…every year, I thought that it would better. Occasionally, it was. But most of the time, it wasn’t.
And yet, that was my mood at the time. Today I helped out Noelle in her culinary program for teens at the YMCA. I was immediately struck by how social the teenagers were. Some were shy, yes, much like how I was, unable to speak in front of any groups. Some hung around certain peers. Some could barely speak that loudly.
And what I remember the most was the fact that I was a nonpresence. I tried so hard to blend in the background that I was noticeably just not present. Sure, I had occupied an actual space. A 3d object sucking in oxygen and emitting carbon dioxide. Generating energy within. But did others remember me? When I didn’t bother even making an impression?
I had always wondered that through life, especially during that period, where my goal was simply to fit in. To not stand out from the crowd (because I had believed that standing out from the crowd meant ostracization and ultimately never-ending discomfort). But when I got older, the idea that I couldn’t express myself was the reason that I had to change completely.
So as I led the 14 teenagers through various (unprepared) exercises of egg dishes—scrambled, fried, poached, and hard-boiled, I watched their expressions. They were quiet, watchful, and mindful. Was I like that? Did some just blend into the background with all the constant learning just falling over and over themselves into a slew of school?
But I paused when the strawberry shortcake, pasta, and deviled eggs were finished. The teenagers went to find their phones and snapped (for snapchat) with their iPhones. I saw on swipe to find the right filters. And then, I paused to take a photo with my camera app for posterity.
What could I have said to myself in those moments of insecurity? Maybe nothing. Because most of the time the days that I spent as a teenager, I would barely remember decades later.