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I was very lonely as a child. I was a child of divorce. My parents split when I wasn’t yet 2. I didn’t truly meet my biological father until I was 12. I was the only child they would have together, and the only child my mom would ever have. Of everything people say about growing up with siblings, one thing they don’t seem to understand about being an only is the silence. Total and complete. Nobody to share stories with, talk to late into the night. Nobody that knows what your everyday life was like. Nobody to pretend with, when you’re stuck at home because you’re sick or the weather’s off. And being the only child of a divorced woman in the early 80’s, not easy.

To give you an idea… My mom tried to enroll me into the Girl Scouts in my hometown. I wanted to be a brownie more than anything. Their posters preached sisterhood, sleepovers, friendship. I wanted that more than I could ever possibly explain. I wanted it with every fiber of my little girl being. The women that led the hometown chapter/group/troop refused to let me enter, as I was a “bastard child” what with my parents being divorced and my mom being single and working. I wasn’t one of them.

That was the mentality of the world back then. And believe me when I say, their kids learned their bully skills from the best of the worst. Now throw being poor into the mix. People, be they child or adult, were outright ugly.

Friends didn’t come easily. My circle was incredibly small. And at times, my circle only held me. I met and kept a few gems here and there. But we moved around a lot when I was younger, and with each move came trying to make new friends. New schools. New neighbors. But my truth, my life, my history, my poorness… they never changed. So the mentality about the poor, about divorce, that was always there. I always felt the brunt of it.

With this in mind, read on.

I was desperate for friendship. I was desperate to be included. I was desperate to be on the “inside” of jokes. I would do anything, ANYTHING, to be someone’s friend. Even if it was a way for the kids to be mean to me. Even if it hurt me. I would take all of the hurt, all of the pain, all of the laughter, thrown rocks, jokes about me being a bastard, dish soap in my drinks, push pins in my seat, hair pulls, pinches, pokes, bruises, cuts, bloody noses, punches, kicks, jabs about how skinny I was, stolen lunches, give away any toy I managed to have, threats, hand over rare treats, all of it, any of it… if it gave me a friend for a day. For an hour. For five fucking minutes. It didn’t matter what they threw at me, as long as I got a small wisp of a smile for a brief moment, I would do it, take it, accept it.

I had no self confidence. I had no self worth. I had no idea how to stand up for myself. And for the longest time, I didn’t want to.

I did this up until my teens. Somewhere around 11th grade, something snapped inside of me. Some part of me was done with the bullshit. Something inside of me said I had had enough. I would give back what I was given. I would treat others as they treated me. Suddenly, they were lucky to have me in their circle. That was when I learned how to cut people out. Momentarily in my own head, up to and including completely cutting them from my life. Loyalty. Honesty. Respect. That was my code. That is still my code. If you couldn’t respect the code, you were no longer worthy of my time. My life. Me. Period.

I’ve only forgiven one person for breaking my code since then. And that took a lot of work on both our parts. They know I am forever wary when it comes to them, and they understand why. That code is my self confidence. That code is my self worth. That code is how I stand up for myself. I became my code somewhere along the line.

I will never be that little girl desperate for friends ever again. I am extremely picky about those I allow into my inner circle. I’ve earned that. I don’t trust easily. My past should give you an idea as to why. I will never be or say I am sorry for that choice.

I love who I am. And because it is my code, I return it in abundance. I am one of the most loyal, honest, and respectful people you will ever meet. I will do anything in my power to help someone in my circle. I will fiercely protect those in my circle. And I am very much in that circle. Without me, the circle wouldn’t exist.

As to those I have cut out through the years, I’m sorry you couldn’t be a better person. I hope someday you will be. I hope you never find yourself desperate for a friend. I hope you become, or became, a person worthy of a circle of your own. I hope you find a code that encapsulates beautiful qualities, and keep it.

As to me and my circle? Well, you burned the hell out of that bridge, darlin’. You’re just shadows in the ash.

And to those in the circle with me, I love you, more than anything. I’m here whenever you need me, and honestly, even if you don’t.