Half A World and One Street Away

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.

Blah.

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.

12 Comments

  1. Yes to all of this. I don’t want to move but I do feel the fact that I’m not in the “in group” in my neighborhood, at our local school. For me it was quitting the “book club” where I obviously never fit and deleting my fb account that helped me care less. Let’s face it – I still care and it still hurts but it’s much less in my face.

    Reply

    1. I did something similar. I dropped everyone from that street on Facebook except for the friend mentioned above. It was liberating.

      But of course we care. It’s often impossible not to.

      Reply

  2. I love this.

    We moved a year ago. We lived in a neighbourhood for 2 years where my kids were never included in anything the other kids were doing (street hockey, bike rides, etc.) and now in our new ‘hood they are never home because all of the kids here idolize my guys and are always seeking them out to play. I personally have a very hard time making friends but have made some real connections in a running group I joined and I find it amazing that this community exists. I love knowing where I am is where I belong. I still don’t socialize much but I am not uncomfortable and I don’t feel excluded anymore. And it feels fucking fantastic!

    Reply

    1. It’s wonderful finding likeminded people. I hope you run free and know how fucking awesome you are.

      Reply

  3. I needed to hear this today. Being left out as a kid stung so hard and it is still one of my biggest aches. My obituary should definitely mention that 97% of my love went unrequited.

    Reply

    1. Oh my sweet friend, I do so understand and relate. I give you love from afar. You are not alone. We are out here. ❤️️

      Reply

  4. Thank you for this post. I was never really left out as a kid but now experience this on a daily basis. I am the same age as you with two small kids and am currently an expat in Singapore. There are a lot of stay-a-home mums here and basically the whole city is just a bigger version of your old neighbourhood. There are the cliques in our condo, at my son’s school, at different meet up mum’s groups. I do wonder if this is sometimes the result of frustrated women with too much time on their hands? I rarely see men behave this way and in my home country (Denmark) where most mum’s work full time it happens a lot less. But here they gossip, don’t invite you to parties, rank each other according to financial status etc etc. It makes my head spin. I have tried to fit in in the past, but trying to make small talk with a bunch of women with whom I’ve got absolute nothing in common just made me loathe myself. So now I ignore them (or try at least!) and instead seek out the other dodos out there. The ones who don’t get scared by my swearing and loud laugh. The ones who make me feel good about myself and where I don’t need to pretend that my life is perfect. The ones who support me instead of competing with me. It’s still so tough though because we all want to be liked and fit in, but I guess I’ve realised you don’t need to hang our with people that make you feel awkward or bad about yourself. Like you, I try to stay gracious and open minded and true to myself and if people don’t respond to that then that’s their problem. Thanks for a great blog by the way. I rarely comment (made up for it with this long rambling one though) but have been reading it faithfully for the last 9 years! xx

    Reply

    1. Mette! Thanks so much for the comment and kind words. I’m sorry you are feeling this way and it must be even more difficult being in a different country! Although, I have to admit, sometimes the suburbs feel like another country. ;] Keep doing what you’re doing. And loud laughs are the best.

      Reply

  5. Wow, this really hit home for me. We lived in two small towns from 2004 – 2013 and struggled to “fit in”. It was especially hard in the first town as I was a brand new SAHM. I went to story time at the library and nobody would talk to me or my son. He started preschool, and it took me months to make a friend and that was with another “outsider”, who felt excluded by the cliques. We put that town’s unfriendliness due to it being full of older people, and not young families. We did have friends in the neighboring city but it was hard to get together, plus they were working moms and we didn’t want to intrude on family time. It was rough.

    We decided to make a fresh start and try a small country town that had a Christmas parade and a small school district. That was even worse. This town did not appreciate or welcome outsiders. We didn’t go to church and that was hugely frowned upon. I got a job at a small college and was one of the youngest employees at 33!! My coworkers were sweet, but were the same age as my mom. Trick or treating was a non-event. Cub Scout leaders would look right through even though I just hung out with the troop two nights before. After almost six years of living there, I came away with five FB friends. Five!! (Two of whom have since been unfriended because Trump.) Both my husband and I feel like our lives was on hold for those six years.

    We moved again three years ago and have found our people, our tribe. The community here is amazing and everyone is so friendly and welcoming. Strangers offer smiles and small talk. Parents at our school actually talk to us. It’s a whole new world! And where is this magical place? Atlanta!! That’s right, a huge congested city with horrible traffic and useless public transit has provided us the kind of small community life we dreamed of. Who knew?

    Reply

  6. I love that you’re back writing here again. I like to think we would be friends if I lived on your block :)

    Reply

  7. Last night I watched as the kids and parents from the five houses next to mine all got together for a group Halloween picture. They are a group, I’m not in the group. Their kids all go to the Catholic school, my kids go to the public school. I”m an extreme introvert, so when I see them all gathered out on the sidewalk gossiping as I walk by, all I can muster is a smile an a nod. To be honest, I’m not interested in their group, they are not my people, I’m not a sidewalk gossiper, I don’t condone the low level racism I’ve occasionally heard from my next door neighbour, I’m not a soccer mom the way they are, I don’t drink socially, etc., etc, etc. But man did I ever feel like an outsider seeing all 25ish of them huddled all together, my kids peering out to see what was going on. SO yeah, my home is my home, but I’m not at home on my street. You can leave high school, but high school never really leaves you.

    Reply

  8. Oh man, I feel this post. A few weeks ago I was home with my toddler in bed, and I could hear the next door neighbors laughing over my TV at 10:30 at night. They hosted a dinner with several other families from school. Not only was I not invited, my neighbor had asked me to pick up her kids from school because she had the chairs for the party in her car. I went outside for a few minutes in my nightgown and bathrobe and listened to their conversation. How pathetic am I? The dinner ended up being part an auction item from a school fundraiser, but it still hurt not to be invited when I’ve made a strong effort to include everyone whenever possible.

    I agree with your comment about culling Facebook. There’s another mom that qualifies as the “popular hot mom” on the street who used to constantly post pictures of the {Our Street} Crew, which only included members of about 5 of the families on our block. I’ve lived here longer than she has, and I’ve never been invited to any of their gatherings. I’m not a part of the Crew.

    You’re not alone. My fat rolls have given birth to more fat rolls. My depression is untreated, and as a single mom (another excluding item, since I think I’m the only divorced mom on the block) I can’t seem to make myself make time for treatment or exercise (which is what I really need). I despise running, but I’ve read your running posts and I’m jealous of that alone time and taking care of yourself. I could leave my kids in preschool/afterschool care longer while I exercise, but it’s hard when my oldest asks me every day to pick her up right when school gets out so that she doesn’t have to go to the afterschool program. She has friends there and she adores the college students running the program, but she misses her friend from her grade who no longer attends the program.

    Reply

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