See Me

For many years, I have struggled with feeling invisible.

I have distinct memories of a chorale concert in which I was sitting behind the younger choir, waiting my turn to sing. One of the other choir members started to cry, for reasons I never learned, and her friends began to comfort her. The thought twisted deep in my chest that if I cried, no one would notice. So, of course, I started crying — a few quiet tears slipped unbidden down my cheeks.

And, exactly as I’d predicted, no one noticed.

I find this memory expressive of my middle and high school experience as a whole. I was part of a small community of homeschoolers, who I would see about twice a week — once for group tutoring sessions, once for choir. This community was a tight-knit one, with large groups of teens gathering together between classes to laugh and chatter and share jokes and stories.

Unfortunately for me, I was not a part of the pattern.

I stood on the outskirts of their groups, in the community but never a part of it. It felt to me as though no one spoke to me unless necessity demanded it, and then their smiles were fake and their kind words empty. To them I was a ghost on the edge of their vision, nothing more than a collection of dimples and mildly awkward moments.

Up until my senior year of high school, I had exactly two friends.

When I went to community college in my senior year, however, everything began to change. I began to feel as though there were people who cared that I existed, friends I could call on whenever I began to feel that invisibility creep up on me again. But there were still cliques — former homeschoolers who’d come to Durham Tech in order to bolster their high school education, mostly. There was one sub-clique in particular that made me feel especially small and isolated. Though I was friends with each of the members individually, when they were all together I felt distinctly Other. Small, awkward, nothing more than the recipient of their friendly charity. I longed to be one of them, but whenever they included me I could only feel how out-of-place I was.

Then I went to university, and once again things improved. Now I was part of my own clique (which broke apart after a few weeks; a story for another time). But here, too, I felt that stain of invisibility. My closest college friend, who I had struck up a relationship with on the very first day, joined a club on campus that demanded all of her time. I barely saw her, and when I did she was often distant, often brimming with secrets. Then, too, I felt invisible, as my best friend drifted away from me. We have since returned to our former closeness, but at the time the separation was keenly-felt.

Even now, as a sophomore, there are small experiences that send me whirling back to those moments. Those times when I saw but was not seen, spoke but was not heard, touched but made no impact. I’ll call out to a friend and feel a stab of awkwardness and embarrassment if they don’t hear me. I’ll say something at a dinner conversation and subside into shy silence if no one notices. I’ll sit curled in a corner at a party, watching the interactions of others but unsure how to join in.

Sometimes, like tonight, I’ll sit alone in my room and feel as if no one in the world has time for me. I’ll lie in bed and quietly urge someone to text me, to notice me, to remember that I exist. And all the while I’ll feel foolish for depending on others so much, foolish for caring whether I’m alone for a few hours before bed… foolish for feeling invisible.

So please, dear friends, forgive me for being a little clingy sometimes, a little demanding, a little frantic. Deep inside me rationality wars with the fading voice of the invisible girl, and sometimes the invisible girl wins. Just for tonight, just for a few hours, she wins, and I am once again invisible.

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See Me

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