Private in Public

There are very many different types of personalities you can adopt when you’re in middle school. You can concentrate full-time on your studies, concentrate full-time on your video games or playing cards … while I wouldn’t call myself a full-on nerd, I was the kind of middle schooler who talked a lot, had a lot of friends, knew a lot of names and faces, but was also substantially closed. In a way, I was private in public.

I did indeed have lots of friends. In fact, my Facebook friend count was well into the 400s before I even started high school. But somehow, I still managed to be quite closed when it came to socializing outside of school, when it came to doing things like hanging out after school on the benches right outside, or walking to the train station with a friend, or joining a sport or club. I was very concentrated on my studies, but it wasn’t really the academia that was keeping me from being as properly social as I now feel I should’ve been.

What was at fault was – though I’m only making guesses now – a combination of a desire to achieve independence, a belief that doing stuff like the aforementioned was pointless, and perhaps also a dose of anxiety.

Back then – and now I realize this – I couldn’t help rejecting the stereotype that I was a part of. In 6th grade I was appalled by the 5th graders, in 7th grade I was appalled by the 6th graders, and in 8th grade I was appalled by the 7th graders. When I say appalled, I mean turned off by the idea of being just a kid. Mind you, I enjoyed my childhood habits – playing video games, watching cartoons; standard fare – but the idea of being part of that stereotype was much less alluring than being say, of high school age or just being 18, 20, or older. So, whenever I would make a choice to walk on my own two feet with no one beside me to the bus stop, or the train station; whenever I would make a choice to go home right after school and play video games for hours instead of chilling outside with friends as they waited to get picked up; whenever I made such choices, I was making progress on my goal of independence. Doing the opposite would exacerbate the stereotype.

What a fool I was.

I thought hanging out was pointless. I thought of the term – “hanging out” – and just dwelled on how stupid doing that would be. I pretended that going home and doing stuff by myself was a way of showing I was better for doing it.

In retrospect, the rationale was quite pointless itself.

For example, one time I had the thought that hanging out with friends afterschool would be detrimental to my studies because it meant less time for homework.

Like playing video games and watching TV at home until six o’ clock was any better.

But now I realize that what really was at fault was my own fear of trying something new. Of following my heart and not my brain at the moment where I had to. I was, quite honestly, nervous about the entire enterprise … just hanging out, talking to people. Somehow, somehow I was nervous about it, about all of it.

What’s worse, I feel that having made such choices, day after day after day, constitutes one of my greatest regrets. I can think of many examples where I had the opportunity to chill afterschool with some friends and I passed it up. I can think of only some times where I actually agreed.

I can only hope that I make better, much better choices now and in the future.

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