one: always accept a drink, never reveal too much about yourself, never say no... Even later on, when I started my first job, she made sure that I received all the necessary tools to survive. But, you know, her advice started getting a bit bossy, like: "If you keep your mouth shut, no one at work will realize that you have no idea what you’re talking about,” or “You’ve eaten three of those cookies and you know well enough you’ll never lose that fat on your midsection. Sugar makes you happy, so might as well eat the whole jar now…” At some point I tried shaking Angela off, but she stuck like glue, bombarding me with daily advice.
Slowly, I began feeling less and less like myself. My colleagues noticed that I wasn’t emotionally present at social gatherings, if I was ever present at all. Interacting with others made me anxious. I feared going out without having Angela by my side. You see, she had helped me overcome so many social hurdles that I wasn’t able to make any decisions on my own. I vowed to never make any social mistake ever again, and Angela was the only one able to help me in this, steering the wheel for me.
Then one day, a friend Kate called. She asked why I had left early during her birthday party. I explained that I felt a little bit tired, and I didn't want to ruin her event. Better to leave without making a fuss. Kate became angry: “You do this all the time!"
"Do what?" I asked.
"Ditching things with no good reason!"
"What're you talking about?"
"You're one of my best friends and you left before the cake even arrived."
I kept thinking back to my conversation with Angela during the party. We had established that Kate had more important friends, that I was insecure in my new dress and after a few awkward conversations (with the more important friends) it was probably best for me to leave. Kate wouldn't even notice.
"I did't want to ruin your party..." I tried to explain.
"Why did you really leave?" she asked.
I took a deep breath, wanting to explain myself but fully knowing that none of my excuses made sense. Kate kept pressing on, wanting to understand why I felt such a strong need to disappear. She was about to hang up when I mumbled: “… Angela told me to.” There was silence at the other end of the line. All I heard was a heavy sigh. “Who the hell is Angela?” That’s the first time I told someone about her. I was embarrassed. Angela appeared in the doorway, her head popping out, looking at me as though I’d said or done something wrong. “You’ve made yourself so vulnerable. Kate knows your weakness now,” Angela says, “She will never look at you the same way again.” After a long pause Kate replied to everything, I had said with: “You could’ve borrowed one of my dresses or something… and who cares if it didn’t click with the others. They’re not all that. I really wanted you to be there. I felt hurt when you left.”
That's when it hit me – Angela was destructive, she had to go. I mustered the courage and told her it was time to move out. She tried to push back, but I stood firm, leaving her no choice but to pack up. It was scary, truly terrifying, to lose to person who had stood by me for all these years. But every time I felt an urge to call her, I tried to suppress it. Otherwise, I would never learn to deal with things on my own. Better go cold turkey. Still, every day felt like a battle. Because Angela wasn’t ready to leave. Stones against my window, sharing the same metro route, letters in my mailbox – her persistence knew no bounds. She'd pop up in unexpected places, turning annoyance into a daily ordeal. Until, one day, I reached my breaking point. "You ruined my life, stay out of it!" I shouted, frustration boiling over. Angela took a step back, and with a sadness in her voice she muttered, "I only wanted what was best for you..." It echoed. I was scared that she would be able to convince me to let her in. So, in a moment of sheer weakness, I slammed the door in her face.
Angela left. Suddenly she was nowhere to be found. Absolute silence. I felt free. Free of doubt, free of worry. The first few days were bliss as I was able to attend work meetings, meet with friends, and talk to strangers without having a little voice whispering all the things I was doing wrong. All the ways in which these people believed I wasn’t intelligent or an annoying friend. But then, as I was walking home one day from the metro station, I stumbled across someone from my past – it was Mimi. The girl who I had befriended in primary school, only to have her and her friend group leave me stranded for no apparent reason. The girl I spent weeks trying to convince that I was a good friend, worthy of being in her presence.
Mimi looked me in the eyes. For a moment I was scared. That was the first time (in a long time) that I needed Angela by my side. But she was nowhere to be found. I needed her to tell me what to say, what to do, how to react… It was like being that little lonely girl on the playground all over again. Mimi smiled: “Oh my God, it’s been so long!” She went in for a hug. I was confused, why was this girl being so nice to me? “I can’t believe it’s you. How’re you doing?” Mimi continued, “Can I just say that I feel so awful for the way I acted when we were kids. I did like you a lot, but my friends didn’t want you around, so… I felt like I was forced to ignore you and leave you on your own. I’m so sorry for the way I acted.” This was shocking. Mimi was apologizing… to me?
When I came back home, Angela sat in front of the doorway. Her head crouched in between her knees. “I know you’ve just been trying to help me,” I said. Angela nodded; her eyes filled with tears. “There’s a reason I came long in primary school, you know. You were by yourself on the playground. All I wanted to do was be there for you. Back then I vouched that I would never let you experience that pain again.” She was being sincere. Hurt even, that I had cut her out of my life so quickly. I took a deep breath to tell her what was on my mind: “Yes. But by predicting bad things before they have happened, you’re not making me avoid the pain. You’re just causing more of it.” She was confused, so I proceeded to explain myself: “You’ve helped me so much. It times when I needed it the most. But Angela… I don’t really need you anymore. At this stage in my life, I don’t need someone protecting my every move or making sure I don’t get hurt. I can take care of myself now, unlike when I was a little lonely kid on the playground.
That night Angela and I made a deal. We would still talk from time to time, but she would take some distance and cut down on the unsolicited advice. Sometimes I would still call her up to ask what she’d think about things. Then she’d give me her whole shebang, to which I often replied: “Okay, thanks for your perspective, but I’m going to ignore it.” Angela decided to move away. She bought herself a farm on a hill in the countryside. We were no longer co-dependent, and slowly but surely our contact faded. In a way I was sad to leave that friendship behind. Angela had been a guiding voice, a helping hand. But it was time to navigate life on my own terms.
Angela [Meaning: Messenger, messenger of God]. In my life, she emerged during adversity. A benevolent critic, she offered assistance but overstayed her welcome. Now, it's time to reclaim the reins.