I got to say this. Don’t you ever ever let anyone make you feel like a joke.
The lump sat in my throat. You now the kind, that no matter how many swallows it actually seems to grow? The tears you can feel just underneath your eyelids, you clench your eyes closed repeatedly hoping strength will come before the dams break.
I felt stupid, with my hands clenching into tight balls over and over again. I felt the need to punch something. To displace my emotions and turn the hurt into physical pain.
At twenty four the feeling of not fitting in, of being made out as a laughing stock, stung as much as it did every other time growing up. It brought me back to my childhood, to being in the Mexican neighborhood in Desert Hot Springs, where the neighborhood kids laughed as they called my mother a white whore.
From there, my mind traveled across the country, from California to a yellow bus in Connecticut, where kids asked me questions about why I didn’t live with my real parents. Where was my mom? Where was my dad? Why did I say things like I said them?
You would think, a lifetime of feeling like you don’t belong, you could get a better grip on your reaction to being painfully out of place. At least, you would hope the lump, tears and clenched fists would go away by the time you have kids of your own. There I was, tips of my ears burning red as I focused on not crying.
The thing is though, I felt small. I wanted to feel even smaller. The mixture of feeling like a stupid joke to people I didn’t even know made me want to just disappear. Not commit suicide. Worse. It made me wish I never existed.
That’s the problem isn’t it? That we throw our words around carelessly and freely, forming opinions on people’s odd mannerisms for cheap laughs while not giving second thought to how little we might be making someone we don’t know feel.
It’s just joking and people should have thicker skin, right? Never mind the fact we might have just contributed to someone’s lifetime struggle with feeling out of place.
I want my children to grow up comfortable in their own presence. I tell them to shine on like little crazy diamonds and march to the beat of their own drum. A part of me wants to warn them of the countless times others will grab their drumstick and beat their drum until it hurts, for the sake of personal entertainment. Or of times they will take black soot and cover their shiny beautiful personality in the name of fitting in with the coal around them.
I don’t want to tell my kids one of the side effects of being different is long nights thinking the world would be a better place if you didn’t try to shine so brightly in it.
I felt stupid, and it reminded me of every other time in my life I felt like I didn’t belong. It reminded me sometimes just joking at the expense of someone else comes with the possibility of that person spending hours awake feeling insignificant, or worse, like the world might be a better place if their stupid out of place self didn’t exist.