Embarrassment and loneliness are two hateful, self-deprecating experiences. Neither necessarily depend on the environment or social activity, but both implore both physical and mental effects from blushing and crying, to the lump and ping we’ve all fought when standing in a corner alone.
Embarrassment and loneliness are two monsters in my closet I must put on every morning.
After only eight days, most everything I accomplish each day is a challenge. From home to work to travel, I struggle to communicate, which becomes a big issue when I need assistance. Luckily, I’m not one who is embarrassed easily and am not afraid to put myself out there in hopes of making new friends. However, it takes two to tango.
Two days ago, I finished gathering my breakfast in my resident dining hall and saw a few girls whom I’d previously met. I took a deep breath and asked if I could join them for breakfast since there were no other available seats.
After a long, quiet, and awkward meal, I got up to leave for work. I felt their eyes following me as I struggled to put my tray on the dish rack. I heard them giggling. Turning around to see them giggling at me, the tray slipped from my hands and fell to the floor with a crash. Glass and food particles littering the floor, the group burst into laughter.
Every head in the dinning room looked at me, and not a single person got up to help.
The following morning, I took the train to Nantes, a city near the coast, for my program’s orientation. I bought the tickets online, and not on my iPhone, so I didn’t have my ticket stored in the app like the other time I took a train. The email confirmation looked like a ticket, however, so I thought I was set to go… until the conductor came through my car at 6:10am to scan my ticket.
I wasn’t awake, hadn’t had coffee, and didn’t even have my English (let alone French) words yet. It was dark, I wasn’t sure what was going on, and the conductor wasn’t sure how to explain the problem.
She brought one of the agents to me, and between the three of us, managed to sort out the problem. The email basically said “this is not your ticket,” and I was supposed to fetch it at the station before boarding. With overwhelming kindness and understanding, she allowed me to stay on through until Nantes.
I’ll always remember these two experiences. These moments of struggling to communicate and feeling so alone not only make me stronger, but will help me understand and connect with others. When I’m on the other side, I want to respond as the conductor, and not because “I’ve put in my time” and have an option, but because I remember the feeling of disrespect when putting myself out there and trying to assimilate. My only option is to respond with grace.
I’m not angry or upset with the girls, I just wish they saw me, less than 24 hours after the tray incident, on the train with that conductor. I wish they carried the embarrassment of the tray incident with them all day. I wish they struggled to pay every time the grocer told them their total, or tried to do laundry or find the street trash bin with a full waste basket in tote.
These moments of struggling to communicate and feeling so alone not only make me stronger, but will help me understand and connect with others.
My motive isn’t wanting the girls to suffer. But whenever I see them, they try to evade eye contact, and if we do lock eyes, they quickly greet me and try to finish the interaction so it can be over. I want them to realize for me, it’s never over. For me, the awkwardness never ends, and they don’t posses the privilege to laugh at my reality.
I’ve been to this place of being laughed at and pitted, and I hope I never go back. I never want to forget the feeling, or to forget that right now, with you as my witness, I’m pledging to always be the conductor when I’m caught in someone else’s disastrous train wreck moment.