Alone at the Lunch Table
After reading Fillyjonk’s thoughts on how being ostracized in junior high has affected how she responds to certain situations in the present, I wondered how my own childhood has shaped me into the person I am today.
I think my childhood was rather typical through elementary school. I wasn’t the most popular person but I wasn’t the person that everyone else avoided either. Teachers always made it a point to tell my parents that I was quiet (maybe too quiet), but my introverted nature* at that point had yet to screw up my social interactions with everyone else. I had friends. I occasionally got invited to birthday parties. I seemed to be on rather decent terms with all the other kids. And then right before sixth grade, our family moved south.
We had moved around before and I had managed to make my adjustments. But somehow, with sixth grade, all the rules about social interactions with my peers got chucked out the window. Well, maybe not all the rules. In hindsight, I think it is all the bad memories that manage to stand out. Happy memories are nice, but they’re not the sort of things which make or break a person. Anyways, on the whole, I seemed to get along fine with pretty much everyone (yes, even the catty girls), except for the football jocks. During middle school, they were the absolute bane of my existence. In high school, I managed to mostly avoid them so that time was not as miserable as it could have been. But I still do not understand why I was such a target.
This might be a partial explanation for me developing a rather cynical view of people. This is also one of the reasons why unlike some other sports, football to this day deserves my particular disdain.
Back to sixth grade. I think this was about the time when I started to embrace my natural inclination to be a loner. Sure, there were times when I felt lonely and wished I had someone who I could talk to, and more importantly, understand the sorts of things I was interested in. And yes, I remember many, many times I sat alone at the lunch table. But by the time I entered high school, I accepted the possibility that such friends did not exist where I lived.
I had a much happier time in college. That and the passage of time has blunted any of the bitterness that I’d felt for my middle school years. And mostly, I try not to remember that time at all. I can still be weird and socially awkward around strangers. The anxiety is there of course, but in contrast to my younger self–I take all these things in stride. Unlike those grade school football jocks**, most people I know today are not out to get me. At least, not in any obvious way.
*I suspect my introversion is partly innate–I remember even when I was three living in my own mental world–and partly due to some circumstances out of my control in early grade school. I came to kindergarten knowing little English. And in second grade, I had a teacher who scared the hell out of me.
**This amuses me now as I’ve discovered that my advisor was himself a football jock when he had been in high school.