A Question Of Belonging Part 4.
If you meet me at a party, be it small, or fairly large, a theme birthday party at someone's house, or a flashy networking event, you would think I'm an extravert. I'm comfortable, confident, I start conversations easily most of the time, and know how to work my way around a room. I've been called a social butterfly more than once or twice, and I like that title. (Mainly - because it includes 'butterfly' in it.)
Thing is, I wasn't always comfortable in a social setting, nor am I an extravert.
In fact, the inner most precious part of me, is no doubt an introvert that wants nothing more than to be by myself and enjoy my own company, crafting, puzzling, writing... drifting in my imagination to other faraway worlds... But since I also always 'seek to belong' (Don't we all?) I learned how to assimilate, and yes, how to grow to be a social butterfly. It was nurture, NOT nature, in my case.
I vividly remember the time when I flat out decided to assert a 'new way of being'.
A confident demeanor! A NEW me to unleash onto the world!
It was the summer between fourth grade and fifth. I had a very hard time in school until then. VERY. Let's just say the word 'shy' doesn't even begin to cut it. I was almost mute from fear of the other children and incredibly scared to make my voice heard, or be seen, or BE somebody. Or God forbid, to belong... The fact that I was head over heels in love with the class king, was only making me more frozen in my fear at those years. And the class' bully - a Brunette girl with a raspy voice that still gives me nightmares - didn't make things easy on me with her vast amount of dominance. The irritable boy who teased me daily wasn't making things easier either. Thankfully I wasn't a total outcast - there was a girl even quieter and 'weirder' than me, and I guess I did have a few friends, sort of.... kids that were patient enough to accept me although I was practically a GHOST. But the worried faces of my parents struck a cord with me. They couldn't understand how I was a happy child and an imaginative performer at home, and then in school - I was petrified from the society of children in my class.
I knew I had to make a change.
And so... I did:
The summer between grades is always an opportunity to 'invent one's self anew'.
Two months of summer are a lifetime in the life of a child, and those two months offer plenty of opportunities to figure out what that 'new you' may be. I don't recall where I got the idea, and I doubt I heard the term 'Fake it 'till you make it' at that young age, but at the summer between fourth and fifth grade I made a decision.
A commitment, between me and myself.
"This year I will come to school DIFFERENT. I will be CONFIDENT."
I would repeat the mantra in my head every day on my way to school until I no longer needed to.
I changed my fashion style to match the 'confident girl' I was going to be. And my real opportunity to shine with my 'new self', was a couple of months later - in a class about the COURT SYSTEM.
First, you should know that I didn't attend an ordinary school.
My elementary school in Jerusalem, was named 'The Experiment.' And indeed, it was....
It was a school that put emphasis on collaboration rather than hierarchy, and didn't support homework, tests or grades, but rather a real discussion and collaboration between the student and teacher. Age groups were often mixed and the students got to actually choose their own teachers. Sounds dreamy right??
Well, this type of school won't fit every child - especially one that needs more boundaries - but it was a perfect fit for me as it provided me both the tools and the freedom that I needed to be the best student I know how to be: a SELF-TAUGHT one. (*Probably the most useful skills I have are to be self-taught and be creative and adaptable.)
So... back to the class about the court system.
This unique class was an immersive role play of a 'trial.'
The teacher assigned roles (in advance, thankfully) for students to play roles of the attorney, the judge, the defendant, the prosecutor, and so on... and I was randomly picked to play the defendant. We had a loose structure and 'story' to start off from and the freedom to collaborate and explore our 'roles.' It was an improv game, really. And since it was my first opportunity to perform in front of my classmates... I went 'all out': I picked a costume, put on my mother's lipstick, and crafted a detailed story about why 'I couldn't have been guilty in the crime I was accused of.'
It was a MAJOR success. Not in the trial of course - I was clearly lying through my teeth and the judge gave me a guilty verdict - as deserved. But my delivery of the character I created, and the fun I had and humor and drama I brought in to the class - was the talk of the year in my class.
It's as if the other kids saw me finally for who I really was, and they LIKED it. At last, I belonged somewhere.
Who knew that I'd belong in a character of a middle aged kleptomaniac woman with a high pitch voice and way-too-much red lipstick on. Who knew!?
It's well known that some people need to wear some sort of a mask in order to be seen.
Lots of performers would, for sure. And I - among them.
I will continue wearing my mask of social butterfly with joy. After all, I've worn it so long it is now a genuine part of me. It seems that the fifth grader in me understood this well - "If you want to belong, you have to just DECIDE TO. Nobody belongs anywhere anyways."
To be continued...
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In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman