Unchanged

Anna dislikes people who are conceited and self-absorbed and that’s why she could never get along with Sara. Although friendly and jovial in nature, Sara loved having attention solely upon herself. In social gatherings, she would unabashedly talk about her success stories at length. How devoted she was to her projects. How she was hobnobbing with the people of higher social status. Even when their friends were celebrating someone else’s latest achievements, Sara would tactfully turn the discussion around onto herself and then sit back and enjoy everyone’s admiration for her accomplishments. Or, she would act haughtily and pass a snarky comment to trivialize the other person’s triumphs. “Oh great, you finally have submitted your thesis. I am sure you will get the coveted position now. There aren’t too many good contenders this year anyway”

Anna had noticed this brazen hunger to be the best in the room in Sara’s eyes and that’s why she had always maintained a cordial relationship devoid of any deep friendly affection with her. After a while, maintaining this distance became easier as she and Sara both had to move away to different cities to pursue their dreams.

After almost a decade of having the bare minimum contact through social media, she met Sara again at their school reunion. They both decided to meet the next day at a coffee shop in the city to catch up on old times. Anna decided to take her daughter along. Between sips of steaming Americano, Sara talked about her work and her latest victories, all the while completely ignoring Anna. Being shy and self-effacing, Anna had managed to find fulfilment in her life too. She had worked hard, quietly cultivated routines that propelled her towards her life goals, and recently had gained some fame and recognition in her career as a professional dancer. But Sara did not show any interest in Anna’s life. After tirelessly boasting about herself for some time, she momentarily shifted her focus on Anna’s daughter who also was an exceptionally talented dancer like her mother. She praised the young girl for her graceful moves on stage and that made Anna happy too. However, not once did Sara spare a word of appreciation for her old friend from school. But Anna remained unfazed by that. She could gauge that this sudden praise for her daughter was Sara’s ruse to conceal her reluctance towards acknowledging what was gravely discomforting to her- Anna’s newfound success.

The entire evening went on as a celebration of Sara’s but there was a slight shift in Anna’s attitude this time. The prideful claims of Sara did not tire her anymore. Neither did her obvious disregard hurt or anger her. Enough time had gone by since they were young and this time apart perhaps had made Anna wiser. A few years ago, she would have reacted to this tirade differently by holding her anger in and responding with abrasive remarks. But now broken and resurrected by life’s interminable tests, she felt a tinge of sadness for this beautiful woman who failed to see how incredibly gifted she was. Anna observed how Sara’s smile never quite reached her eyes. How the hugs she abundantly gave to people were distant and reluctant. Beneath her charming easy-going exterior lied a perpetually dissatisfied woman. Her unusual competitive streak came from a place of self-doubt and thus prevented her from forging meaningful bonds. Life can be extremely hard for those who have inadvertently set very high standards for themselves. Maybe someday she would see the futility of it all and stop seeing other’s growth as a threat to hers. Before retiring to bed that night, Anna prayed for Sara to find peace. Although, she knew that Sara was on a separate journey and maybe, like her, she too would evolve someday, or maybe not, but still, it was not her responsibility to try and fix her.

Photo- Andrea di (Unsplash)

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