Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I never was Homecoming Queen

A couple Fridays ago I met Jimmy James and his roommate Al out at a bar. I never have a particularly good time when I go out with them, but it generally beats sitting at home alone on the slit-your-wrists scale of entertainment value. That Friday night, however, though it started out fine, quickly devolved into an abrupt retreat and a bout of the kind of heart-rending sobbing and emotional self-flagellation I used to reserve for the bathroom of every middle school dance I ever attended. And, actually, for much the same reasons. Back then it was because boys didn't like me and I never got asked to slow dance, and thus necessarily would die old and gawky and alone. And oh, how little things change. This time it was because I felt lost and alone and no one would talk to me, or even look me in the eye, or acknowledge my existence. Jimmy James and Al were friendly but half-drunk and distracted by friends and assorted acquaintances that they had also invited out, and my attempts at engaging newcomers in conversation were quickly shot down. One guy, Jimmy James' coworker, politely responded to my introductory questions and then firmly and deliberately stated, "I am going to order a drink now," and buried his nose in the (not overly long) beer menu for the next twenty minutes. And no, he was not socially awkward, and he had no trouble later striking up a much more enthusiastic conversation with the fresh-faced and bubbly young brunette who joined our group. That was the most social interaction I had that night, as everyone else present seemed similarly determined not to engage with me. I sat on my bar stool alone trying to quell the rising panic of feeling not just ignored, but worse--invisible. I felt a brief surge of relief as someone I recognized walked in the door. I had met him out with these guys before on several occasions and knew him to be fun and friendly. Lately I had even been in contact with him at the high school where I tutor and he teaches, observed his class, even, and occasionally chatted with him in the hallway. He didn't immediately acknowledge me, but greeted his friends and launched right into a story, which I thought only fair, and so I waited. After about half an hour, however, and after he had looked directly through me about five different times and I had never been able to catch his eye even long enough to say hi, I realized that it wasn't that he didn't know I was there, it was that he didn't care. No one did. And so I left without a word to anyone (who would I tell?) and slipped out the door and into the cool night air. And so I arrived back at home a mere hour after I had left, though how could all of that have taken place in one hour when it all felt somehow so monumental and life-changing? (Forgive me the dramatics, but one cannot make an allusion to middle school angst without a bit of theater.) Usually I am very good about rationalizing a situation like this and turning it to my advantage: Oh, I wouldn't want to be friends with those people, anyway. They're not my kind of people. (And no, I am not at all interested in your sweet grapes when these sour ones suit me just fine, thankyouverymuch.) But that night was different. I couldn't rationalize it away. Because suddenly it was becoming very clear to me that, contrary to what I had once suspected in middle school, boys not liking me was not actually the very worst thing that would ever happen to me. Not boys, no. People. People don't like me. A realization at once preposterous in scope and yet horrifyingly clear. And for once I am not being overly dramatic. Just hear me out.

I ran through the events of the evening, in condensed and emotionally distanced form, on the phone with my friend Pete. Not out of any plea for pity, but because he asked me how my weekend was. It is, however, a well known fact that of all people, Pete is the last to offer blind encouragement and moral support, and so it came as no surprise that he would respond with a pseudo-naive, "But why, Rachel? Why do you think people don't want to talk to you?" A simple I don't know wouldn't satisfy his need to hear me say it out loud, but just as determined as he, still I stuck to it like a scratched record, I don't know I don't know I don't know. The words themselves mere signs, their meaning twisted, because though I said I don't know what I was trying to say was leave me alone leave me alone leave me alone. Leave me with my pretenses, leave me my dignity, let us both pretend together that I am something other than what I am, please, leave me just this. But as Pete's help button is perpetually stuck on the 'tough love' setting, he was not willing to leave it at that, and instead offered encouragement in the form of inspirational tales of people who have managed to transform their entire personality, or even their bone structure, so you see (head pat), all is not lost. "Now really, Rachel...why do you think people don't want to talk to you?" Internet, if you haven't figured it out by now, I don't respond particularly well to the tough love approach, and so with this final inquest I dissolved into a mass of tears for the second time in twenty-four hours, and out came all my demons. "Because I'm ugly and boring and people don't like me," I sobbed. "Why? Why do you want me to say that? It's all I think about all the time so why would you make me say it out loud?" In his defense, with this he became genuinely contrite. He didn't mean to hurt me, and I knew that. He was merely holding up the mirror.

This story is an onion. Let me peel back the layers.

