In a crowded room, I’m alone.
These words speak a certain truth in a way I couldn’t express better if I tried. They come from one of my favorite songs and tug at my heart each time I hear them. They are words that describe a feeling I have felt my whole life but could never quite articulate in just the right way; words which, ironically, in the same way that running does, bring calm to the immutable chaos in my mind, a comfort to my discomfort. I hear them and know that at least one other person feels the same way.
In a world so full of people and noise and things that keep us busy, it seems impossible that one could ever feel alone. And yet, these are the very things that remind me of how insignificant I am, a tiny speck… and as my friend Katy would say, just a small part of the universe. A perpetual wallflower, clinging to the edge of an action-packed scene, watching it unfold in front of me while never feeling truly a part of it. All I’ve ever really wanted is to do something that matters… to be someone who matters.
The moments when I haven’t felt like the odd one out have been rare. As a young child, I was the girl with no dad; the one with the frizzy hair; the serial new kid at school with each move my family made. As I grew older, I became the one with the cool, outgoing big sister; the one who would rather read a book than go to a party; and still, the frizzy-haired anomaly among an overwhelming majority of straight-haired people, still on the edge, never fully belonging, and always trying to get out of the way. I don’t know where that comes from; I just know that it’s there. Perhaps it is nothing more than a false perception in my own mind, but for me it is a reality. Alone in a crowded room.
As the school year winds down and I find myself preparing to say goodbye once again as I have so often in the past, I’ve been in a constant state of introspection. Unlike most of my goodbyes in the past, this one was my own doing, as I’ve chosen not to return to my teaching job next year. A decision that seemed so clear at the time, suddenly it seems all wrong, even though I realize on an intellectual level that this notion may be short-lived. I’ve spent the majority of the year feeling out of place, that I didn’t belong, that what I was doing didn’t matter to anyone but me… alone in a crowded room. Things have gotten a lot better in the last few months, but those wallflower moments still present themselves with all of the social awkwardness that comes with them. But today, something happened.
I received a note from a student – one among many thoughtful, beautiful sentiments from students and colleagues, but this particular note from a student who was not in any of my classes this year stood out. In it, she wished me well. She thanked me for my work at the school. And then she told me that she felt the things I had done at school this year were often taken for granted. By the time I finished reading her note, I couldn’t see, because there was something in my eyes. Reading her note made me realize that I haven’t been alone this whole time. I had done something that mattered, and to her, in a crowded room, I had been someone who matters.
Thank you for reading!