I’ve spent all week feeling like everyone is mad at me, and like I don’t belong anywhere, so that’s been fun. I remember in third grade–nope, I have to go back.
When I was in foster care, my foster sister used to make me wear the same clothes to school every day, so I got picked on a lot. I didn’t know why at the time (dirty and smelly, hindsight, right?), I think mostly because it didn’t occur to me to make fun of anyone else.
I remember once, this girl in my class had me put my hands out palms down, and when I did, she slapped the backs of my hands. Then she asked me to put my hands out again, and when I resisted, she promised she wouldn’t slap them again. So I did, and she slapped them again. I’d like to say that that was the end of the “game”, but she promised again and I put them out again, and again, and again.
I think that’s how I walked through the world back then, and I was Charlie Brown and everyone else in the world was Lucy with the football. So, that was first and second grade, kind of blurred together because I was in foster care and seven-eight and didn’t actually understand how grades worked.
So, when I got to live with my mom again, and start third grade at a new-old school (I’d gone there for kindergarten), I decided to look around and figure out why some kids would get picked on and some wouldn’t. I quickly noticed a small flock of popular girls. They were like a super tame version of The Plastics from Mean Girls, only slightly more poised and better dressed than the rest of us schlubs.
I decided that if I was friends with these girls, that would protect me from being made fun of. So, all year, I tried to befriend them. I was a “wannabe” and didn’t know it because I didn’t have any friends to tell me to knock it off. Funnily enough, that year, since I wasn’t wearing the same clothes every day, I probably could have just operated under their radar or become friends with them naturally, but I actually got picked on MORE because I tried to be friends with them than if I’d let them alone. Nobody likes being used, and these girls weren’t dumb.
After reflecting on that for a full summer, I decided that when I went back to school, I wouldn’t try to have friends. I’d just keep my head down and if anyone bothered me, I’d deal with it as best I could, on my own. Fortunately, that was the year I skipped a grade, and I got to start over with all new people, even though it was the same school. (Don’t be impressed. I repeated kindergarten, so I was just in the correct grade from then on, not a year behind.)
What was the point of this? Ah, yes. So, sometimes at work, I am overwhelmed with real affection for my coworkers, and I feel like they like me too, and that’s awesome. But this week, I felt like I did in third grade, forcing friendliness that I didn’t feel because I was depressed. Oprah likes to say to “fake it until you make it” and it’s not terrible advice, except that I work with ALL ARTISTS and artists are more finely attuned to falsity than regular people, so I just felt like an imposter/intruder all week.
Anyway, the only way to combat this is to let go and let people have their reactions to me, which is super difficult when I know the worst reactions that people can have. I legit had someone ask me to kill myself, and mean it, when I was eight years old. This was someone who used to beat me up every day. To go from having some value, even if it was as a punching bag, to having zero value — to see that unfettered hatred in her eyes — that stayed with me, for some reason.
Wow, that got dark. To lighten things up, here’s a gif of one kitten saving another kitten’s life: