I want to forget about her, but she's famous now
May 17, 2013 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I wish I could forget about the girl who broke my heart when I was a teenager, but it seems the world doesn't want to let me, because she's famous now, while I'm struggling. How do I deal?

Apologies in advance for the novella-length question, but with any luck there's enough angst within to keep you engaged. Anyhow, here's my tale of woe:

I am a 28-year-old man. Back when I was 12, I met a girl and fell for her hard. It was my first love. We had similar personalities and interests and creative drives. We were close friends for years, and she often confided in me and showed me affection, but she never wanted to be my girlfriend.

In my adolescent naivete, I thought that if I remained her loyal friend, she'd eventually decide she wanted to be with me and not the guys she was dating. But that never happened, and while we had some good times together, I remember our friendship primarily as a source of crushing disappointment and depression over the next 6 years. By the end of high school I was tired of feeling used and miserable, we had a falling out, and we haven't spoken since. Looking back now, I wish I had done a lot of things differently, spent my time on something more productive, and saved us both a bunch of drama and anguish, but I was a kid and didn't know better.

It's been 10 years since then, and I have grown and improved myself immensely. I've been in a great relationship with a wonderful, beautiful woman for the past 4 years, and we're very much in love. I'm very confident and happy with myself these days. But one of my primary aspirations remains, as it was when I was a teenager, to achieve recognition and success as an artist. (I was into acting back then -- I make music now -- but it's the same desire. I need to create and I need an audience.) And while I've managed to find a day job that pays the rent and gives me free time to work on my music; and while I've produced some material which I'm extremely proud of; I haven't built much of a following or a career to speak of, even though I've been trying for years and I feel strongly that my work merits it. And that's very frustrating, but I'm still young and talented, so there's nothing to do but to keep working.

But here's the stinger: The girl I was so heartbroken over back in high school, who I would be happy to never think about again, is well on her way to becoming a celebrity. And every so often, and I fear with increasing frequency, she intrudes into my life in various ways. I see articles and photos of her on web sites that I read; internet strangers discussing her talent and charm; mutual acquaintances assuming I want to chat about her latest doings; people digging out old photos to prove that they knew her (which photos might have me in them too, but who cares because I'm just some guy); etc.

This causes me some anguish. While I've matured and improved so much since high school, and hearing about her doesn't affect me as much as it used to, each time I do it re-opens those old wounds a bit. This is a person whom I associate with a lot of painful memories and negative thoughts about myself. And whenever I hear about her, it's about how successful she is in pretty much the way I am trying to be, but am not. Living well is supposed to be the best revenge, and I've lived very well; but when I hear about her I feel like she's lived even better, and I'll never catch up. And it seems like there's no way I can avoid hearing about her.

So my question, such as it is: What strategies can I use to try and cope with this situation productively? I know I shouldn't compare myself to anyone else; it's been a long time and I should move on; I should let go of my resentment. I wish that I could. I don't like to talk about this with people I know because I feel like it's such an old, tired story already. I doubt she's thought about me in years. I have this idea in my mind that I'll be able to truly let go only once I achieve a level of fame that causes my name to barge in on her world the way hers does on mine, which would somehow amount to vindication. I hate that she can still get to me from a distance without even trying, and there's nothing I can do about it. Sometimes that thought motivates me to work harder; I've written some truly excellent songs inspired by all these feelings. But when those songs don't make me famous overnight, it's like twisting the knife, so that source of motivation can be a double-edged sword.

Sometimes it feels like I'm living inside a script, like the universe is playing a prank on me, and I'm the only one who can see the whole narrative and appreciate it. I try to find the humor in all of it, but it's not easy.

Finally, a note on therapy: I've done it at several points over the years, including quite recently, and have discussed these issues at length. It's been a little bit helpful, but the basic issues remain. I may get back into therapy in the future, but I'm between health insurance situations at the moment, so that's not going to be an immediate solution.

I know there's no simple solution, but I'd appreciate any wisdom you have to offer.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
In order to stop taking her fame personally, I think it's important that you recognize that luck plays a big role in success. Famous =/= better than you (or anyone, for that matter).

Rock on and good luck!
posted by gohabsgo at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I hate that she can still get to me from a distance without even trying, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I think the most important thing to realize is that the ill-will you may sometimes feel is not coming from this person; it's really a poison you are feeding yourself. Would it benefit you if this person met with misfortune? Would it harm you if she was successful?

I really do encourage you to find a different basis for motivation. Plenty of famous and succesful people seem to be quite unhappy; most of them, in fact, if you believe the media.
posted by selfnoise at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2013 [23 favorites]

Although her relative fame may present an impediment, it seems like the real crux of this for you is what you feel is a lack of recognition. You're putting in the work, the passion, and the time and not getting the result you expect. As challenging as this may be, perhaps it would be helpful for you to approach your art without any expectation of what you'll get from doing it; do it purely as an act of sending things out into the world that you want to share.

