I’ve hunted this elusive feeling of “home” my entire life. I didn’t feel it at my house growing up. Didn’t feel that I fit in with my extended family, or was even liked all that much for that matter. People at school always seemed cruel, or maybe I just didn’t know how to stand up to them or be normal around people. I’m not sure. Skipping a grade in elementary school sure didn’t help, I can tell you that much.
Alone and outside.
Those are the words I’d use to best sum up my early school experience. I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out what everyone else seemed to know. My family seemed different. I felt sad and didn’t know what to say to people or how to get a best friend.
I think Maria liked me. I also think she felt sorry for me, so maybe that doesn’t count all the way, but I still believe that she was an angel for me. A sort of bridge to get me to the next place when I didn’t think I could be anymore ashamed of who I was. She was kind to me and invited me over to her house to play and treated me like a normal person.
When she started to move on I was alone again, hoping that high school would be different. It wasn’t. It was just scary and I felt sweaty and anxious most of the time. Extremely self-conscious. Things changed my sophomore year though when The Cool Girl decided, seemingly overnight, that I was worthy of friendship and inclusion. I went from awkward and taunted, to awkward and semi-included. Semi for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I wasn’t born into it, I just got adopted because I was pretty.
I’ve always assumed that her interest sprang from the fact that the guys had started to notice the way I looked. When she caught on, she must’ve figured that collecting me was more beneficial than trying to convince them that their attractions were misplaced.
Some people might think this theory is paranoid or far fetched, but I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere close to some kind of truth. Within days of being scooped up to tag along after the cool girls like a grateful puppy, I was being hit on by their male counterparts.
One year later and I still didn’t feel “home” – I just felt less shitty at times. But they weren’t my friends, not really. They didn’t ever really take me in. They just made sure not to lose face. You can’t have your prime meat men trying to get with a loser. What would something like that make them look like to everyone else? If their boys chose me over all of them?
I transferred to a big college a semester late after spending my first semester at a local city off-shoot of the main campus. I was never quite home there either, but I started to understand what it could feel like. I found a boy who was kind and sexy and fun to be around. He liked me and showed me off. He walked around campus with me and when we were together I felt sealed with approval. When I walked the campus alone, I felt disconnected again. Trying to make eye contact with anyone and figure out how they did it; how they met these big groups of people to be friends with.
The next semester I transferred to the big state school and lived on campus in the dorms, but somehow I’d missed the boat yet again. Moving to the dorms a semester late was social suicide. All the freshman had bonded during that first semester while I wasn’t there.
Again, terrible loneliness.
Skipping a grade left me feeling always a step behind. Out of place. Not enough. Lacking. Scampering to catch up. The runt of the pack, always wondering how everyone else knew the rules and what to do and say and how to act and get the things you’re supposed to have.
Namely, how to belong.
And here I am again. Feeling the familiar old sadness of being on the outside.