I’m sitting in the community center with my headphones on writing something. I’d actually come here in the first place because there’s an event in a little bit. A party with a bunch of friends from the pottery studio where I take classes. I started learning ceramics a few months before the pandemic set in — met my local friends that way (having relocated cross country in late 2019 for work reasons).
I’ve continued to pursue pottery in my doddering way. I’m not one of those people who are naturally gifted at it — and I don’t care if I ever get particularly good at it. It’s fun for me. Relaxation.
I am frankly one of the worst students at the studio. Was when I started. And I continue to be very iffy.
But I have a lot of fun.
And I’ve decided to go hang out with folks today. But as I’m waiting for the time to come for the event to start, I find myself worrying: Will I be gatecrashing? The event is technically open to whoever wants to come, but I’ve never been to one of these. What if I ruin it by showing up? What if they don’t want me there?
And as I’m starting to get really psyched out, the person hosting the event walks by me and hands me a note:
If you aren’t busy and want to kick back for a bit, we’re meeting in the lecture hall for a watch party. Feel free to join us.
I smile. Take off my headphones. “Of course I’ll come,” I say.
“You had headphones on, so I thought the note was best. Didn’t want to be intrusive.”
“I appreciate it.”
As she walks away, I muse to myself that I nearly convinced myself that no one wanted me to come. Right before I was handed a written invitation.
Isolation Made Me Think People Hate Me
I’m recounting this incident to friends a short while later. “I swear that isolation made me forget who I was, and it made me think people hate me. I don’t know why,” I say. “Maybe it’s cognitive dissonance. I was a hermit for so long because of the pandemic. I wonder if the ‘everyone hates me’ story cropped up to explain why I was alone so much. As a way of making my isolation normal.” I pause. “The last few years were terribly abnormal, weren’t they?”
“Well, we’re obligate social animals,” one of them says.
It feels a bit cheeky. Because I am always saying this. Like a broken record. I feel like I’m being dosed with my own medicine.
The other friend admits their imposter syndrome has been worse. That they’ve been struggling harder with it during the pandemic.
I suspect a lot of us have strange little quirks. Ones that linger.
Me, I’m going to try to remember that handwritten note the next time that little voice tells me, “Don’t show up. They don’t want you there.”
Isolation may have made me forget who I was. But with enough time and effort, I will remember.