I have been asked by someone close to me to write about my lifestyle growing up. It was pretty hard to pick a part of my youth that would be interesting enough to put on paper (or the internet) but I have decided to write about my life as a shadow to one of my [former] best friends. Before I get to this, I feel like I need to give you a brief history of my childhood into adolescence.
When I was growing up and going through the earlier years of high school, I didn’t have many friends. My best friend from the age of 3 years old had moved away when we were 10 with his parents quite suddenly and I was left without any close friends for a while. I was quite a solitary kid anyway so this didn’t really bother me at the time (apart from the fact I’d just lost a very close friend). I went to school and worked hard in my classes and as far as I can remember I was quite content with life on my own. My family life was good, as my parents never left me or my brothers wanting for anything and they always made sure we had plenty to do at home. I played video games and (as was very popular at the time I was growing up) read Harry Potter for hours on end. The fact that I managed to read all of these books myself from a very young age meant that I am still a Potterhead even to this day, as sad as it may be. I don’t care; I am who I am and I like what I like.
Other than Harry Potter (which, surprisingly, wasn’t very popular among my peers), video games and a wee bit of guitar, I didn’t have any common interests. This obviously made it difficult to relate to anybody in my school; however, I didn’t really pay much attention to it at the time. Until, of course, I hit puberty and started becoming that awkward kid who didn’t have any pals. Yeah, that wasn’t fun. It hit me like a tonne of bricks and I all of a sudden became very aware of what people thought of me. I am sure many of you can relate, whether you want to admit it or not. For a while, I was pretty much the stereotypical outcast teenager and I was very aware of it. At one point, some other kids could see what I was going through and they asked me to hang out with them. Well, I had been asked to hang out before but it was usually a trap, in order to make me look like an idiot. I was very cautious when I accepted but it actually turned out to be a great thing for me. They were the “moshers” of the school and welcomed me in with open arms. They always met me before school and asked me to sit with them in classes. Pretty soon, we were hanging out after school, although not at weekends because I usually spent that time with my family. We would go to a youth club on a Wednesday night, where we would take the money given to us by our parents and (you guessed it) bought sugary sweets and energy drinks! Now, I know a lot of you were probably expecting there to be alcohol involved and for a few people at the club this was the case but we didn’t drink at this stage and if any of us ever did it was always away from the group. We would still get up to the usual young kid antics. Daring each other to do stupid stuff, play fighting, pranks, etc. I remember having the best time and I always looked forward to a Wednesday. There was just one thing that I couldn’t shake: I was a quiet kid. I was always there but I would hardly ever contribute to conversations or take part in any of the pranks. I was so quiet that, on a few occasions, I “met” the same people for the first time almost every week, as they could never remember meeting me. I didn’t really care, I just laughed it off with my friends. I mean, I obviously did enough to still be considered a part of the group, otherwise people wouldn’t have kept asking me to come back.
Now that you know a little bit about the direction I was headed in with this crowd and what I was like as a kid, I can introduce you to the person who would be my best friend for a good number of years. For the purposes of the blog and keeping things anonymous, I will refer to him only as Archie. I met Archie during a period of P.E. doing weight training. We started talking about music and bands that we liked. Now, although I had been hanging out with moshers, I hadn’t listened to much in the way of alternative music so I couldn’t name Archie many bands that I would have heard. To be honest, music wasn’t a huge part of my life at this point. That was about to drastically change. Archie introduced me to the heavier side of music with bands like Rammstein, Slipknot and a few others. We very quickly started hanging out outside of school and we would listen to music and even play guitar. I had played on and off since I was 8 years old but this was the first time I took a keen interest in it. As well as the guitar playing, going to gigs was a huge thing that happened almost every month. He actually took me to my first gig, which was Rammstein. Imagine your first live band being Rammstein at the age of 14!
As it was just the two of us hanging out and we were spending a lot of time together, we quite often had very deep conversations about life and we realised we had a lot in common as human beings. The way we thought and the way we treated people, as well as our taste in food and our interest in video games, particularly Final Fantasy. It was incredible to have a best friend at that teen stage of my life who not only understood me but who also was very similar. The thing is, by this point, Archie had already established something without me even realising: he was the alpha of the two of us. He would always be the one who decided what we were doing on any given day. I didn’t care or even notice at that point, as I was just so happy to have a best friend. I really wish I’d noticed sooner because it turned out this kind of alpha behaviour left unchallenged was going to take over the friendship completely.
We continued hanging out right the way through school, with Archie being the centre of attention 100% of the time. If we hung out with other people, Archie was always the one who would act up and make a fool of himself so that everybody else would laugh at him and he would stand out. He was also a fan of “peacocking” which was just to dress as brightly and ridiculously (but also stylishly) as possible so that you attract attention. Of course, the kind of attention he wanted was female, as he was a mad shagger. This became very apparent when we reached the age of 18 and started drinking. He was out every weekend on the pull. With Archie being the centre of attention all the time, you may think that I had a pretty easy time of it. This was unfortunately not the case. Socially, I had a pretty rough time. I mean, I was meeting new people all the time; however, they never paid any attention to who I was, as they were always just smitten with Archie. I would bump into people when I was on my own and they would recognise me but it would always be “oh hey, you’re Archie’s pal!” and they would never remember my name. I usually just brushed it off.
Well, things were pretty much like that for the majority of my adolescent and young adult life. I felt like I was Archie’s shadow all of the time. When we were at college, at the pub, at house parties. Even when we did karaoke, I never felt like I was good enough to do it on my own and only ever sang a duet with Archie. It was pretty bad, looking back on it. Then came a momentous change that I was not expecting: Archie disappeared. When I say he disappeared, I mean I knew exactly where he was but he just lost contact with everybody. You see, he had gotten into a relationship with the girl he’d come to love. I was happy for the 2 of them, as I could see how smitten they were with each other. Until she took full control over him and he fell off the radar. He wasn’t allowed to see anybody, use any social media, go on any nights out. I felt bad for him, given his situation but at the same time, I felt incredibly hurt that he made no effort to keep in touch with me, his best friend.
There was a huge change that happened within myself too: I found myself and began making friends with people for who I was, rather than for who I had as my friends. When I went out to the pub, I started chatting to people who were interested in talking to me. When I went to parties, I was able to hold a conversation with people without Archie being there to suddenly steal the attention of the whole room by being an idiot. I started making friends with people, rather than just becoming acquaintances… and do you know what? I was no longer just Archie’s pal; I was Duncan. People love me for who I was and I finally had a life. I was no longer somebody’s shadow, in fact, I may have been creating my own shadows with the amount of confidence that I had gained in such a short space of time. I started singing on my own at the karaoke and nowadays I’m praised for my vocal talent. I’m still quite humble but it’s nice to hear that people appreciate something you do. I started talking to strangers in social settings, no longer worried that they won’t like me and instead just going in with the right foot forward and being myself.
My advice from all of this: don’t be anybody’s shadow. Always be yourself and people will like you for you who are. If you allow somebody to overshadow you that much, you will lose yourself. Don’t let it happen.
Love and Peace.