I was minutes away from getting on the 4:15 flight home to New Orleans when the BWI Southwest agent informed me that the flight was oversold and my stand-by request was DENIED. Damn you. Now I am stuck here until 7:15 and instead f getting home at 6:00pm on a direct flight, I will get home at 10:45pm after stopping somewhere. Arghh.
This would all be ok if the fancy pants Southwest waiting area chairs actually reclined. You know the ones I am talking about, they look like recliners and they have little end tables in between them that have power outlets, but oh how they deceive us! They DO NOT recline and do not allow for dozing. Unless of course I curl up in it or just let my head flop around like a mop. Which is always an option.
I've been thinking about a time when I was younger and I said something I will always regret. I was 12 years old and had made friends with a girl named Kelly. Kelly was cool. Her parents we divorced, she had no curfew, her father pretty much let her do anything, and she was allowed to wear skin-tight Jordache jeans and blue eye liner. I know now, of course, that she was borderline abused and neglected, but since I was nearly smothered with over protective parents (or so I thought) it seemed like heaven to me. She could do whatever she wanted and no one gave a rat's ass. Yes, as an adult, that scenario is frightening and fills me with sadness, but when I was 12, wow, what a dream.
I desperately wanted Kelly to like me and think I was cool, so when she joined the softball team in middle school, I became the team manager. I still have no idea what that meant except that I went to a few games. After one game, a bunch of us were in a car and someone's mom was ferrying us around (funny how the moms were just nameless, faceless free cab drivers...I am sure they are thrilled to know how much we appreciated them.) We stopped at a red light next to a school bus that had mostly African American kids in it. I wanted to be ccol like Kelly and she used the N word all the time, so I said, "Hey look, a bus full of Ns." It was easily the stupidest and most obnoxious thing I have ever done. And as soon as the words left my mouth, I was ashamed and felt foolish and stupid and trashy. I said it only so that this Kelly girl would think I was cool like her.
Int he car with us with one of the team members who was black. I realized that after everyone was just quiet. I remember wishing badly that I could turn back time and take the words back and I wished that I had never met Kelly. I wanted to die. I wanted to say I was sorry for what I had said and explain that I had said it only to try and be someone I wasn't and to impress someone who turned out to be someone I would lose touch with within months of that, never to be seen or heard from again. But instead, I said nothing, I did nothing. I rode in home in the deafening silence in that car feeling like a complete and total ass hole and wallowing in what would become a life-long wallow of self-loathing.
I quit the team after that. Really, I was nothing more than a poorly dressed and awkward cheerleader, going to every game like a pathetic mascot. I don't know what happened to the girl int he car with us and I don't even remember her name. But I wish I could go back and deal with it differently. I wish I had been the sort of person who did not feel the need to change who I was and what I believed in an attempt to get others to like me. I wish I had been the kind of person who was aware and generous with my actions. But I wasn't. I was insecure and self-centered and scared and awkward and stupid.
I wanted this girl to like me so badly, that I blindly pretended to be like her, or like someone I thought she would like.
I have thought about this incident a lot lately. I am working at a new company and around a lot of new people. There is still a part of me who longs to be liked and who wants to make sure I say and do the "right" thing. It is an awful feeling. I question everything I do and say and wonder if others are thinking about me and what they are thinking. Thankfully, I am not 12 years old any more and for the most part, I am ok with who I am and what I believe, but still, there is a part of me that longs to be accepted by the crowd and longs to be the one who gets all the positive attention and glory.
That part of me, I know now, is my ego. It is big and loud and loves to be stroked. I have to breathe deep and tell it to shut the fuck up. It always gets me in trouble.
I just wish, that back in that car, instead of saying what I did, that I had just smiled and waved at the kids in the bus. But I hated myself too much to be that open. Instead, I went against what I had been taught, and I pretended to be someone I wasn't. And after, I just shut down and wished for a quick and painless death, which did not come.
As painful as that experience was and as much as I wish I could go back and time and apologize to everyone in that car, I am grateful for the remorse that followed and the horror of my actions. It was a watershed moment in my young life, reminding me to be true to myself...although I have failed over and over again in that pursuit.I Just keep getting up, suiting up, showing up, and trying to keep my mouth shut.