Who knew that even as an adult, we would still have to deal with being a part of the in-crowd. I never liked the specific groups that were formed as a young person in high school. I didn’t understand why we all couldn’t be accepted for who we were as individuals. The popular, jocks, the fine arts, the brains, the burnouts, the goths, and the loners were just some of the groups that we felt like we had to try and fit into growing up. As I became an adult, I hoped that these types of groups would have faded away into the woodwork. That I didn’t have to deal with trying to get another person’s acceptance, but I was wrong. Even as adults, there are still those people out there who still have to feel popular among their peers and the world around them. What makes it challenging, is when you have friends who still have an “in-crowd” mentality. How can you stay friends and still feel like you’re not being left out?
It’s becoming more so a recurring theme, that one friend who puts other friends over me. It happens every year, birthdays, concerts, dinner, anything at all, I’m usually being left out of her life. I’ve felt singled out many times for not being invited. Whenever I asked it’s the excuse that she had no control over who was being invited. The truth is, I wasn’t important enough to her to ask why I wasn’t invited, and that’s okay. No one wants to feel like a third wheel. You have to be a grown-up, but being left out is not an inherently grown-up phenomenon. It is a grade school agony that recurs throughout life. Being left out is an emotional drama that unfolds in three acts: first is discovery, the second is distress, and the third is detachment. These three acts are a rhythm of psychology that continues from within. Either it’s being left out of a birthday party or being left out of a concert, being left out in the dark of friendship, or most of us have both victims and perpetrators.
In my most recent experience being the victim, I moved beyond my ineffective initial outcry to the common fallback, staying quiet. I withdrew and waited to see if my friend would care enough to ask how I was doing. I saw the pictures and remember her excuses from past years, but nothing, and I realized that even if she believed that she was innocent, she was unlikely to defend me. It is easy to imply that it wasn’t her business, most of all, not her problem. It is, after all, only a birthday party. Perfectly true, which is why I stopped pressing these types of matters. Yet it is the absence of loyalty that is so unattractive. Exclusion hurts so much that it forces you to face having firm boundaries with people with even someone who acts with such a warm friendship. It’s that realization of being left out that leaves pain marks on your heart, but they don’t have to be permanent.
It’s best to not leave a pained heart permanent because inclusion and exclusion, sharing attention with others, and respecting boundaries are found in the strongest of friendships. You can build other friendships and social circles that are true serendipity, what is meant to be. We have those resources as adults that someone in high school may not have. When the cool crowd wouldn’t make room for you at the lunch table, you are left to sit alone. When the cool crowd leaves you out of a birthday party years later, you can find a welcome in other cool crowds. It may take some time, but they are out there.