Wednesday, September 14, 2016
By Tayllor Johnson
I never thought that we would be this close or take things this far. You were always the acquaintance, the mutual friend that stood behind the group and watched the rest of us figure out what was next. You rarely spoke up. You tagged along without much protest or pushback, so I never bothered to ask or inquire any further about your presence, or why you hung around. I don’t remember when we first met. It couldn’t have been high school. I didn’t know you existed then. I was told that I could do anything and everything, so I did just that. I saw you follow me around, quietly observing my successes, my failures, my breakdowns. But never once did you say more than a few words to me so I thought that would be the extent of our relationship. I had no clue how important you would consider yourself or how much time it would take me to have the courage to write you this letter.
I am not sure what it was about my college graduation, moving to New York from the West Coast, or starting a new job that inspired you to seek me out and speak to me. You were charming and persuasive in your arguments about why I couldn’t start my own business, publish my first collection of poems, trust my intuition or trust anyone else but you. When the time came for me to go, to take an action, and to make a decision, you kept on talking … even though I already heard you out.
You went from a fly on the wall to the elephant in my bedroom! You left the perfect amount of space for me to crawl in bed with you and to listen to your projections of failure for my future. It was almost hypnotic how I took all your caution for fact, all your wisdom for law, and all your criticism as warranted. I felt like you had my back; you were just looking out for me and making sure that I did not have to suffer unnecessarily. We waited in my room with Netflix and junk food for the stars to align, the waters to calm, the time to be just right, and for me – I’m sorry, us – to reap all the benefits of my hard labor of patience. The more you spoke, the less I did, and we became friends.
Do you remember that time I got real sick? That’s when I realized that maybe your system of waiting impatiently to feel patient and praying for things to happen wasn’t working. I watched as my creative projects gathered dust, my food choices wavered between Seamless Pizza and Seamless Burger, and my self-love deteriorated.
No one helped me, recognized my effort, or gave me a chance! I became jealous of those who got their big breaks while I still waited. It wasn’t fair. I no longer wanted to meditate, what’s the point? Nothing was helping. Meditation, dance, yoga, friends, God-nothing. Laying next to you, I gave up. And you let me. That is when it hit me: You were not supporting me in anything but stagnancy. You encouraged me to stay put even though my smile was barely recognizable at this point. You didn’t even support me going back home. I would be more of a failure. My friends and family could sense that I was not myself. Our friendship became toxic, and I suffered the symptoms.
During the sixth weekend of no creative activity, no contact with friends, no new poems, no inspiration of any kind, I decided to do a background check on you. As deadly as we are together, you are natural in your background, once I bothered to look. Made up of same chemicals as I am, you just are content with low levels or none of them in your system. I get it. You wanted a companion on the same page, so decreasing my dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins made sense to you; you finally had someone to hang out with. Yeah, I get it. But that’s not me. The way I was feeling and living was not making me happy and it became clear that my happiness was not your concern.
I know it has been a while since we’ve spoken but trust I have not been silent. I talk to other people; people who actually take care to balance their neurotransmitters; friends who want to see me outside and in the sun; people who want to see me thrive; mentors who push me to the next level. They all said the same thing: STOP WAITING. JUST DO IT. They told me to stop listening to you; that the failure you are trying to save me from is not only inevitable in some cases but useful and could be also filed under the name Life. They told me that paving the way on your own can be scary that didn’t mean it was impossible. They reminded me that faith without works is dead. They encouraged me to go for it–the book, the curriculum, the guy, the opportunity, the play, the business, the brand–all of it! They did not guarantee success. But they guaranteed fulfillment. They promised me they would be there no matter what happens.
So I am going to finish the curriculum, make those networking phone calls, write and perform, and publish my work. I am going to produce that community event I talked about with you. It’s going to be here in NYC and focus on womanhood and the #ImNotYourEnemy movement. This is all just information for you. Please do not feel obligated to respond or offer your opinion. It’s no longer welcome. I know that I am not the only one you convinced to stay in this toxic space. I’m sure there are many others — like me — who are coming into their own and are stunted by your presence and so-called “friendship”. I just hope that they spoke up and got a second opinion from someone else that gave them the encouragement they needed to just do it already.
My family and friends warned me that you will never go away, and even after this letter they assured me I will hear from you again. I want to make it clear to you: our friendship has run its course. Although you may speak to me, I will not engage. Some days you may get a word or two. But I am not as dedicated to you as I once was. I do not want to speak to you anymore. This is the last time I will address you as a friend or a significant part of my life. You served your purpose well in the days of life-and-death situations way back when, but I need you to understand that the world is more nuanced now. The enemy doesn’t have just one face and a set of fangs in 2016. White Supremacy, Patriarchy, and Sexism are faceless and require that I do the exact opposite of sit still and wait for something to happen. I just wanted you to know that I’ll be alright and that I do not need you or want you in my life.
P.S. Please stop using my Netflix account. I’ll be changing the password.