Today I hosted my first party. I invited a few friends over for a s’more making party, because there’s an awesome working (!) fireplace in our house. I made marshmallows, and my roommates made graham crackers. We had cozy drinks, sat around the fire and played games. I was a little nervous about hosting a party, but it actually turned out fine.
Everyone left late, around 1:30 in the morning. Then I realized I had the whole downstairs of the house to myself; my roommates having gone to bed earlier. It was nice to move around the house alone, cleaning up the kitchen, living room and dining room. I used to live alone before I moved into this house with 4 other people. I had forgotten how luxurious it is to be alone in your home. There were still embers glowing the fireplace. I was tired but didn’t want to go to sleep. I was not ready to leave the fire. I turned out all the lights and sat in the dark staring into the embers.
I took in the smell of smoke. Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. My dad was a firefighter and always came home from work smelling like smoke. I would run to give him a hug when he got home, and smell the smoke in his hair and on his clothes. Smoke meant my dad was home. A little over 10 years ago, my dad was elected union rep for the firefighter’s union. He no longer worked in the fire house. He worked in a office, wore a suit and tie, and worked regular 9 to 5 hours. He has not come home smelling like smoke for years. And now when I smell it, it reminds me of being a little kid, feeling excited that my dad was home, and giving him a hug.
I took in my place right now; in grad school, in Michigan, away from friends and family. I took in the fact that I was doing OK here for myself. I had just a houseful of people, who came over because I invited them and because they were my friends. I admitted to myself that despite this, I still have problems making friends. Stupid things get me down. For example, if I see on my news feed on Facebook that a few of my friends from school became friends with someone else from school who I don’t know. I think, how come they all know this person and are friends with them, but I’m not? Did they have some party that I wasn’t invited to? What other fun and cool stuff will they do without me? All of these stupid paranoia thoughts go through my head. And that has got to stop. All it does it make me feel bad about myself and make me doubt myself.
I have a memory from kindergarten that I always think of whenever I doubt myself. We are learning about numbers. My teacher asks the class to name a number that starts with the letter “z”. No one can answer the question. I think really hard about a number beginning with “z”. Then suddenly, I have answer. I raise my hand but the teacher doesn’t call on me. I wiggle and squirm around in my seat; I am so excited that I have this answer and no one else in the class does! I notice the girl next to me calmly raises her hand. Finally I can’t keep it in anymore and I yell out my answer: “a zillion!” I am so pleased with myself. Without missing a beat, the girl next to me (after being called on by the teacher of course) calmly answers “it’s zero.” She’s right. I feel my face turn red. I’m embarrassed and shamed. I was so sure I had the right answer, I yelled out of turn, I was wrong, I made a complete fool of myself, and now everyone things I’m stupid.
I always think about why, after all these years, I still remember that incident and think back on it a lot. I guess it was the first time I ever felt embarrassed and bad about myself, or realized that other people might think badly of me. And it really made an impact on me. Even now, 20 years later, I’m still afraid of calling out the wrong answer. I’m still afraid of looking bad in front of others. I like to think that I’m strong and independent and don’t care what others think of me. But now I do, especially now when I’m trying to make new friends and I’m in a new place.
All of these thoughts came to me as I sat in the dark alone, staring into the embers; smelling smoke and feeling like a kid again. I took in the fact that I have to let those feelings go. I am not a kid anymore and I don’t want to be afraid. I have to let all the stupid Facebook-induced paranoid feelings about not being accepted just wash over me. Just release it and let go. It is not important. I don’t want to spend all my time stressing about making friends instead of actually hanging out with people and making friends. What’s important is the time I spend with people, and not the time I spend thinking about it.
And with that in mind I came upstairs to put everything into words. And now I’m ready for bed.