Monday, January 19, 2015

Fixing Me # 1 - One crazy incident at a time

(Originally posted on my old blog on November 4, 2014. I didn't want to recycle posts, but I want to continue writing about my attempts at fixing me. So, reposting the first of the previous posts, duly edited to have a rather more elaborate ending.)

This was the reason I decided to shift away from home: I needed to mend the broken pieces. Basically, I really needed to get a life. It's not working out all that well, but it's going better than I'd expected. Dealing with my social ineptitude is going to be one crazy incident after another. I'll start at the beginning, three months ago.

"My father died when I was twelve years old. In a car accident, which is why I am still mortally afraid of roads." Imagine me walking up in front of a class of twenty on the first day and blurting this out, when what I was supposed to do was make a presentation on My Family, a presentation I had spent at least two days rehearsing, a presentation that was not supposed to start that way nor even mention his accident. Ever since we got the topic, as our very first class assignment, I'd been regretting taking up the course. So I'd decided to speak on the topic of family, in general, and what it means to me, carefully avoiding any awkwardness. Who was I kidding?

I love my family. I hate talking about it. The inevitable "What does your father do?" followed by my sad little admission, the pitiful gazes on me and the following "I'm sorry," and "It's okay;" even ten years after, that's a ritual I dread. So of course, as I got up from my chair (the first presenter in class, that's my luck) all I could think of was: Don't ask me about my father, God, please don't bring him up. And so, forgetting my, "Family is more than just the members in it," beginning, I confessed. 

And then I burst into tears. As I tried to wipe them away, one non-sobbing part of my mind registered the fact that it was the first time I had volunteered this piece of information to anybody, let alone a whole twenty people. For a long six years, when someone asked me what my father did, I used to reply, "He's a doctor," because it sounded so much better than the truth, because he had always been this fire and light in my life that was so much more than "no more." Before his accident, I could proudly brag, "A doctor, a writer, a travel agent, a lepidopterist, that's a butterfly-study-er for you lay people." Now all he was and could be was not here. And I wasn't a teenager any longer, I couldn't get away with a little white lie. Now if they asked me, I'd have to tell.

They looked shocked and very uncomfortable, my class. And I don't blame them; there I was, a twenty-one year old crying like a baby. It was weird and unstoppable. I tried saying "I'm sorry, I have never talked about this. Family is a difficult subject for me. So instead of talking about the members of my family, I'll tell you what family means to me..." Only, I didn't. I just kept on wailing, till the professor asked me to excuse myself and just, go. He called out the next name, seemingly disconcerted by my endless sobbing. Back at my seat I felt this sinking realization that it had happened, all over again. Except, I couldn't run away home, to my room, this time. If I had to continue on in the class, in the new life, with none of my self doubts, I'd have to fix the situation. Fix me.

So I did something I'd never done before. Took charge. As soon as the person after me was done speaking, I turned to my professor and surprised myself by volunteering to finish my speech. I still remember the fleeting crack in his famously tough exterior; he asked me if I was sure, and a big part of me wasn't, I admit, but that tiny look of disbelief on his face emboldened me. I faced the class, let my bloated face break into a reluctant smile, stared at the people, pointedly ignored the camera and rushed into my rehearsed speech, "So, like I said, family is a difficult subject for me..." I don't know how it went. I've since often been told I was good, and I almost believe it's not all sympathy-talk.

It embarrasses me that the whole class has a video of me crying, but it's incredibly reassuring that they also have the next one, the fixed one. I mean, it does still bother me that I was moronic enough to cry in class. But the silver lining here is, the next time, I won't cry. It's been ten years, it'll be ten full years on November 9th. It's time I accepted that there is much more to my family than the one admittedly huge tragedy that hit us. The next time someone asks me (after this I doubt anyone will, though) to talk about my family, I will. They're definitely worth it.

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