My cat likes sunbeams. She likes to press herself against the glass of the door to the backyard and bask in the sunshine. I got her a harness, thinking that she might like to go outside. When I put the harness on her, she flopped onto her side and refused to move. I attached the leash, I tried to heave her to her feet, but no dice. She wouldn’t budge. I tried everything—polite coaxing, treats, tugging. Nothing. I thought that she would love the world outside, the life beyond the glass. But she was too scared to cross the threshold, so she will never have that experience.
I don’t want to be that way.
I pick the chair that allows me the best view of my surroundings. My headphones blast a sad Ingrid Michaelson song about how we will never get to where we want to go, and I wonder if it’s true. There are so many places I want to go, things I want to do, but I’m not sure I’m moving anywhere. I feel like there’s not a place for me.
I watch my friends, sitting at a table. I think of how weird it is, to have friends. I have had perhaps one in the previous few years. I remember how someone very wise told me that I just needed to find “my people.” She was right; these are my people. They share my humor, they like school and books and writing. All of my things. But I can’t connect. I’m on a different wavelengths, with different experiences. I have the mind of an eighty year old in the body of a twenty-nine year old.
I want desperately to interact with them, but it’s hard sometimes. I am so, so different. I worry that I’m trying to force myself to be something I’m not, something apart from my experiences.
I’m behind a pane of glass and I can’t cross over.
Some things are completely overwhelming and difficult to process. People wonder why I don’t talk about things; I learned not to. When people ask me to talk about things, what they are actually asking is for me to relive them. It’s hard sometimes to separate all of the things inside my head. I can’t say out loud that this happened to me. I can’t hear the words without cringing. So I play pretend. And sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I am completely flustered.
The world tells me that I don’t fit. That I’m not normal. That I’m doing it all wrong. And I want to fight back. I want to change that view. But I don’t know how.
I am completely flustered. The comments of my professor run through my head.
You have to be able to have normal social interactions with everyone.
I don’t understand this. What is normal, anyway? What am I doing wrong to deserve this? I walk without thinking. I don’t know where to go. The air is squeezing out of my lungs and I’m on the verge of tears yet again. I was proud, I thought that I was handling things well. And then I let a tiny thing derail me. So dumb. Stupid.
I am up the stairs and in the hallway and knocking before I really remember how I got here. D is sitting at her desk, but spins around when I knock.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
I step in and spin around looking for a place to sit, but instead choose the floor. I draw my knees up to my chest. “Is this going to be the rest of my life? Fighting? Defending what I need to people?” I don’t know how to do this if it is. I don’t want to fight forever.
“No one talks to me. In my group. Because when I freaked out, I really freaked out. Literally bawled.” I sound stupid and whiny even to me. Can’t I just be the girl who knows the answers, the one who has relearned how to speak, the one who knows that she knows what she’s doing? Can’t I just be her and only her? I want to be the one who knows the answers, because she’s the real me. She’s someone to be proud of. This I am not proud of.
“They aren’t thinking of you as the girl who freaked out. They’re thinking of you as the girl who’s sad. And that’s okay.”
“Is it? I don’t want it to be that way.”
“Imagine how hard it is for someone who’s not as strong or outspoken as you.”
Strong. Outspoken. I keep hearing these things and I want to believe them. I want to be that person.
I leave D’s office later and ponder how I’m worth fighting for.
I don’t want to spend my life behind a pane of glass. I want to experience all of the things that the world has to offer. I want to be confident that I can handle life’s occurrences, even though it’s hard.
I want to know the things that other people already recognize.
Life on the other side is hard and bright and loud. But it’s also fun and enriching and educating and a million other things.
I want to cross the threshold and experience life beyond the glass.