Also, I know this is obvious, but you won't get anywhere you want to be in life by constantly comparing yourself to others, let alone this woman whose success probably largely relies upon the luck that gohabsgo mentions above.

This article might help you in some ways, as it exposes the lives of Juilliard classmates 10 years post-graduation. Their lives are all distinctly different, and some of them have even found that performing is more enjoyable when you aren't competing in an audition or struggling to be on top. As a former musician, I've found the same to be true for myself: I started loving music anew once I stopped killing myself for the art.
posted by singinginmychains at 11:00 AM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

It might be helpful to take a look at the big picture here: Regardless of circumstance, I think most - if not all- of us have 'the person who broke our heart' and 'the person who is better than myself in all the ways I desire to be' in their lives on an in-your-face basis.
You might be feeling like its been blown into a bigger deal, because she's famous, but the fact remains that aside from those among us who've been able to move far away and cut all ties, this is just a facet of human existence. We all deal with it.
So I'm not trying to dismiss your feelings here, but maybe if you start to look at it this way, you can minimize your pain around her and begin to let go of the venomous anger you're still holding inside yourself for her.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Use it to fuel your creativity. Write bitchy songs about it in a way that does not identify her. Pour your feelings about this into your art.

It worked for "No Doubt." And I think that would make this an opportunity rather than an obstacle to success, a means to focus on your work rather than a distraction from it.

(I say this as someone in a similar situation: I know some guy who is apparently crushing on me but has a family. I have been unable to avoid him though I have tried. Ignoring him pissed him off. Speaking to him made him feel threatened. Drama, drama, drama, and no he can't admit what the problem is or even that he has one. Argh. So I blog about how I feel and some if it is slowly making its way into comic form. I expect this relationship to never, ever go anywhere. But he has at least stopped picking fights with me and bs like that now that he can read my blog and apparently feel validated as an attractive guy and also reassured that I have zero interest in harming him or anyone close to him. And using it as creative inspiration makes me feel less like he has stolen boatloads of my time with this soap operatic crapola. It makes me feel like maybe I can turn this mountain of lemons into lemon meringue pie instead of just being a sourpuss about the whole thing.)
posted by Michele in California at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2013

I just previewed this and wow, long, so I hope it's worth your time to read.

I am a musician as well, and this stuff kills me when I'm in a vulnerable place. Like, to the point where I have to stay off facebook because my miserable self doesn't want to see any of my friends and contemporaries succeeding because I can't take the comparison to myself. That, coupled with the ache of an old love, is a potent combination.

However. Here is an important thing which I think you should work on realising and accepting because I have had to do a lot of work on this with myself. Those thoughts, the feelings of envy and resentment - they are nothing to do with her, and everything to do with your perception of yourself. Ask yourself some difficult questions. Is your relationship everything you want it to be? Are you clinging onto your old ideas of who you are and what you want from life rather than transitioning into adult you? Is music the be all and end all for you, or is it the recognition and audience you crave, in which case why not try other art forms? Other ways of getting what you need.

Before I start blithering, let me also tell you a story from a few years ago. I used to be in a band with a friend, and I left the band to do my own thing. It went on to have some success, and whilst I didn't regret leaving (bad vibes and incompatible musical tastes!), I was envious of what they went on to do without me. One of my oldest friends was in the band and we fell out when I left, badly. Years later, we had got back on good terms at last, and agreed to meet up. I almost bottled it as she was in yet another successful band and I was afraid of her rubbing it in my face (she had always had a talent for making me feel inferior, or was that me doing that? Interesting in retrospect).

Anyway when we met up, she was a sad, quiet person, whose mind was preoccupied with the band she was in not being what she really wanted to do, and her last relationship having broken up painfully. I felt awful for her and made my own recent minor successes out to be more minor still, to make sure she wasn't needled by them. It was a real eye opener.

So who's to say she's not suffering, in her own story? What she's doing now has nothing to do with your happiness. Own your life, own your happiness. I wish you the best of luck with it.
posted by greenish at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

Some similarity: my ex-fiance, who smashed my heart to bits and came back for years, is now with a woman who is famous and everywhere all the time. Sometimes he's there too.

The answers for me have been hard to enact but have worked:

I've tapped in to the experience and am using it to fuel a project, that, should it launch, will be the best revenge.
I've gotten completely immersed in this project and find myself forgetting about him/them for days at a time.
I've shut down all internet contact, sites, Facebook -- anything that might cause me to stumble over them.
I've asked friends NOT to update me if they run across them.
I change the music when the song reminds me of him (and there are a hella lot of 'em).
I edited out all photographs, letters, mementos and stowed anything not digital far up in the reaches of the closet and I don't take them down ever.
I cleaned out iPhoto.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:10 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a person whom I associate with a lot of painful memories and negative thoughts about myself.

