I’m standing at one end of the hallway looking to the door at the end. That’s my bedroom, my refuge. It’s my birthday, the house is full of people, and I’m overwhelmed.
But when I push open my door, even my own room is occupied, full of cousins playing with my toys. I turn around, disheartened, and feel hopeless. And ashamed.
There’s no other place I can find quiet. But the house is full of people who love me. Even in the limited self-knowledge of my single-digit age, I know I should be happy about this, and I feel badly for not feeling that way. It’s the same way I feel about being horrified at the thought of joining in when my cousins put on a “show,” dancing and singing for the adults.
I know that I’m supposed to like the noise and bustle and attention, because the other kids do. But I know I don’t. It feels terrifying and overwhelming and humiliating. But to feel that way feels shameful.
What I don’t yet know is that, in about thirty years, I’ll learn that other people feel like this too, and that it isn’t a defect.
I don’t know it yet, but I will, and it will make all the difference.
(But I do wish I had discovered it sooner.)