One Thousand Words on Standing Just Outside the Circle

It feels like I’m the new kid. Not that I’ve ever been the new kid, but it’s what I imagine it must feel like. And I don’t relish the feeling.

Some people embrace change, thrive in it, seek it out. Not me. I like to me comfortable, I like the familiar. My favorite word is cozy.

This isn’t cozy.

It feels like they all know each other, share a history, are friends. They email each other. They talk about people I don’t know. They’ve read each other’s work. They know their style, their projects.

They’re not mean. They’re lovely, friendly. They smile and nod at me.

I don’t know what I expect exactly. It’s not like I run into the room with a “howdy-do,” sharing my life stories right out of the gate.

I don’t even share the details of my life when it’s relevant. Like when the blonde lady wrote about learning to make the perfect screwdriver as a child, to please her stepfather. I wanted to say, “I learned how to pour the beer just right so there wasn’t too much foam on the top.”

She might have liked to know that I related to her writing, that what she had drafted resonated with me.

But I didn’t say a word. I didn’t insert myself into their community.

And yet, I am sharing. I’m giving them a piece of myself that I don’t give to many. My writing is personal, it is me. And sharing the words I put on the page is one of the most personal things I’ve ever done. I rarely extend myself in this way and how odd it is that they don’t know what they are receiving.

On the surface, it’s nothing special. Another story, another scene. But it’s my story, my scene. And presenting them to a group, a circle of people I don’t know and will never truly know, is a powerful act of courage for me. I don’t do it lightly.

I am offering them a portion of my soul, to take or leave, to affirm or negate, to embrace or turn away. To judge.

But in some strange, even though I feel as if they are evaluating more than my words, that they are critiquing my worth as a person as well my worth as a writer, I don’t truly feel the need to belong, the need for a circle, a support system.

I feel vaguely uneasy when I’m in the presence of other people’s circles and support systems. Just not enough to force myself to be outgoing, to become a part, a member of the community.

Is this what my personality dictates my life will be? Standing just outside the circle, not willing to do what it takes to step in, but feeling just a little bit sad to be excluded?

No, excluded isn’t the right word. There’s too much intent, purpose in excluded. Ineligible. Unqualified. As if I don’t have the tools it takes to build my entryway in and I have no real desire to acquire those tools.

I try to keep perspective. I’m there in that room, here in life, to learn. Not to make friends, to belong.

Not everyone there in that room, here in life, wants to learn. Some people crave community, fellowship more than knowledge.

And some people crave approval, or to be heard.

Some of them are like me. They sit forward when they listen, they ask questions about their work, the work of others.

But some them proclaim, hold court.

Like the older gentleman, who always sits in the wingback chair. Prolific and just a little self aggrandizing and self effacing at the same time.

He doesn’t listen. He makes statements. “This is good. This is bad.” It’s not a conversation. It’s not, “I thought that…” It’s black and white.

He waits until the commentary is almost over before delivering his opinion, his decree. Why does he need to have the last word, the final judgment?

He judges the comments he receives in the same way, sitting back in his chair, smiling just a little in a way that could be paternal or could be a smirk.

The moment something is said, the instance a comment is made, you know whether or not he agrees, if he thinks the opinion is worth his time.

He’ll nod and look thoughtful if he deems the observation worthwhile. He’ll check out, stop listening if he doesn’t like what you’re saying.

If he’s the king, the patriarch, then the youngest is the queen or the star student.

Like the older gentleman, she has her place, her chair where she sits cross legged, eyes closed while she listens and sometimes while others are talking. Is she asleep, bored, deep in thought or just wanting to have the appearance of being a thinker?

And like the king, her comments are grand pronouncements, detailed reflections on theme, motivation and characters. Big picture words on big picture topics, making my notes and scribblings about specific lines seem puny, small and unworthy.

Her writing is elegant, smooth and emotional. She gives the impression that she knows exactly where it is all going, what the ending is, both in her writing and in life.

They know the language that eludes me. They are natives in a land I’m just learning to navigate.

Others, new inhabitants like me, already appear to be insiders. They are willing to share themselves in spoken words, not just on the page through fictional characters and pretend dialogue.

Is it easy for them? Are these the people that love to be the new kids, to give up everything they think, they feel, they love to strangers without thinking?

I will never be that person, the giver, the talker. I share myself in different ways, when I choose, not simply to belong, be a part of a community, a circle.

I will always be the new kid. So pay attention when I do disclose, reveal. It’s rare.

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