There is a thread in the history you describe that tells me you're using her as yet another thing to beat yourself up with, that the esteem issues go back further than all this. I know what you're trying to get at, comparative success and all that, but this has been going on longer than you have had opportunities for this kind of success, which is what makes me think she's simply yet another weapon you can use against yourself. If it wasn't her, it would be something else.

Get help to figure out how to stop beating yourself up, the comparison stuff will fall by the wayside as you do. It's not enough to know that you shouldn't ("someone's got a case of the s'postas").
posted by rhizome at 11:17 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hi Anon. I'm going to pull a few lines from what you wrote here:
I thought that if I remained her loyal friend, she'd eventually decide she wanted to be with me.

I hate that she can still get to me from a distance without even trying, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I doubt she's thought about me in years.
I want to make the point to you that this woman is a real person. A person with her own motivations, feelings, emotions and successes. Her feelings are independent of you, your thoughts, your wishes and hopes. What you are fighting against, what you wanted to date in high school, what you think mocks you now is just a simulation of this person in your own mind.
posted by fontophilic at 11:19 AM on May 17, 2013 [66 favorites]

I hope this doesn't come across as too harsh, but I really feel like you need to step back and look at this without casting her as the villain. You were interested in her romantically, she told you that she wasn't into you that way. You stayed her friend (under some weird hope that you'd change her mind). She didn't change her mind. She didn't break your heart. She didn't date you or cheat on you or dump you or lead you on. You broke your own heart, wasting years of your life trying to convince someone (who wasn't romantically interested in you) to love you.

You write as though her fame were some personal attack on you. You talk about "revenge" and "vindication" and "getting to you". Her fame is not about you. It's just something that happened, and probably entailed a lot of work on her part. I get the jealousy, I really do. It sucks to see people you know, who are in the same field, getting the fame/recognition/job you think you deserve. But it's not a zero-sum game. Her being successful doesn't need to detract from your own success, or your happiness. You can't make yourself happy by "intruding" on her happiness. You make yourself happy by wishing her luck and taking care of yourself.
posted by specialagentwebb at 11:20 AM on May 17, 2013 [78 favorites]

I've had similar experiences (one of the people whom I dated treated me very poorly. They went went on to get their dream job and had their work become the subject of a FPP). Rationally, I know that they're not succeeding AT me, but the fact that they rejected me made me feel like success had rejected me as well. I think it helped me to realize that there are many, many ways to succeed and even if that person had been the perfect partner, you would still be struggling with the same questions about your self-worth that you have now.

It also helped me to draw on the positive feelings I have for that person and refocus any negative thoughts I have about them to something positive. I loved them and wanted to see them succeed. There is a part of me that is very happy for them. If I spend too much time comparing the two of us and dwelling on past wrongs, I'm really spending time thinking about how much I suck, which makes me feel terrible. If I focus on the fact that they're doing well and I get to feel good about them doing well, I feel good. Another point to ponder is that in spite of the fact that this woman didn't want to date you, she enjoyed your company and your thoughts. You were her peer and her friend. You helped shape who she is. In some ways, her success reflects back on you.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sometimes it feels like I'm living inside a script, like the universe is playing a prank on me, and I'm the only one who can see the whole narrative and appreciate it.

It's not the universe telling you this story. You are telling it to yourself. Asking us this question is yet another instance of you telling this story to yourself.

The reason you are doing this isn't clear to me. It's certainly not making you happy. It may have to do with "your need to create and have an audience," as you put it; it may have to do with something else, some other need you're not consciously aware of.

Stop telling yourself this story. I suspect, however, that first you are going to have to figure out why you need to be telling yourself this story. Once you do, you can create a new narrative for yourself, one that addresses those needs.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2013 [15 favorites]

Artistic people like you feel things deeply; extra sensitivity is an occupational hazard. Realize this and know that you are not the only special snowflake. You still want to show your lost love that you are a worthy piece of humanity.
selfnoise says it well, "I think the most important thing to realize is that the ill-will you may sometimes feel is not coming from this person; it's really a poison you are feeding yourself. Would it benefit you if this person met with misfortune? Would it harm you if she was successful?"
This and what you said about she probably never thinks of you means you should put her into the box of "things that happened in childhood, but I am a grownup now".
posted by Cranberry at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Publish a memoir. Or at least write, then shelve it.
posted by lathrop at 11:24 AM on May 17, 2013

Another thought: break the enchantment. Paint the old girl's picture. Give her crossed eyes, runny mascara, zits, broken teeth, and a clown's rubber ball nose. Obviously not a person to idolize.
posted by Cranberry at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2013

This is a person whom I associate with a lot of painful memories and negative thoughts about myself.

so, this association is in your head, as are the negative thoughts about yourself. That means it is nice and accessible for you to work on getting rid of both, unlike trying to avoid ever seeing her face again. I would recommend therapy specifically targeted at a)breaking this link in the chain, b) redirecting negative thoughts.
posted by jacalata at 11:46 AM on May 17, 2013

