I’ve always wanted to be popular.
Though you’ll never hear me admit it.
When I was in college, I spent most of my time hanging around the theatre department with all those big personalities. And everyone was so into each other, y’know. Someone would walk in and they’d all go “OH MY GOD! I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE HERE!”
They had people. Community. A sense of fitting in.
Meanwhile, I walked into the room and got a vague look of I think I had class with her, but I have no idea who she is or why she’s here.
But I always wanted that thing. That fitting in thing.
I tried so hard to get it. I got cast in shows, but somehow being part of a cast was substantially worse. I remember during the rehearsals for one show, our director had us do a bonding activity where we all ran around and gave our fellow cast members three compliments.
The room was electric as we bounced around, shouting niceties at each other.
When we sat down, I realized I didn’t get a single compliment.
It’s so small. And if you’re reading this as an adult, you’re probably thinking:
This is so insignificant that I can’t believe she even remembers it. Grow up, girlfriend.
But it adds up.
In another show, the whole cast got invited to a party except for me.
“You can come too,” one guy said, “though I didn’t think you’d want to.”
He was right, of course, which was frustrating. How could I be mad that someone didn’t invite me because they knew I wouldn’t come?
And in my freshman year of college, everyone in my major would eat lunch together while I ate by myself. I’d watch them all walk to the dining hall together from my bedroom window. Sure, they invited me a few months later, but it turns out that they all just… forgot about me. It wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t because they hated me. No one thought to ask.
Somehow, dropping out of college was easier than I thought it would be.
I swore I was too mature for that shit and moved on with my life. I had basically no friends, no plan, and nowhere to go.
I thought adulthood would be a caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation. As it turns out, no. I was the same person but in a grown-up suit. Nothing had changed. I hadn’t changed.
I saw people posting online about their work friends, their club friends, their church friends. It seemed like even the adults had a group they fell back on. A community. A place.
But I’m not religious. I’m not athletic, I’m not social. I love theatre but after my college experience, I’m not sure I’ll find a home there. And I work from home, so it’s not like I see my colleagues often (if ever). Sure, I have some friends and good family. But it’s not the same. I’ve never felt that thing, that overwhelming acceptance from a whole community of people who care about you. That energy, that power. That kind of home.
I still want it sometimes.
I know that being “popular” — being liked by lots and lots of people — is sorely overrated. It’s almost always surface-level like. It’s usually fake, contrived, requires a great deal of hiding your true self to pull off. But damn, if I don’t want to feel it sometimes.
I want to be the person who walks in and lights up a room.
Maybe that isn’t for me. Maybe a few painstakingly chosen and cultivated friendships is where I fit in.
Maybe being true to myself is the key.
Still, the idea of fitting in is so tempting. I think about it a lot, how it might feel to get up in front of a bunch of people and feel like I belong.
You’ll never hear me admit it, though, so don’t ask.