Krystal stood in the kitchen, hands clasped together in a prayer-like pose, “Please, Mom, Pleeaaseee?”
“Okay, but only for one hour.” Krystal took off towards the back door and I followed.
“Krystal! That means you and Kayla need to be home by five o’clock.”
Before reaching the door she came to a halt and turned around with a look of pure disappointment. “What? Kayla? No. Mom, please don’t make me take her. Clarissa and I want to play alone.” We made our way back into the kitchen where Mom was sprinkling some seasoning into a pot on the stove.
“Krystal, honey, she wants to play too.”
I searched Krystal’s face for even a hint of remorse but there was none. She pleaded again… and won.
“Kayla, do you want to help me make dinner?” Mom gazed down at me with fake enthusiasm.
Once more, I searched Krystal’s face but there was no change.
“Okay.” I muttered. And without pause Krystal bolted out of the room.
Mom and Dad’s best friends, Mike and Danette, were at the house for the evening. It was really exciting because we didn’t get to see them as often since we moved from England. There, we lived close to each other but after the move we were in different states. Krystal and I loved it when they were around because they paid us lots of attention and brought us gifts and goodies. Mike always played games with us and with Danette we always did crafts or colored.
After dinner, everyone else decided to play a game while Mom cleaned up the kitchen. They brought a new one we hadn’t played before, “Yahtzee.” The box was small and red and had a picture of a blue cup with dice pouring out of it. I went to the bathroom and when I came back Krystal and Mike had already opened the box and he was reading through the rulebook. I sat down next to Krystal and she whispered, “No Kayla,” and shoved me back with her elbow. She pursed her lips and pointed to the bottom right corner of the box. “You’re too little. Eight and UP.”
“I’m seven, though. That’s almost eight.”
“No. Eight and Up. You can’t play.” She turned her back to me and squeezed closer toward the game so I could no longer see it.
I knew there was nothing an eight-year-old could do that I couldn’t. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and I ran to my bedroom and cried into my mountain of stuffed animals. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The house was quiet except for random laughing outbursts coming from the boys’ bedroom. I didn’t remember falling asleep but I woke up with an imprint of the spiral of my notebook on my left cheek. Walking down the hall towards to the kitchen, I heard Krystal’s voice and some faint background music from behind the boys’ bedroom door. In the living room, Debra sat on the couch, legs crossed, with a book in her hand. It had a picture of a man with long hair and white shirt split open in the middle embracing a tiny woman with dark disheveled hair, their lips almost touching. On the table in front of her was a napkin with a small pile of chips and a glass of iced tea. She didn’t even look up when I entered the room.
After satisfying my thirst I headed back down the hall. I stood in front of the boys’ door for a moment before deciding to give it a try. I cracked the door just slightly enough to see Kyle sitting on the floor sorting his Pogs. I could see half the TV and as I suspected, they were playing video games. “Can I come in?” I asked. Kyle looked up at me and caught my eye just as the door slammed in my face. They didn’t say anything but bursted with laughter behind it. I don’t know if it was Joe or Krystal who slammed the door but the message was clear, WE DON’T WANT YOU.
I considered telling Debra they wouldn’t let me in but based on past efforts, I knew it would be fruitless. She had never before taken my side. I somberly went to my bedroom and picked up where I left off in my journal entry.
It was one of our first nights at Jubilee Worship Center. After Praise and Worship when they called for all the children to go to children’s church and the teens to go to youth group, I looked at Mom not sure what I should do. I decided to follow Krystal. When we got to the back of the sanctuary, Krystal realized I was behind her and stopped and matter-of-factly said, “Kayla, youth group is for teens only. You’re not old enough.” I went back and sat with Mom for the remainder of service. I was too old for memory verses and making fish and bread out of construction paper. I was too young for whatever it was they did in youth group.
I ended up spending most of my time there in the nursery consoling my baby sisters who would scream when we left them in there. Eventually, the church formed a pre-teens group that consisted of me, my cousin Shaina, and 2 other kids in the church who were 11 and 12. Our meeting place was in a hallway because there was no proper room left for us.
It was my first day at this new Junior High school and a girl named Brittany was nice enough to explain to me how the lunchroom worked. “That table is for prep girls only, basically only cheerleaders. The boy preps sit at the table next to them, football players and some other sports. That’s where the band sits. Those are nerds. The trouble-makers sit over there. And I guess you should sit at that table.” She pointed to one in the back corner of the cafeteria with only one other person sitting there, then she hopped off to join her own table with the rest of the band. I had been the new person more times than I cared to count, but I had never experienced such extreme separation of cliques in any of the elementary schools I attended before this.
Lunch tray in hand I took in all different groups. Each one was filled with a bunch of people who looked, dressed, and acted the same as everyone else sitting at their table, none of which mirrored me. I took Brittany’s suggestion and headed to the table in the back, sitting on the opposite side as the one other person sitting there. I made eye contact with no one.
I have countless stories like these. Exclusion has been a repetitive theme in my life, in my family, at school, at work. I was either always excluded internally by feeling different than those around me, or I was intentionally pushed away or left out. I was rejected time and time again. I still feel it today, when I walk into a room and everyone stops laughing, when I find out about a bunch of people getting together but I was never invited. I have never been able to find my place in this world.
If it were no longer happening, I think I could chalk it up to being the younger child the first 7 years and then being the middle child. It seems like text-book psychology, but it STILL happens today. Very recently one member of my family, whom I believed I was somewhat connected to, got mad at me when we disagreed on something and said, “This is why no one ever wants you around. You ruin everything.” I honestly have no idea what I did to inspire that comment. The words speared into me and touched a very old, very deep wound. Hearing them said aloud, the words I always believed to be true but hoped were only in my head, messed me up. That singular event sent me into a downward spiral and I’ve been trying to think and write my way out of it ever since.
It is true I often think differently than those around me. I frequently oppose the opinions and actions of those with whom I’ve found myself near to in life. Unless prompted, though, I rarely share my disagreement out loud. It has been this way for as long as I can remember, but is that alone enough to make them repel me?
Why is this a repetitive theme in my life? What am I to learn or glean from it? Is there some aspect of my personality that repulses people that I am still wholly unaware of? With as habitually as I seek understanding and self-awareness, is that even possible? How do I change it? Or am I meant to never understand and just accept that I’m unwanted?
Perhaps the purpose of it all is to send me deeper inside of myself. Maybe it is intended that I separate myself from others and this was the universe’s way of ensuring I do so.
If I had the answers, I wouldn’t be writing this. I must, however, find a way to stop this unique exclusion from hurting me, and I must do so without numbing myself, without giving up my most powerful asset, my ability to feel so deeply. That is the immense obstacle in front of me.