This girl didn't "break your heart". You creeped on a friend then got angry with her when it became apparent you weren't going to get what you wanted. I think recognizing that you were in the wrong and that she was just a teenager who likely was hurt and confused when one of her friends turned on her like that might help you get reframe this situation in your head. You still want to control this woman, you still are thinking you have some kind of special relationship, that her actions affect you in particular and that you have some kind of right to expect or want her to act differently just because of your feelings. You need to let all that go. Frankly, you sound a little obsessed with her and not in a healthy way. This woman never did anything to you but be friendly. You are blaming her for negative emotions and disappointment that you need to take responsibility for yourself. You are not her victim
posted by fshgrl at 11:50 AM on May 17, 2013 [30 favorites]

Your real question here is "How do I stop wallowing in self-pity?" This woman has VERY little to do with your unhappiness, she's just the thing you're fixating on.
posted by mskyle at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2013 [14 favorites]

1. Feeling unsuccessful in the arts while your friends/exes/nemeses shoot on to sucess is painful, but it has nothing to do with the more successful folks. It has to do with you. Like yourself. Be committed to your work. Get off facebook.

Jealousy is a natural reaction, but it's not a productive emotion. Feel the feelings, and then pack it up and move on.

2. She didn't break your heart. Stop the "friendzone" "nice guy" bullshit, for fuck's sake.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for the responses so far. I agree that my feelings are not about this woman, whom I don't even know anymore, so much as they are about myself. I ask your forgiveness if I seem to have told my story in overly dramatic terms, or to have gone too far in casting myself as the victim and her as the villain; I know that isn't really true, and that this is just life. That was likely the the product of these feelings being a bit raw for me in the past few days, and this having been difficult to boil down for retelling, so a little empathy on that front would be appreciated.

To clarify a bit: I don't make a habit of sitting around thinking about this person, and I'm usually just fine; I just have a hard time when she pops up on my radar, which has been happening with some regularity. That occurrence in particular is what I'd like to get better at dealing with.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:17 PM on May 17, 2013

I ask your forgiveness if I seem to have told my story in overly dramatic terms, or to have gone too far in casting myself as the victim and her as the villain; I know that isn't really true, and that this is just life. That was likely the the product of these feelings being a bit raw for me in the past few days, and this having been difficult to boil down for retelling, so a little empathy on that front would be appreciated.

Sure, but try to realize that your story is a tale as old as time, one that it is annoying and insulting and hits close to home for a lot of women. Not wanting to date or fuck someone doesn't make me, or your former friend, an asshole, mmkay?

If people are coming down hard on you in an Ask, it's probably because you said something that ticked people off. So, choose your words carefully next time and please re-examine the narrative of your story.

That occurrence in particular is what I'd like to get better at dealing with.

I think that it will get easier, even if you don't have to do anything differently. You'll just get used to it. You'll stop noticing. People who used to really get under my skin a few years ago . . . I don't even remember their names now, for the most part.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:24 PM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

The girl I was so heartbroken over back in high school, who I would be happy to never think about again, is well on her way to becoming a celebrity.

So what? When I read your above-the-fold I thought your issue was that your high school crush grew up to actually be famous and successful in her field.

But the issue is just that she's doing a little better than you are?

That's life.

I mean, what were you hoping for, that she would flame out so that you could find her on facebook and feel better about yourself?

I'm being cold, I know.

And I have to say I feel your pain. I went to a boarding school that is known to spawn a lot of successful people (not so much celebrities, but definitely movers and shakers). My ten year high school reunion was half doctors. Meanwhile I'm a low-level grunt in the entertainment industry. Former high school loves/crushes/flings/etc are renowned academics, prolific theatre directors, neuroscientists, big deals in the art world, etc. I love what I do, but I'll likely never be as successful or important or wealthy or famous as most of the people I grew up around.

But... what can you do with that? Not much. I guess you could just explode in a burst of self-pity, but that seems counterproductive.

So just keep on keeping on. There are always going to be people who are more successful than you. The people in your past who rejected you rejected you, and unless you invent time travel there's nothing you can really do about that.
posted by Sara C. at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

This seems like a cognitive behavioral therapy thing. Whenever these occurrences happen, do something nice for yourself. Eventually it will minimize the reaction. It's like going through a terrible breakup and then your "song" comes on the radio. Are you going to hate the song for the rest of your life? No.. you have to let this go. I don't think it's as dramatic as the post portrays. It does sound like you just opened up those old wounds and are now at a fork in the road in the continuance of your life path. Take the right and keep being affected every time you see something about a chick you knew one time, or take the left and be happy for an acquaintance you knew (hey isn't that cool? someone you grew up with is famous! how many people can say that?).

Focus on your art, focus on your inspiration and what you truly enjoy. Yes, keep it as a drive and motivating factor to push you to do your best. But don't let it get ugly where you begin self-deprecating or anything like that. If you think of it in terms as the past and "what once was", then you're living in the past.

