" I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”
Eat, Pray, Love
I stumbled upon this quote today and couldn't help but realize how disturbingly reminiscent it is of my own tendencies in life; I have a bizarre, ignorant tendency to hope for the best in people, the writer in me, rather than the scientist. My life has been sprinkled with a few wonderfully broken individuals, beautiful train wrecks who could make such a difference in the world if only they realized their own potential. I become so attached to these people, so determine to make them see their righteous path, the path that they could so easily stumble unto if only they changed their footing slightly, that I often take much of their burden on myself.
I spent a lot of my teenage years in nursing homes, designated driving, pulling hair back from toilet seats, writing papers that weren't mine to write, and trying to convince people that they were in fact worth something. I'm not complaining or asking for sympathy or even saying I regret these decisions, I don't for a second. I probably did grow up a lot faster this way, and if my mom had had her say it might've gone down a little differently, but I now know that being that person, that endlessly giving, constantly sacrificing friend/girlfriend/sister/etc. has its consequences.
Growing up, I watched my mom counsel her siblings on the phone for hours on end, constantly playing the shrink, the voice of reason, the shoulder to cry on, the vessel upon which some weight could be unloaded, only to constantly be let down by them in the end. My mother strives to make everyone feel loved and accepted and welcomed in every possible way, she gives beyond herself, and for that I admire her infinitely. However, I've also been the person who keeps her secrets, who listens to her rants or disappointed meltdowns, the person who tries in every way possible to fill all of the voids the others refused to. Watching my mother be so open and giving and infinitely kind has made me different, I am cordial to strangers but I do not greet them like old friends. I don't tell people things, I don't confide in anyone. I am a closed book, my trust is not yours to gain, my heart is not up for bidding, but to every rule there is some exception.
And so, I gave in for my train wrecks, I loved them unconditionally, did everything in my power to heal them and build them up, even though it often left me completely drained. Yet whenever they did reach some resolution, I was always left in the shadows like some crutch or brace that is only needed during times of healing. Although I always gave, gave, gave, my train wrecks only took, took, took. Whenever I thought they would turn and say, "After all along, you are still here with me, my wonderful friend," they only marched forward without looking back. I wrestled and wrestled with these demons, of expectation and longing, and found that again and again, I came up from these matches empty handed.
My dear best friend once told me, "You have so much in front of you, why do you even care what they do?" I don't know why I care, but I do. What I have learned, however, is that caring does not mean giving. I can care, and I always will, but I have nothing left to give to the train wrecks.