Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Pump and Lift, Episode 9: Trapped in the Closet
No, I'm not talking about R. Kelly or "switching teams" here. I'm talking about an actual incident that involved an actual closet.
Twenty years ago, I went through an epic humiliation involving my sixth grade crush and a bunch of guy classmates around us... which led to me saying more than I was supposed to, and my crush being absolutely disgusted with me. (I don't want to go into the details, except to say that part of this could have been avoided if I'd decided to just leave certain things unsaid. Goes both ways, I say.) There were scads of personal drama going on with me at that time, too, and it got to the point where I wanted to run off and hide where nobody could find me.
So I did what a 6th grader undergoing an epic humiliation would do: I hid in a closet.
The space was perfect - a cabinet with shelves large enough for me to fit in, and a sliding door that only I could close and open at will. The plan, in itself, was perfect too: I was going to hide there until class ends, which means I could hide from the assembly that was going on that day and never have to look at anyone ever again. Then I could go home and pretend that nothing happened... although, now that I think of it, killing myself would have been the next logical step.
And I would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for a teacher who looked inside my classroom and found me peeking out of the sliding door.
I don't remember what she said to me, exactly, but I do remember her saying it in a crisp British accent. And not in the way that most teachers would speak to somebody my age - Come on! You have to go to the assembly! Quick! NOW! - but in an oddly compassionate manner that made sense. And this was the gist of it all:
"You know, there are other things going on right now that are better than hiding in a closet."
That jolted me out of my sad-sack phase altogether... and just like that, I walked out of that closet and joined that assembly.
I still think about those words now, actually. (The crush-y guy, not so much... although I hear he is doing quite well. Good for him, I say.) There are so many things that are much more fun than shutting one's self out of the world. I talk about how much work I have to do at my job... but I don't have an obligation to be there all day, all the time, so I can't use work as an excuse to avoid working out or any other form of "me" time. And I also can't use the craziness of my job to avoid having an actual social life outside of work, either. Sooner or later I do have to open up to the possibilities and get myself a life.
The other thing I learned from this incident is that every person who undertakes an epic journey can always use a supportive group of friends and family. That's what made the situation worse for me: I was just so fixated on this guy that I didn't realize that there were other people who could actually give me their unconditional love and support - not just guys, but actual friends. And part of the process of making friends involves getting over myself and reaching out to other people. Which I didn't, because I was so insecure with myself that I didn't get to do things like joining a choir or a sports team, or even developing a hobby other than writing. Instead, I let this pattern rule my life - the whole "you know, my life would be much more awesome if I had a boyfriend and people liked me" mindset - and it has brought me nothing but grief.
Until I got over it, and chose to rise above my own helplessness.
It's a choice that I still have to make, day in and day out, to rise above the negative and reach out towards the light. That's what I mean now about mending fences that need to be mended: making peace with the past, towards building a new future.
I hope I'm doing a good job.