Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Bliss of Uncertainty

It’s funny, how we attempt to escape loneliness, only to find ourself deeper into it.

When I was 11, my family moved to California. We moved right in the middle of 5th grade and while the kids in my new class were mostly kind, I was shy and they already had established relationships. So, by the time summer came around, I was on my own.

Without friends, summer was pretty much nothing but chores. So, you can imagine my excitement when it was time to head back to school in the fall.

I fantasized about the friends I’d make. I dreamed about how I’d be popular and loved.

The problem with fantasies, of course, is that they focus on an end state. They miss everything it takes to reach that end state.

And, as rationality would predict, there was no roaring crowd of admirers waiting for me in my new class.

What was a shy kid with a deep craving for kinship to do?

Make ‘em laugh!

I was pretty quiet at first, but slowly began testing the waters. I’d work up the courage to make a smart-ass remark in class and, to my delight, I was rewarded with laughter.

In time, I started integrating physicality. I’d fall out of my chair, dumbfounded as to how it happened. Then, I’d turn red at the giggles it produced, all while secretly reveling in the attention.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t making friends. For some reason, my antics didn’t result in people asking me to hang out with them.

And, so it went. For weeks. Then months. And then, a year.

Then, one day, something changed.

The sun-baked asphalt of the school grounds was hot, so our gym teacher shuffled us into the school’s large gymnasium to play indoor soccer.

Inside, we filed into the bleachers overlooking the gymnasium floor. About 10 of us at a time rotated in and out of play under the direction of the teacher, who sat on the stage across from us.

When it was my turn to play, I trotted out into the middle of the gymnasium floor.

Within seconds, someone in the bleachers started chanting.

“Hakon sucks. Hakon sucks.”

Slowly, but surely, others began joining in. The voices swelled.

“Hakon sucks, Hakon sucks, Hakon sucks…”

In no time, every single one of my classmates, the people who’s affection I so desperately wanted, joined in until any lingering delusions I might have about the possibility of being liked were stripped away.

I stood there, absorbing it all, completely and utterly ashamed of myself and everything about me.

And, even though it hurt, I never reacted. I never even looked up.

I held my feelings inside for the rest of the day, not capable of handling any more emotion and not having anyone I felt safe talking with, anyways.

That night, in a little 3x3 shower, where tears are indistinguishable from running water, I let truth sink in. I felt my aloneness and I felt the disgust with which people saw me. I felt the craving to be liked and the recognition that I never would be. There, slumped into the corner, I felt the shame of being refuse nobody wanted and cried.