Your reaction is right now 16 year old you being torn about a very defining relationship in his life... but this is 28 year old you now. With a fantastic loving relationship with a beautiful woman of 4 years! If I was your partner, it would hurt me deeply to know you have these intense feelings for someone you once knew. Remove yourself from the equation and realize these feelings are not helping your life right now and it's taking time away from more enjoyable things.
posted by lunastellasol at 12:28 PM on May 17, 2013

I will reiterate: Blog. Journal. Use it to inspire songs.

You have these feelings. It is okay to feel what you feel. It does not have to be rational, logical, whatever. Stop making your feelings a Problem. They aren't a problem. They are the raw material from which art is made. Embrace that. Use that.

You do not owe anyone an apology for how you feel inside. When you make art, you will need to consider the viewpoint of your audience and how it will be received or interpreted. But you feel what you feel. And if you use it as inspiration, you might discover halfway through your song that it isn't about her anymore. But that is where you are currently stuck. Take the bull by the horns and deal with that. Name her your "muse" and start cranking out juvenile lyrics rooted in how your teenage self felt until it matures into something good and you stop being wrapped around the axle about it.
posted by Michele in California at 12:28 PM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is she popping up on your radar, or are you going looking for her?

I know it's slightly more complicated for me to say "no contact" when it's someone who's in the public eye, but if she's in a particular area (say horror movies) and you go out of your way to read the Horror Movie Actors Chat Blog, telling yourself that it's not just because of her, you're feeding that feeling.

I have a fair idea of what it feels like to run into unwanted information about a person who's a trigger for you. Sometimes you just have to remove yourself from the situation. Block them on Facebook, don't look at Perez Hilton or the industry blog or the newsstand at the checkout counter.

My housemate does it by saying that if she looks him up, she has to give $50 to a cause she reviles.

Every time you poke that wound it takes it longer to heal.

Best wishes.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:32 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The way you are framing the question is really off putting to me as a woman and think you might want to re-frame it in your own mind.

Seeing your follow-up I can only suggest that you focus on the good things you have in your life. I think it might help if you come to terms with the idea that you might never achieve the success you want to achieve. On the other hand, fame might happen to you. You never know. Becoming comfortable with the unknown is a large part of growing up.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:33 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Being a celebrity would be awful. No privacy at all. No way to walk down the street or go to the park or go shopping without people bothering you. Anonymity is a blessing - cherish it!
posted by Dansaman at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd kind of say what fshgrl said, only with a heaping teaspoon of sympathy. You were a kid, you didn't know better, you recognise your hurt feelings as irrational. But, as you rightly recognise, it's time to put away childish things.

What is concerning is that you idealised her then and you still seem to be idealising her the same way. I get that the whole entire forces of popular culture are putting all their resources into getting you to idealise her too, but still.

I honestly wonder if this girl ever was real to you. As has been pointed out, the thing that's tormenting you isn't her, it's a construct of her. It's like you're using her to represent an inner critic figure.

In a very real way, she's not tormenting you, you are. The calls are coming from inside the house. I think what you're describing is probably nearly universal in kind, and most of us will never have to face up to it in quite this, well, in your face way. But it doesn't really account for your obsessiveness. I know it's trite, but the basic problem is envy. She represents everything you don't have. She always has represented that. If you could have had her, you would probably not have wanted her for long; you would probably have fixated on someone or something else that you couldn't have. The problem is that whatever you don't have seems intrinsically more valuable to you than whatever you do have. If you get famous enough to be in her face all the time, I can guarantee you that the thought of being in her face won't satisfy you, you will want more (because anyone would, and you in particular would).

Becoming famous is a terrible way to try to cure self-loathing, not to mention that you probably will not become famous. Most people don't. That path to misery is so well-trodden I'm surprised you even want to set foot on it, as if you're the only one who can't see where it will lead.

Ask yourself this: would you give a million dollars for what you have? You don't mention much that you do have other than a "wonderful, beautiful girl" so maybe if someone offered you a million dollars you wouldn't give her up, or would you? What if someone offered you a million dollars for your creative output so far to never have existed?

Is there anything you could be offered a million dollars for that you wouldn't give up? Anything? Even if it's your health? If you can think of anything at all, start from there and try thinking and talking about it as if you were grateful for it.

...I was about to end this but the song lyric "You're Nobody Until Somebody Loves You" popped into your head. Can you look back and say your parents loved you? If so, that's a thing to be grateful for, if not, well the first cut is the deepest :-(
posted by tel3path at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Obsession is a good word. You can choose not to behave in this ridiculous manner. Do so.
posted by BenPens at 12:40 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to let go of the idea of what you want life to be, and learn to embrace what life is. It may not be the exact path that you dreamed for yourself, but it has a lot of positives (good relationship, overall happiness in your life). Once you let go the frame of what you "want" life to be, it should become easier to enjoy what you have. Be satisfied with what life gives you, that's the only positive thing you can do for yourself. You're holding onto an ideal of what you want life to be, and it's killing you. Accept that you have no power over what life throws your way (no one does, not even your celebrity past-friend), and look at what you do have. It seems like you're holding on to an old life that doesn't serve you anymore, that's why it makes you so unhappy. Accept what you do have (you DON'T have her anymore, your relationship to her is now an illusion). Create music and don't look for validation from others in order for it to be worthy or mean something. Branch out to other forms of creativity, you might find a lot of joy expressing yourself in different ways. Look for it to have worth to you. Once you can get away from the "need for an audience" thing, you'll be much happier. Audiences are fickle anyway, and can leave in a split second. They ultimately can't give you what you need. It's internal. Find a way to make it more important to you what you think about your creativity and success, than what anyone else thinks. Then you'll be free. Giving another noble go at therapy (with working on your internal self esteem in mind), might be the key to killing your mental anguish.

