Stepping into My Own Significance
Sometimes others' needs are more important than our own. And sometimes we need others to remind us how important we are
I have never considered myself to be anything of consequence.
My birth was unmonumental, lasting only 10 minutes without so much as a yelp from my mother. I was her second child, not an accident (to my suprise), but actually intentional. Both my parents wanted a girl, and so I was born. Of course, I could’ve been a boy, and then that would’ve been more consequential.
I grew up in Los Angeles, where everyone thinks they are the most important person in the room. I never saw myself possessing such magnitude because how could I? I’m 19 years old — my only significance comes in the form of nine numbers signifying my existence to the government. We don’t choose to feel insignificant, it happens in waves over time. Only others can remind us we’re something worth writing about.
My brother always took up all the space in the house, in conversations, in my parents’ lives. He was an addict, struggling through his adolescence. My parents had him to deal with, while I was left waiting at the sidelines. I don’t think I was neglected by any means, but my problems weren’t as important as his. I wasn’t important.
In the dwindling months of summer, when Los Angeles starts to become bearable again, I began to pack. Shirts, sweaters, socks, shoes, maybe that new journal I bought but never wrote in. I was heading to Maine, heading to school, heading to a newness. I left Los Angeles in a world of dissociation, without realizing what I was doing — what it would mean to be in Maine, to be far away, to be among strangers.
I made friends quickly, before the leaves began to change. These friends became of consequence to me; I loved them much quicker than I have ever loved anyone. I found new homes in each of them. I didn’t know they would do the same. I see myself as someone who loves relentlessly, but had never found my match until now.
I met a platonic love of my life during the first semester of freshman year. I didn’t know it at the time, but she would be everything I needed. Not to say I was lacking, or that my friends before her weren’t doing enough, but it was as if she was that piece of china that had chipped off the plate — putting it back together felt healing.
We met in French class. We seldom talked to each other. In silence, we admired each other’s hoodies, we would laugh at our professor through fleeting eye contact. I should’ve talked to her sooner; we get angry when we think about all the memories we could’ve made. Nothing kept us apart except our own shyness. We were cowards, we didn’t know we were, but we let our future selves down.
The night was close to over when we actually met. The air was piercing and the wind was quiet. The night wanted us to sleep, but we rebuked her desires. She sat among friends, inside, wearing red even though she rarely wears red now. She was laughing at something I couldn’t hear. My legs started moving on their own accord, closer to her table.
“You’re Sophia, right?” I asked. She whipped her head around, turning away from her conversation, shutting out everyone else.
“Yeah…Kat, right?” I knew she knew who I was. We were just being cordial; we knew the other person more than we’d care to admit. Later we learned we had both stalked the other person’s Instagram, we had both checked to see if the other was on a sports team — we both weren’t.
“You were in my French class first semester, right?” I asked. We both knew this was a silly question; we had stared at each other’s clothes for months, we laughed with each other.
“Yes! I was! I like your top by the way,” she said, enthusiastically. I was wearing a new top that I was obscenely insecure about; I’d almost changed twice before I had left earlier. As soon as she complimented me, an instant wave of relief coursed through me. I regained any lost confidence.
She abandoned her friends as we talked. We talked for so long that we started mirroring each other’s hand gestures and mannerisms. We were unequivocally compatible. We were disparate in our majors, but what did that matter?
We talked in the cafeteria for hours, ignoring the swelling chaos beyond our conversation. She aired grievances she had been holding onto for quite some time as if she just decided that I’m the only person who should hear them. We discussed past trauma like it was the weather — like it was nothing.
I changed with the leaves; I became intertwined in her presence. Turning down dinners with my friend group to hang out with her. I don’t know what it was about her. It was like I had been sitting in a dark room for some time, and she turned on the light. She illuminated things, people, me. I don’t know if I had the same effect on her, though I hope I offered something similar.
“Do you think–” Sophia started, but I interrupted her before she got the chance to finish.
“No, I don’t think what you said to Caitlin earlier was offensive,” I said. Reading each other’s minds was a shared specialty. Especially when we were lying on her carpet, as we were now.
“Are you sure? Because I feel like I made the suggestion that girls should only be lifting light weights when I meant to say that the girls should have their own weights, separate from the boys, because they scare me,” she blurted. Sophia had a tendency to overthink things, much like I do. We both knew in our heart of hearts — because we talked about it ad nauseum — that what Sophia said was just interpreted incorrectly and not offensive by any standards.
“You overthink things; what you said was misconstrued. That’s all.”
“I know, I know, I just never want to hurt anyone’s feelings, ever.” That summed up Sophia pretty well. She never wanted to hurt anyone, she walked with caution, she often apologized for things she didn’t need to, she let others push her to the side. I tried to help her build confidence — she apologizes less now.
We missed each other terribly over summer, worse than I ever thought possible. I knew it was bad leaving a piece of myself behind. I didn’t expect it to feel like a drought. A time without her is dry, lonely, and nonsensical. I let the summer months wilt in front of me. I didn’t care for swimming, biking, or going to the beach.
I want to make it adamantly clear that I am not, and was not, in love with Sophia. We have a different type of bond. It’s like we’re an old married couple but without the romance part. We go on walks, eat apple sauce, and talk about how annoying teenagers are — old people things. We’re tied to each other in a different way, like how the tides need the moon to merely exist.
A few nights ago, I received a text from Sophia. It’s important that this is a text because if she said this in person I would’ve cried immediately. At 10:25 pm, on a Tuesday, when the weather was perhaps the nicest since I arrived, Sophia texted:
“You’re the greatest person that has ever happened to me.”
It’s only been a few months since I considered myself of consequence, but this, this squashed any doubt I had. For once in my ephemeral life, I was someone’s center of gravity. I wasn’t waiting for someone’s attention — like I had been my entire childhood. My parents don’t know they made me feel unimportant. They can’t know. Because it wasn’t purposeful. They had no intention of making me feel ‘less than.’ I don’t blame my brother, either. No one could’ve predicted his future. I think I needed to feel unimportant to know what importance was. What importance meant.
I used to think only things happened to people. I was wrong, because Sophia happened to me. She altered my present and indefinite future. She’s so incredibly of consequence. She’s shattered my mirror — the one I used to look into and tell myself I wasn’t enough for anyone. I’m in the process of rebuilding. This time I’m picking the important pieces, the ones that reflect who I actually am. I was important all along, but she made me realize it. Taking a bullet for someone is far too trivia; I would take a medieval cannonball for her.
I wish a Sophia for everyone. I hope you talk to that person you’ve been meaning to talk to since the first day you noticed them. I hope you can find someone you so deeply confide in and rely on that you forget you had any problems to begin with. I hope you think of them first when you have good news to share. I hope they shatter your mirror. I hope you pick the right pieces this time. I hope you lie on their carpet and overthink everything. I hope you realize that you are of consequence.