You Do Not Matter

We’ve started calling it the Friday Night Feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you go to a party, have a nice enough time, and then go to bed wondering if you being there had mattered at all to the people there, if the inane conversations you had would have been any different had you been swapped with someone else, if someone would have had less of a good time had you not been there. You go to bed wondering if you matter.

*

It’s been a month since high school started and you have not really spoken a word. You’ve found a group of people who let you hang around them and are grateful that they don’t pressure you into saying anything. We are standing in a circle and you are listening to the others having a deep conversation about something inconsequential. In a lull in the talk, you mumble a relevant personal anecdote but stop short of finishing it when is obvious that nobody is listening. The girl standing next to you looks at you and asks, “What happened next?” You are startled and find your tongue cemented to the roof of your mouth for a moment. You had not expected anyone to be paying attention to you. You do not matter. You are wholly unprepared for this. You finally find your words and finish your story. She does not know that she has saved you.

*

You are ten – maybe eleven – when you come across the word ‘suicide’. As you are trained to do, you rush over to the dictionary to find out what it means. You find the concept fascinating. Death has always fascinated you. And funerals. You shut the giant dictionary and conclude that suicide would be an impractical means to find the answer you want. You won’t be able to count how many people attend your funeral, how many people you mattered to enough to take a few hours out of their evenings for your sake, if you are dead.

*

College parties are the first time you experience loneliness in a room full of people. Everyone else seems to be in a world that you are not part of. Sometimes you break through for a while, and maybe even have some fun, until someone staggers up to you and asks you if you are judging them. No matter what you say, the barriers return and you go back to your corner of the room. You are invisible again. You do not matter.

*

You are weeks away from flying back home. You wake up to some messages in your inbox. You smile. It is going to be a good day. Your smile falters when you read the messages. Each is from someone you haven’t had a proper conversation with since the last time you were home. You do not hold this against them. Each message, however, is asking for your shipping address and asking whether or not I can bring things home. These are the first words your friends have exchanged with you in months. Things matter. Your suitcase matters. You, however, do not.

*

Over the years you have discovered what gives you a high. Helping people out and listening to their troubles makes you feel great. Most people only confide in you once or twice. Some keep coming back to you. They need you. You matter. Soon, however, things turn sour. They do not exchange pleasantries with you, ask you if you’re okay. Instead, they show up, unload their baggage – emotional or otherwise – on your shoulders and leave. You are a polite trash can, or maybe just a giant ear. You do not matter. 

*

You click on one of the Facebook friends you feel closer to and scroll through past chats you have had with them. You keep a tally of who initiated each conversation and find that it was you the previous ten times. You conclude that you are desperate to talk to them and that they do not care. You cut off contact for a week and wonder if they’ll notice. 

*

You care too much about everyone, the girl sitting under the tree, the guy with the great hair. One good conversation with someone and you are ready to cut out pieces of yourself and hand them over if they would be more useful to them than they are to you. These people, however, obviously do not feel the same way. You are, at most, an extra in their stories.   

*

You fight back tears when someone quotes you word for word from a conversation you had with them long ago. You did not realise they were actually listening. You had not expected them to be listening. Maybe, just maybe, you do matter.