It's hard but it doesn't have to feel this way. The saying "what you resist, persists" is a very good one. Truly trying to accept what life gives you (which can be quite a trial), I think is at the root of your trouble. You wanted a different life but you didn't get it, now it's there on parade in front of you, glaring you in the eye. Let it go. Life may happen the way you want still, it may not. You then make different choices accordingly. Get away from friends/situations that trigger you to feel that your life is not worthy enough as it is. Change your environment or focus (if still in the music realm change it from the external of what an audience "MIGHT" give me, which is short runned adulation anyway and no guarantee at all that it will continue. Perhaps yes, perhaps not), and look inward- how musical creativity satisfies you, in ways nothing else can.

Look for another therapist. I think it's all in the need for adulation you have, for you to validate your life as worthy. It's not true, and no one really does that for you anyway (easier said than done though, I know). You can do it.
posted by readygo at 1:03 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I dunno. I think you should contact her and ask for career advice. You know a famous person! Yay! Ask her for advice on finding a good manager/agent, on how to structure your work, etc. There is more than enough success to go around. Instead of feeling upset at what she got, try to find a way to benefit from it.
posted by 3491again at 1:46 PM on May 17, 2013

She is on her own path and you are on your own. Did you ever stop to consider why your paths crossed. Maybe there, is your lesson which you are not trying to learn. That fact that this celebrity and you were together at some point-not many can say that.
posted by pakora1 at 1:56 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make some art about it. This is one of the many things art is good for.
posted by the_bone at 2:23 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Famous people (or starting to be!) get this all the time. They don't know who they can really trust or who might be just trying to use them.

I'd say contact her if he really wants to talk to her, but not for the sole reason of "hey do you know any managers you can hook me up with?". That could be even more crushing if things didn't end well between him and her in the past and she says "No, sorry".

I guess it would really depend on how amicable they left terms on.
posted by readygo at 2:25 PM on May 17, 2013

Not to oversimply this, but I think priority #1 is to find a way to internalize that it's better to be good than to be famous. As long as you are looking for recognition on a large scale rather than from the people who know and love you intimately, and you are unable to enjoy your art for its inherent value with gratitude, this will not only continue to eat you, but it will turn you into the kind of celebrity that probably shouldn't be famous.

So, how do you do this? I think you start investing your time in developing values that are hidden from people. Practice doing things for others that no one will ever know about. Learn to internalize values that are only known to you, in your secret closet (so to speak). Read biographies of people who made sacrifices and practiced their art or discipline or served others for its inherent value, and not because they thought someone was going to write a biography about them some day. Spend time with others who seem to have found contentment in the mundane (albeit valuable) things of life, and ask them how they do it.

You can practice what you want to become. You can't always make a change of disposition through exerting your will harder. What you want is genuine humility, I think, and part of the way that can develop is by adding value to the world that is out of the spotlight. If the spotlight comes some day, well, you will then be the kind of person who can handle it appropriately, because celebrity shouldn't be passed out based on a skill set, I don't think. It probably should go to people who often don't want it (if at all).

As you do this, I suspect that the value of your old flame's success will start to diminish in your eyes.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:25 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why not contact her?

I don't mean to say that you should try to rekindle your friendship (or whatever it was), and you certainly shouldn't tell her all this. But right now she is, as someone else said, a simulation of a person. She exists in your own mind, mostly as someone that you project your insecurities onto. She's like your boogeywoman.

Contact her, say you've heard about what she's doing and that's cool and how's things and - even if you just trade a few emails - she becomes a real person. Real people, even if they are semi-famous, are generally much less intimidating than the people we invent in our minds.

It might sound strange to you, but I think there's a non-trivial chance that contacting her, however briefly, could help take the sting out of this. Plus, maybe you can pick up some tips about artistic success along the way.
posted by breakin' the law at 2:26 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was tired of feeling used and miserable

Firstly, you knew the deal - she wanted to be friends and you wanted more. She didn't use you or make you miserable - you did that to yourself by remaining friends with her. You were a kid and you didn't know better, but the 'used and miserable' narrative isn't really helping.

The second thing is that you're 28 - you have time. Keep doing what you like and ignore what she's doing - or, use it as fuel to help you move further along in what you want to do.