Last week I was talking with one of my former language department colleagues and now my professor in the grad program, a woman not unlike Julia Child in voice and in stature. Imposing, grandmotherly, stylish, always laughing, and impossible not to like. She's always been a supporter of mine; I had my phone interview with her when I applied for my teaching job, and she was just as supportive when she found out that I would be entering the grad program in teaching. "I think you're doing the right thing," she told me. Though in my case it would be more of a formality, she said, since she already knew that I could teach. Just something I would have to get through to get my certification. Today she asked how it was going, if I was enjoying the program or if I still saw it as something I had to "get through." I tried to be as diplomatic as possible in my response. Well, I told her, I never expected to particularly enjoy it. I knew it would be a lot of work, and it is, and so yes, my ultimate goal is to get through it and get certified. Well, yes, she said, a furrow appearing on her brow, but at the same time, we do only have this one life, and so we might as well try to enjoy the experiences we have, didn't I agree? I said yes, I supposed so, but my confusion grew palpable about me. Then, in a very caring but straight forward manner she told me that she was concerned about me, that she didn't know if I was aware, but I could often come across as quite "prickly" in class. Alarm bells started ringing. Flashbacks to another conversation with a different colleague-turned-professor this summer. Different words, but the same message. His manner in telling me had seemed more forced, less caring, grated on me, and so I had dismissed it as a fundamental clash of personalities. He gave me a grade in the course that I wasn't completely happy with, and I deemed it unfair, decided that he was holding me to different standards than the other students in the class (three of us, in total) because of my background; that he just didn't like me. I was bored in class, sure. He said he had the feeling that I didn't want to be there, which was true, though I didn't tell him that. I didn't say that my love-hate relationship with French literature had run its course years ago and I was none too pleased to find myself back in its sticky, ink-smeared grasp, however temporarily. I sucked it up and I went to class and I did my work, and who was he to accuse me of not being enthusiastic enough? I participated no more or no less than the two other students in the class, and with no more or less energy or insight. I tried to blend in. His accusations, though under the guise of caring, felt like an attack on me personally, on my character, and so rather than explain, I kept my responses monosyllabic in an attempt to stave off the tears, but they still came. Yes. No. It's just...nothing. May I go now? I cried in front of him and he saw it and I detested my own weakness, my vanity, my failure to accept criticism. I retreated to my safety zone, I took in his words, rattled them around the empty corners of my mind, and finding no way to assimilate them, no safe place to put them, threw them out again, and thought no more about it. Until now.

She continued. "I try not to take it personally," she said, "I'm sure it's not something you save up just for my class." No, of course not, I assured her. "I know, I'm sure you don't, but it can make me feel quite uncomfortable." I really don't think I act any differently than any of the other students in the class, I told her, my discomfort and my confusion growing, but before I could even finish my sentence, "Oh yes, you do," she assured me. "But at the same time you can also be quite friendly and smiling. It's like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing, really." And then, the nail in the coffin, "And I don't think it's just something you do in the program, either, I think it's in general." Warning bells. Tears pricking, but I allowed them no outlet. A million thoughts, the entirety of my life, its failures. "And I like you," she continued in her burbly British accent, "I really do. I genuinely like you. It's just something I've been thinking about lately, and I wanted to let you know how you come across to people. Alright, then?" "Well, it's just..." I said, throat tight, every word threatening to unleash the flood, "it's just...I'm not sure how to change when I don't really know what it is that I'm doing." An unspoken plea. "Yes, well, I see..." she mused, thinking. "Well in that case," she decided brightly, "I guess just try to smile a bit more!" She beamed. I barked out a short laugh beyond my control, and then took hold of myself and offered her a weak and apologetic grin. "Yes, yes," I murmured, "of course. Thank you."

A million thoughts, a million memories, emotions. My mother, telling me that boys didn't ask me to dance because they were intimidated by me. She said it was because I was tall. But it wasn't. A twisted sort of vindication, because I was right, all along. People don't like me, and not because I'm tall, and not because I don't smile; it's not because of something I do, but because of something I am. Something that repulses, it oozes out like a slow poison. All my life I have called myself ugly and awkward because I lacked a better word for it. I've blamed it on the physical to protect myself from the worse thought--that it was something else, something even less changeable. That it was me.

The truth is, if you met me, you probably wouldn't like me. This is my reality. This is what I have to accept. And before you get started, I do not believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. You know why? Because once I believed that I would be happy.

****
I've sat on this post for a week now, daring myself, flirting with the possibility of it, the push of a button. This is me, calling my own bluff. But honestly, don't worry about me, I'll be fine. All I have to do is smile a bit more, after all. Maybe it's just that easy.  

36 comments:

  1. I don't know if people like me, either. I haven't really made many friends since high school. The ones I did, I'm not that close to...it's not like we hang out more than every few months or talk on the phone.

    And hell, even the high school friends are starting to drift away.

