When I was 12, I was good academically, but was overweight and unfit, and lacked confidence socially. I didn’t find it easy to make friends. Paula Harvey lived next door-but-one, and although as a fit, attractive and slim girl she was out of my league, she still walked to and from school with me, which I liked. We got on and I liked her.
Cheryl K. was slim, fashionable and confident. She wore a pencil skirt with a slit in it, which I thought was so cool. Paula was friends with Cheryl, and eventually, Cheryl decided I had friend potential and she ‘let me in’. I felt like I’d arrived – I was in the group, the one with the attractive, sporty girls. At that time I made it onto the hockey team as well – life was sweet. I even went to the fair with Cheryl, three nights in a row, and flirted with a guy, while Cheryl flirted with his mate.
I had arrived.
I was starting to feel like a ‘somebody’.
And then one day she fell out with me. I don’t remember why, but today I remembered what it had meant, both at the time, and what it continues to mean today. As usual, Paula and I had gone home for lunch, and when we arrived Cheryl was sitting on the wall, with the others in the group. She looked up and in a jolly voice said, “Hello Paula, hello Paula”. Paula joined her and the rest of her group and I was left … lonely and isolated. There was no way I would have had the guts to have challenged Cheryl about what she was doing and to have looked for a resolution. All I remember now is the feeling of my aloneness and this group moving further away … Amanda T., Carol M., Jennifer S., and now Paula as well.
Some moments in life remain … they may even revisit under a different guise.
Thirty eight years later it is happening again. Not one school girl now, but ‘The Nine’ – nine of my running buddies that had a meeting and decided to remove me from our running club, … from their running club. The reasons why is a post for another day, I think, because this post is just about how I’m feeling. Just like my 12 year old self, I still have no voice because a ‘disciplinary hearing’ was held in my absence, without my knowledge, and my request to meet face to face was declined. I did not see this coming at all.
I’m not alone, because some friends have reached out and spoken out – and these are the salt of my earth right now.
Others have said how sorry they are, expressed their concern and their confusion, while others have said nothing. And why should they? In the general scheme of things, I’m not that important, any more than anyone else is. One person said they didn’t want to get involved, and I understand that response too.
The trouble is that like the 12 year old me, I am not managing my feelings and thoughts very well. Every person that has said nothing is a gap I can only fill with negativity – they think I’m a trouble-maker, they don’t trust me, they wouldn’t want to run with me even if I got the chance, that’s another friend I’ve lost …
Every happy memory adds to my sense of loss – the chatter on training runs, the snacks and natters after races, the shared journeys, the Christmas do, the club’s presentation evening, the ‘buzz’ before a race, the ‘let’s go for a run then come back to so and so’s for flapjacks / lasagne / cup of tea after’s, the ease with which I tune into club colours among a throng of athletes to find ‘my tribe’. The place where I felt like somebody.
I will appeal, because I’m already almost too scared to face other club members for fear of being judged, blanked, or worse still, politely acknowledged and then ignored. I want someone to say this was all a big mistake – I am not a bad person, I am worthy and I am wanted. I want to delete this blog post and delete this episode … I want to enjoy hanging out with ‘my tribe’ again, smiling, laughing, consoling, celebrating, belonging.
But right now I am so very, very sad and consumed by this. Its the last thing I think about before I go to sleep, and its on my mind as soon as wake up – every night. I’m terrified that The Nine were right – I am a bad presence in a club, and therefore I should not join another club in case the same thing happens again. How could I have not known that my conduct was so damaging? How could I have been so short-sighted? Why didn’t anyone tell me?
My adult self knows that these thoughts are completely irrational, but its little me that keeps winning over in my head at the moment.