Let me tell you a little story about being the new kid on the block: it stinks. We were all the new one at some point. Our first day of kindergarten or first day at a new job. Those first hours are exhilarating as you face the unknown. You sport a new outfit, maybe even a new hairdo. The doors to a whole new world open up to you, presenting unfamiliar faces: potential allies and friends. The past is a train that has long since departed. No one knows you. You can pave the path to becoming a whole different person. “I am adventurous” or “I am upbeat”. No one can stop you – but you.
There’s that ‘but’. That dreaded ‘but’ always gets in the way of an easy life. With a field of possibilities, what creates this ‘but’? To explain I have to step back in time. I was raised in a split world: half of me grew up surrounded by my maternal family – a steady un-altering ground. The other half lived the military brat lifestyle: most of my school years were spent on military bases and my friends and I moved all the time. Whoever was my best friend one year could potentially live on the other side of the world the next year. The advantage to this situation is that now I have friends on literally every single continent. The disadvantage is that I have friends on every single continent – and our friendships have spread so thin over the years. But jump ahead a decade or two, and here I am now living in Mississippi and it looks permanent (how did that ever happen…)
I have the innate ability to make friends easily, and the ones I have made here make me a happy person. Certain thoughts and realizations, however, put salt on an open wound, and that brings me to today. I am days away from turning thirty years old. (Sigh.) Yet once again, I am back in college. I am working on a second degree since my first has flopped tragically. Thankfully the years have fared well on my face and, besides the hidden stretchmarks of motherhood, I still look reasonably young. None the less, there are small details that set me apart from the young college crowd: my wedding band, the drawings my boys have taped onto my day planner, and the over-sized bag I carry with half my house in tow. As I write this I am sitting in The Commons, cruel irony considering I feel no commonality with anyone in the room. One hipster has a laptop covered with propaganda stickers. A brunette (who, may I add, is fishing way out of her league) is hovering over him flicking her hair to the side as she flirts with the Ron Paul fan. At another table another couple is bent over a nursing book exchanging notes. All I can do is ask myself, “What are you doing here? This is no place for you! You don’t belong!” Ah! There it is! The “you don’t belong” fear!
We have an option on that first day of whatever it is we are encountering: we can be the wallflower who’s eyes dart quickly from people’s glances, or we can peel ourselves out of that shell of shyness and become known. Anyone that knows me will say that I have never been, nor will I ever be a wallflower. I have mastered the skill of becoming the newcomer everyone knows. I have mastered the ability to make friends with the most difficult people (BE, that would be you!), or those who are even more of a newcomer than I am (OV), or neighbors (SB). As I unravel my persona – the new one I create for each new friend or the old one that just sneaks out over time, I am still left wondering if I will ever actually belong anywhere with anyone. Will they ever think “Back in the day with Nicole…”?
Until then, however, I will just be…adventurous; no, upbeat; no, just me…