Aaron Paul’s been on my radar since I fell head over heels in love with Breaking Bad. From the moment that Walter White’s pants made their billowy descent over the desert, I was hooked. I loved every second of that show. When it was over, I felt like I’d lost a friend.
Okay, that was dramatic. I did not feel like I’d lost a friend. But I was a bit blue, partly because I hadn’t slept in two nights because I had to finish the last season, but mostly because I realized I would never again find another TV show nearly as good. Boy, was I right. Fargo came close, but Breaking Bad takes the cake and eats it too…or something.
Anyway. The very first thing I watched after my BB binge was the first episode of True Detective. For all you McConaughey followers out there, watch it after two weeks straight of Breaking Bad – you’ll hate it to the core. It was slow. It was confusing. It was all tan. For some reason, that entire first episode is almost entirely tan. I could not handle a TV show washed with the world’s most boring color mere hours after Walter White had died and Jesse Pinkman had escaped. Get real, world. What do you want from me.
What would I do? How would I live without my daily dose of meth? A lightbulb went off: “I bet Aaron Paul has Instagram.” And oh did he. I obsessively looked through his feed for behind-the-scenes pictures from the set, for news about what I could see him in next because a world without his acting was not a world I wanted to watch on TV, for practical jokes between him and Bryan Cranston. I found all of those things. I also found his wife, Lauren. It wasn’t hard – he’s more obsessed with her than I was with his feed. She was everywhere.
It turns out that Lauren is even more intriguing than Aaron, even though she’s not in the biz. No, she’s something more perfect – she’s the co-founder of the Kind Campaign, a program a few girls I went to high school with could have used *cough cough* my old roommate *cough*. More importantly, she’s nice. I mean, she would have to be. She teaches girls how to be nice. She’s a unicorn in Girl World. She seemingly has friends who, like, don’t talk about her thighs or new haircut when she’s not around. (I don’t get it either, guys, it’s like some sort of strange, unnatural kindness cult.)
She’s also living a life I want, minus the marriage to Aaron – he’s cool and all, but he’s taken, and there’s girl code and stuff. Needless to say, I obsessed over Lauren’s feed the same way I did Aaron’s. Okay, that was a lie. I lied to you right there. I did not obsess in the same way – I obsessed in a brand new way. My obsession for Lauren’s Instagram was on steroids. I looked at every single picture. I read every single caption. I turned her Instagram into a study session. How do I get this, I asked myself. The “this” was her life and her experience of it.
I didn’t want to frame the best pictures of her and display them in my apartment. I didn’t want to book a ticket to California so I could slowly drive past their house. I didn’t want to send her fan mail and cry until she wrote me back. I didn’t want to dye my hair blonde and start wearing boots with shorts. (I actually do want to do those last two things, but not because of Lauren). I’m not out of my mind, guys. C’mon. You have all done some good ol’ Insta-stalking too. Don’t lie.
What I really wanted was to have the kind of friends she did. The kind of friends who seemed to make room in their lives for each other despite being actors and singers and mothers and business owners and travelers and wives. Friends who talked kindly about one another, sometimes in long-winded Instagram descriptions with phrases like “you’re my favorite human” and “you are such a goddess.” I’ve never even used the word goddess, not once, not even in middle school during Greek mythology week. Even the guys talked like this to each other. Not the “goddess” part, but you get it. I had stumbled on an Instagram universe of inter-connected accounts of people who were actually friends in real life and who actually all felt comfortable in their roles. It blew my mind.
I come from the school of “don’t say what you’re thinking out loud because it’s gonna hurt when people don’t respond the way you want them to.” Case in point: recently, I sent a friend a quick Facebook message to let him know I was thinking of him and hoped he was well. Damn that Facebook feature that lets you know when your message is read, because I would’ve been happier assuming he didn’t read it. I never got a response. Sending that message was a stretch for me to begin with. I just don’t do that kind of thing anymore. I used to, often, and it was so frequently met with either silence or an unexpected reply that I trained myself to hold back. The most hurtful feedback came from my oldest friend, who would make me feel like an oddball for reaching out to people or being open about my feelings. Apparently, the people who I thought were my friends didn’t feel the same. (They also apparently felt comfortable enough to tell her this, which was crappy in a whole different way.)
The truth was that I wasn’t strange for telling people, in some small way, that they were important to me. They were strange for not accepting it and for not valuing a friendship. My “friend” was strange for making me feel bad about it. (She’s also a closet narcissist who has an imbedded need to make people feel terrible about themselves, but I didn’t know that at the time.) So to now see this group of friends who openly celebrated their connections was so odd to me. This kind of thing still happens? You guys didn’t all have some big falling out that made you realize you actually hate each other? And most importantly, how do I get friends like these?
So you see, I’m not some Hollywood-fixated person who dreams of hobnobbing with celebrities. I would’ve been just as smitten with Aaron’s crew if they were nobodies. To be honest, most of them are unknowns, normal people (with a few celebs thrown in) who became friends through the years and – gasp – stayed friends. They’re people who sometimes go to Oscars parties but who mostly go on day hikes and hang out at each other’s homes and bring presents to new babies. They’re just normal and interesting and they managed to all find each other.
I don’t know the ins and outs of their friendships. My examination of Lauren’s feed was a one-night-only thing. Plus, my phone died that night and forced me to stop, thank God, because my hand was cramping and my boyfriend was sick of me asking him to repeat what he said because I wasn’t paying attention. Today, I have a much more sane and healthy relationship with the Aaron Paul Friendship Circle on Instagram. I see the photos when they pop up, I read the descriptions, sometimes I laugh, then I mourn the fact that my life isn’t like that and I move on.
Oh wait. That last part is not healthy.
The truth is that trying to stoke new adult friendships is a nightmare, especially if you’re like me and work from home in a job with little contact aside from the people who pay you or ask you to write about them. I don’t want to be friends with Aaron’s friends. I mean, I do, because they seem like lovely people who love the world and aren’t afraid to talk about it, but getting together for Sunday brunch would be a bitch because I’m on the other coast. Mostly, I want to have those kinds of friendships, where you just say what you’re thinking and people understand what you mean, and when you tell them something nice, they say something nice back.
In all my time trying to define and create a career that I loved waking up to every morning, I forgot to build a social circle that I wanted to spend time with when that work was done for the day and I could actually live a little. I spent so much time weeding out the friends who brought me down that I forgot to add a handful of them who built me up. I do still have a small collection of friends who I can’t live without. While I love them, I’ve had them for a while – they’re wonderful and they’re my people, and though I haven’t grown out of them, I have grown since I met them. I want to know more people who think the way I think and who say the types of things that I say.
I have no solution to this. No happy ending to this blog post. Not even a plan for making things better. I do, however, have a firmer grasp on the problem. Which is a start. I also have the awareness that good, real friendships do exist, with people who think like you and see the world the same way you do. It’s an easy thing to forget. Thanks to the inspiring minds on Instagram, it’s also an easy thing to remember.