We’ve lived on our new street for just over two months. When I go outside and stand on our driveway, I can see our old house. It’s blue and it peaks out at me through the trees. We didn’t move far from our old street, the street I never called home.
This morning we held a kindergarten playdate at a local park. A friend from the old street and I are the class captains. We have met up a few times since I moved away. I keep in touch with her. I like her.
We were catching up and and she mentioned having seen a concert last night. She said she had a good time. Then she got a little quiet. I could tell she wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how or if she should. I let the silence be, knowing if she wanted to talk, it’d be better if I gave her time. And then she continued. She said she saw her next-door neighbor there, one of the “popular girls” and that the popular girl had invited everyone from the street—all the women from the old street—all but her.
Tears welled up in her eyes. I gave her a hug.
It pains me that I just wrote the term “popular girls” and I’m 42-years-old. We don’t really grow up too much, do we? We just collect longer to-do lists, maybe some kids, heavier baggage, deeper wrinkles and thicker fat rolls. (Ok, well, maybe that’s just me.) But it pains me that she felt compelled to weep over something so seemingly trivial especially given all the crazy shit taking place in the world today. It pains me I hugged her almost as if someone had passed away. It pains me that grown women care about this sort of thing, but we do sometimes. I do sometimes.
I tell my kids over and and over again, “Don’t let them bother you! Things will work out. Don’t try and fit in too much, just be yourself. You’ll find your people.”
I don’t even heed my own advice. Because it bothers me.
I wasn’t very happy when we first moved to New Jersey. And I look back on that time and I’m not sure if it was because I missed the city so much; or if it’s because I wasn’t yet being treated for my depression; or if it was simply due to the street we moved to. But I was so very unhappy.
In truth: I hated living on that street. Every day I felt like I was living within the confines of a middle school cafeteria. Every day I was reminded that I was an outsider. I would watch gatherings happen all around me. I’d see the “popular girls” gather on porches to sip wine. There would be BBQs and play dates; running groups; block parties; Stella and Dot parties; halloween parties; New Years Eve parties. And later I’d see their Facebook pictures, another outing I wasn’t invited to. Smiling faces. Another concert, movie, live show, cocktail hour, camping trip.
I feel badly for my friend. And I bellied up and told her about my history on that street, and that I completely understood and that I was there for her and to not be too upset with herself that it bothered her so much.
We don’t really change. We just gather more baggage.
Just last week Facebook reminded me of something I’d posted two years ago, right when I was in the thick of it all on that street, miserable and lonely.
“Kids, sometimes when they tell you it gets better, what they really mean to say is you stop giving a fuck.”
How little I meant that at the time. How much I wanted to mean it. But how much I mean it now.
One street. We moved one street away. I can still see our old house from our new driveway, but one street over is all it took to stop giving a fuck.
Hearing my friend voice her frustration and pain, the pain that comes from realizing everyone around you doesn’t really care if you exist at all; or they care that you exist because it feels good to leave someone out? I don’t know. Either way, I realized just how much I’ve changed, and how good that feels. I know I have much more changing to do, but I’m going to be OK. And that feels so good to write: I am gong to be OK.
I sit in my kitchen right now, cup of tea in hand, looking out at my new backyard. I see all the light and crispness that comes with fall, like the sharpen filter, a new lens. The leaves are changing and soon the snow will fall and that’s OK with me. I have a shed full of wood and new neighbors who have a new set of priorities. I will continue to have people over and we will sip hot tea or cocoa and I will do my very best to not leave anyone out. I will cherish the people who are good to me—the people I admire and love; the people who would welcome me at their table.
“It’s good to be young, but let’s not kid ourselves/ It’s better to pass on through those years and come out the other side/ With our hearts still beating/ Having stared down demons/ Come back breathing”
And so, if you ever feel left out, even at the ripe old age of 42, it’s not weak or pathetic and you shouldn’t hate yourself for feeling badly. You’re not alone although it may feel that way sometimes especially when they’re standing in a circle at the bus stop chatting about their upcoming weekend plans, as you kick the ground and hope the bus isn’t late again. Those times you feel like a dodo in a popular henhouse, remember that it’s still just a henhouse.
And dodos are fucking awesome.