You let yourself be depressed for 6 years because someone wasn't interested in you romantically - how many years do you want to be depressed for because that person's seemingly more successful than you? This time, go off and create your own success in your own life in your own field. If you want to get to where you want to go, you need to put your effort into that.
posted by heyjude at 2:42 PM on May 17, 2013

What's gnawing at you is not her success but your own fear that you, despite your passion and hard work, will never match it. That ultimate failure is the scary (and unfortunately also real) possibility you're trying to look away from, and that's why this keeps haunting you. Own that, and you're one step further.

Anyway, I can sort of relate to some parts of what you wrote. There used to be a person in my life who was pretty much everything I wanted to be but wasn't (and in my case, never will be). I tortured myself by comparing myself to this person, ruminating on my shortcomings.

The way out was really quite simple: appreciation and admiration. I started to think about this person as... well, like I would think of a magnificent waterfall. (I actually literally visualized a waterfall every time I thought of the person in question, because my mind works best with images.) How wonderful it is that people this fantastic exist, so beautiful and rare. How much better and richer the world is because they're putting their talent into it.

I know this switch will be extra hard for you because of your past romantic rejection, but you're a grown man now and you can grow past that. You're not that kid with the bruised ego anymore, you're a person with their own path. You can start letting go by learning to wish well for the people you envy. I do this nowadays whenever I feel the first pangs of jealousy towards anyone, and my life is much lighter for it.
posted by sively at 3:10 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I suggest reading, and taking to heart, this book.
posted by moira at 4:52 PM on May 17, 2013

Dude, you have a muse. A cranky, painful inconvenient muse, but a muse nevertheless.

Put your pain and passion into your art, and keep plugging. And remember that just because you aren't famous (yet) does NOT mean you aren't talented. Some of us out here have a lot of talent and don't even care to be famous, and that's okay. You care, and that's okay too. And a lot of people (Snooki, I'm looking at you) have no reason to be famous but there it is.

Just keep doing your thing, and if it's meant to be it will happen.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:15 PM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had a somewhat similar situation (a girl who dumped me in a really harsh, humiliating way back in our teens went on to be a semi-famous actress) and for years it bugged the hell out of me. I felt that she was a cruel person, and it really galled me to see her being celebrated. A few things finally turned it around for me. A few years ago I did contact her, and after we talked it out I ended up not hating her anymore. The way she dumped me was still really weird and awful, but I could put it in context and understand what she was going through and why she behaved the way she did. (In short, we were both fucked-up teenagers, and we all have our reasons for being jerks sometimes.) I also realized that while I was an aspiring artist, I'd never wanted to be an actor... So even if part of me envied her fame, she had become famous and successful doing something I'd never really wanted to do.

Since then her star has fallen a bit, and I can't say that makes me happy or sad. She's just not a part of my life anymore. If she was winning Oscars maybe I'd get weird about it again, but mostly I just feel like we're on different paths, and what happened between us when we were 16 is all very past-tense.

Stop the "friendzone" "nice guy" bullshit, for fuck's sake.

Lord god almighty, I am getting sick of that particular "fuck nice guys" meme. As far as we know, this guy didn't do anything wrong. Here's what we know: he was in love with his friend, she did not reciprocate, and things ended badly between them. He's not a kid anymore, but he's still hurt. You don't know that he was a clingy, pushy, entitled creep, you don't know that he "creeped on her" or did any of the things that would get him tagged as the dreaded "nice guy." If every teenager who ever spent years pining for their uninterested friend is a freaking "nice guy," well to hell with Willow Rosenberg, I guess. You don't have to be a creep to waste years crushing on the wrong person, and sometimes people don't stay friends with an unrequited crush just because they're hoping it will turn into romance. If you love somebody, maybe you actually enjoy hanging out together. Maybe you actually value that friendship, in addition to being interested in them romantically.

"She didn't use you or make you miserable"

Well, again, we don't know that. I am not saying she was a bad person and he was a helpless victim. Maybe he was a skeevy creep. My point is that we don't really know how things went down, and a lot of people are jumping to conclusions and flinging this tired old "nice guy" thing around.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:16 PM on May 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

I've been in a great relationship with a wonderful, beautiful woman for the past 4 years, and we're very much in love. I'm very confident and happy with myself these days.

Print this out. When you get these feelings about her success, look at it. If someone brings her up, get out of the convo.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stop living in the past - especially if the memories are harsh and hurtful.

Just stop it with the "victim mentality" - she has never actually "done" anything to you.

Start being the narrator of your own story - you would be surprised what positive thinking can do.

Obsession. Jealousy. Enough to make you warrant this post, right?

Time for more therapy - time perhaps even for some medication.
posted by jkaczor at 7:03 AM on May 18, 2013

I'd like to second what Ursula Hitler is pointing out, that there is nothing automatically creepy or wrong or controlling about being in love with your best friend, when you're going through puberty. Pubescents do not have the same tools to deal as 20- or 30-somethings who have gone through therapy and old AMF threads.

