On Being A Background Character In Other People’s Lives

You’ve spent all your life being moved out of the spotlight of someone else’s play. Pushed aside to let the real stars take charge, the priorities of their lives cutting your lines, and stealing your scenes. As someone often categorized as bossy, commanding, and forceful, it’s an odd juxtaposition to be perceived as a leader and yet be deemed less important, less pertinent, less necessary than everyone else. Even more frustrating, you let them. You let yourself get pushed to the background and become a prop in other people’s stories, and never take your chance to take charge of your own.

As Cameron Crowe’s manic pixie dream girl uttered in Elizabethtown, “I’m impossible to forget, but I’m hard to remember.” You’re that girl whom they vaguely remember from school, who did that thing they sorta-remember, and that person they send a Facebook birthday wish to but never think to reach out to throughout the year. You’re the relative who gets forgotten the moment they leave the room but remembered as soon as something needs to be done. The employee who can be relied upon to always get the job done but is never called out for good work. The friend who keeps the group together but never the one sought out for herself. You exist in the minds of others, but only in the recesses, in the long term memory of useful people who serve singular purposes.

But you are no meek and mousey wallflower, the unassuming girl with glasses waiting for someone to rescue her from her bleak existence. You take charge. You cut through the bullshit and get things done yourself. You take terrifying financial single-girl chances, and won’t let anyone bully you. You persevere and put your head down to do what needs to be done. You rail against the wrongs and stand on your internet soapbox when the situation calls. You love ferociously and will give everything for those you care about. You are the strongest person you know, hefting not only your baggage but everyone else’s to make their loads a little lighter. You have wide and varied interests, you’re well-read, well-traveled, and well-educated. You have the stuff of heroines within your soul and yet you are merely the side-character that enables the real hero of this story.

And there you stay, a background pillar, someone who will always be there to pull out and play with when their story needs you, and easily discarded to collect dust when it doesn’t. You’ll be there to take up space in a pew at their wedding, send them baby gifts, give them that reference, and be the friend who can be flexible to fit around their schedule. You’ll laugh at their jokes, remember their stories, and always be the one to initiate communication. You won’t expect them to remember the fun times or what you do for a living. You’ll accept that after a decade of friendship they don’t know more than the Facebook version of your life. You’ll tell yourself that no one really cares about anyone anymore in this hollow and superficial world, but you still put their name on your emergency contact lists and hope they’ll care enough if that call ever comes in.

You tell yourself one day it will be your turn. Your day to be the most important person in someone’s life. You’ll be put first, prioritized and will have someone catering to your feelings, your needs, and your desires. Someone will want to take care of you and make your life a little bit brighter. They’ll prop themselves up to you and take a bit of the weight off, take your hand, and not allow the spotlight to be moved off both of you. One day your life will have supporting characters trying to make you the star.

But until then, you keep mumbling your lines from the background and stepping aside for someone else.

View Comments (4)
  • this is my whole life im always there to help people but when i ask for help there short to answer im always nice to people not expecting anything in return and helping people in need without wanting to be helped always in the background in every friend group always the friend to call if you need help but not to hang out with and im only 13 ive been experiencing this my whole life

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll To Top