So, lemme tell you all a story.
When I was…uh, I don’t know exactly. The later years of elementary school, that age range (like 4th or 5th grade we’ll say). Anyway, when I was that age, my school had a “dance.” Which was, in retrospect, totally laughable, the idea of having a dance for elementary school kids. But such was the case, and lo, we were all atwitter about it.
Now, I wasn’t a POPULAR kid, but I don’t think I was a total and complete outcast either. I had friends to play jump rope with during lunch, and to do Miss Mary Mack clapping games with during recess. Not many, but enough to keep me occupied.
So when a little boy in my grade asked me if I would go to the dance WITH him (even though that wasn’t really a thing that was happening with too many of us), I was ecstatic and not one little bit skeptical. I thought it was fun, and sweet, and was nervous but excited.
Turns out, I should have been a little more wary, because two days later, that same little boy stood with his friends & pointed & laughed and said “Oh, I was JOKING. WHY would I go with you???” And then they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
Guys, I’m freaking 33 years old, and I can still picture that day on the playground like it was yesterday. I can see that little boy (though I can’t remember his name, not surprising since I can’t remember ANYONE’S name) & his friends and the GLEE with which they laughed at me. I can still remember the cold/hot feeling that washed over me, dripping from my head down to my feet, as I felt shame & embarrassment & felt like throwing up from the hurt of it. I will never forget the feeling of being considered a JOKE to someone else.
The worst part, though, is that that ONE event has had lasting ramifications in my life. When I am invited to events or to join people on something, I generally have to fight my feelings that I’m not really wanted–that I’m only being asked out of obligation. It isn’t unusual for me to, to this day, think people are inviting me to things as a joke. I have been known to turn around on my way to an event because, “eh, they don’t really want me there.”
This, by the way, sucks.
But here’s the thing. I refuse to live my entire life this way, because when I think of all the amazing experiences I’ve had when I’ve pushed past those fears, I know that I am not willing to miss out on things on the OFF chance that grown people are going to act like a 4th grade boy from my past.
Some of my favorite things that blogging, twitter, the internet & the social groups I’ve found through all that jazz have given me are opportunities to be a joiner, even when it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve gotten to meet amazing people, do amazing things, have fantastically amazing experiences because I’ve pushed past the fear that “they don’t REALLY want ME there.”
The truth is, maybe they don’t always. Maybe the invitation went out widely & they weren’t expecting/hoping for me to come. Maybe I’m going to be the outsider.
But MAYBE, even if all that is true, maybe I’ll still find something amazing when I go/do/meet/play. Maybe I’ll find a kindred spirit who ALSO feels like the outcast. Maybe I’ll charm people who didn’t expect to be charmed by me. And maybe, even if none of that happens, maybe I’ll still have a good time.
It’s really hard for me to be a joiner. It’s really hard for me to accept invitations, to believe that people want ME to be a part of their circles/fun times/inside jokes.
But every time I’ve done it? Every time I’ve pushed past that hesitation and fear, I’ve gotten something amazing.
Even if it’s just one more little chink out of the wall of mistrust that a little boy helped me build so many years ago.
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