If you were 28 and had been feeling bad for the last past 6 years about this friend, but continuing the relationship in a passive-aggressive manner, then it would fit into the "nice guy/friendzone" meme that causes me and others to roll their eyes. That's not what's going on here.

I don't know you, this is only the impression I've gotten from what you wrote... Seeing her causes you to relive elements of your past that you haven't resolved, and in fact, that you can't resolve to your satisfaction. I'm betting that it's not just the fact that she didn't return your feelings that makes you feel like crap when you see her. Maybe you felt misunderstood in other ways, during those years; that's very common for "theatre people" and people drawn to acting.

Someone I knew in college became extremely successful, gaining 1% status, and there was a time when I felt sick with envy over it. Ultimately, though, I wouldn't want her life, so I didn't know why it bothered me so deeply. I remember trying to talk to a close friend about it, and that she tried to shame me for even feeling envy. Envy is not something to be proud of, mind you, but it is not a moral failing; it is really an expression of our deepest insecurities. I ultimately realized that my envy had more to do with resources - namely, a wealthy and supportive family who paid full-freight for my classmate's college education, and then helped her get started. My alma mater was packed to the gills with very wealthy, entitled students, and offered very few resources for those of us on financial aid. Ultimately, I realized that my envy, when unpacked, was really tied to feelings of shame for not having money, anger for how much harder I had to work during college, and fear, leaving college and struggling to get by on poverty-level wages. Again, it wasn't about her - it was about me.

So, in my opinion - you need to ask yourself if this is really about something more than her not returning your affection. Maybe there is something to work on here besides her. Otherwise, you may just need to close the door on those feelings when you have them, and redirect them immediately. Just don't engage. Find an absorbing activity or something that gives you pleasure and a feeling of being present, and in control, that you can do every time you see her, and get a gut check of the bad things that happened when you were younger.

Yes, it's absolutely something you can use to power your art, but you don't want to become reliant on that. I honestly think that a lot of this is, as said before, a cognitive thing. Don't let yourself dwell on it. Don't let people sidetrack you into talking about her. Change the subject.
posted by mitschlag at 1:10 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anonymous is not asking if his feelings are rational or fair. He's asking how to cope with feelings he recognizes as irrational and unfair.

Go easy on yourself, anon. We all fall prey to unproductive, reactionary patterns of thought based on past trauma—as MeFi's Ax Grinding Brigade has helpfully demonstrated in this thread. You can't always eliminate these patterns. What you can do is avoid feeding them as much as possible.

Try to develop interrupt strategies. Recognize pattern --> redirect thoughts. Repeat over and over and over again until it starts to stick. This takes time. Habits become engrained through repetition. Unfortunately, the only way to break them is through the same sort of repetition. The good news is that you gradually get better at it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:07 PM on May 20, 2013

Wow. I know yours is an old post, but there are so many similarities to what happened to me that I have to chime in. I was 17 and he was 23 when I fell in love with him. He was my first love. And though he was attracted to me enough for a fling his feelings for me were not anything like mine for him. I tried to reach out to him only as a friend a few years later, but he made it clear he wanted nothing to do with me when he invited me & my friends to a party that he didn't even show up to- and not only that but he told me he would put me on the list for the party and he didn't so I wasn't even allowed in; until some other guy in line who was on the list saw me and my friends & helped us out by bringing us in as his guests. Pathetic huh? Well, at least it taught me how little I entered his thoughts. Over 10 years later he's a big star now- The lead of a long running tv show and regular on magazines and interviewed on late night shows like Jay Leno and Conan. And he's married to one of the most gorgeous models I've ever laid eyes on which is another reminder of how much better he could do than me.

The problem is layered. A- We're talking about a person's first love and as everyone always says- People never forget their first love. A person's first love is known to be a thing that haunts them throughout life and this is true even when the object does not become famous.

B- Our first love is someone we often put up on a pedestal which equates to part of us feeling like we are not good enough for them. Them getting famous means that the rest of the world puts them on a pedestal too which only confirms our dreaded feelings of not being good enough.

C- He had every start in life. He came from a great family who supported him and I came from an abusive family that I had to hire lawyers to escape from. This also aided the idea that I could never be as good as he which made me feel insecure.

Even though it's been over 10 years I still think of him and I've never been in love since then. I know that we weren't meant to be together, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about him. Probably never will be in love again, but I've accepted that possibility. I feel very happy for him and do not feel bitter towards him. I am well aware that he is but a reflection of my own insecurities and I believe that is the reason the universe put him in my life. I just wish I never got involved with him romantically and remained friends with him. There would've been less heart-ache and I would've been happier having him in my life as a friend than as nothing at all because our romance made a great friendship end. Consider yourself lucky that nothing romantic ever happened between you and her because I assure you the pain would be much worse.
posted by manderin at 8:17 PM on October 20, 2013

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