    I'm shy and awkward and wouldn't be surprised if people saw me as prickly, either. I would not be surprised if I was generally not considered likeable, but to be told that?

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  2. Wow. I didn't want to read and run, though I don't know what is appropriate to say.

    I might ask, not do they like you, but do YOU like these people? You got a criticism from a teacher because it seemed you didn't like the class. Well, you DIDN'T. Nobody cared if you were at the bar - well, you never have a good time with these people anyway, you went because it was better than being alone. The guy didn't acknowledge your presence, well you weren't super excited to see HIM as a person, you just wanted to talk to someone you had met because no one else was talking to you. You're in this teaching program and you are having issues but... you don't LIKE the program. Or teaching. Or something.

    When you find a "tribe" or even one person (not necessarily a boyfriend) that you LIKE, for themselves, when you find a community, an activity, a job, a career, an endeavor, a hobby, a roommate, a home, a place, (fill in the blank) and you are there for you, because you like it or them, because it speaks to you, then your enthusiasm shines through. And if you are not enthusiastic or happy or just pleased with any of it, then that comes across.

    But if you're just enduring the situation or person because it's better than the alternative, I think people can pick up on that. And if a large part of life is like that, it can make one bitter.

    Maybe you are happy and bubbly and excited in some areas, and I don't know you. All I can say is, you don't come across that way to this random stranger on the internet, even in just a blog.

    I wish you the best, I really do, and I am really sorry about your bar experience.

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  3. I don't think that it's right that this is the first comment I've ever made on your blog, since I've been reading it and thinking you are a wonderful writer for ages, but I really needed to say something!

    Your thoughts sound scarily like the kinds of self-critical, self-hating thoughts I used to think when I was at my most clinically depressed and unhappy part of my life, and I am terribly sorry that we have those kinds of thoughts in common.

    Anyway: your personality is not poison!!! Maybe you are not happy right now, and you seem serious to other people, but please have a firm belief in your personal awesomeness. Thoughts like that are what are real poison, self-doubt and explaining away other people's bad behavior as your own responsibility and so on, and feeling things as a personal deficiency, and for what reason? Being intimidating, or expressing your opinions a little bluntly, or not seeming particularly enthusiastic in a program that you aren't actually in love with, these don't seem like such huge flaws to me, unless the flaw is that you are not a perfect actor at being content and happy. Sometimes life does kind of suck, and what can you do? I'm sorry, it sounds too simple to just say, "stick it out", but in a year you will be amazed that you were ever this miserable. Take it from someone who once had to be hospitalized for depression.

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  4. I'm sorry that you're having a rough time. I sometimes feel alone, lonely, invisible. I think everyone does at some time or other and for longer or shorter periods...some people are just better at hiding it than others. Try to find something you REALLY LOVE and you will hopefully meet a whole new group of people who won't make you feel badly about yourself. Also, and I don't say this to be mean, maybe you should talk to a therapist. It might help you feel better. I hope you do feel better soon and find some nice people to hang out with...not jerks!

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  5. You know i'm going to have something to say about his don't you? but first i must dwell on it before i spew forth with any nuggets of sage wisdom.

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  6. Wow. First I have to say that both your professors were out of line to say that to you WHILE you're still in their class. So unacceptable. It will just make getting through each class uncomfortable and make you hyper-aware of how you're coming across. It's fine if they wanted to have the conversation with you afterward, especially if it's their way of finding out if they're doing something wrong, but to do it while they still have that power over you that your professors have is so inappropriate. I had a prof do that to me once. I liked the material just fine, but I didn't really like her style very much, or her personality, and unfortunately every single thing I feel shows up on my face. And she flat out asked me one day if I had a problem with her. Just like that. I was so thrown off and uncomfortable with the question that I blurted out something about how it was an early morning class and I just wasn't really awake enough for it or some crap like that, and then I bolted. But I immediately moved my seat as far away from her as I could and worked very hard to wear a mask for the rest of the semester so she wouldn't know how uncomfortable I was around her now. (And how much I still didn't like her.)

    I also wish people like that would stop taking things so personally. They have one student in a class that they feel isn't enjoying themselves. Well, suck it up. They can't please everyone. You said you like this one prof, so clearly it wasn't that that she was getting from you, but just a general dislike for the class or for having to be there at all. And profs need to understand that not everyone is actually going to be passionate about everything that they do and that some people really are just going to be marking time and that that's ok and it's not their responsibility to do anything about it. Ugh. Sorry that all happened to you.

    Very few things annoy me more than people saying "smile!" to me, like pasting a stupid fake smile on my face will change everything. All it will do is make them more comfortable, and that's not really my goal in life, thank you very much.

    I've also been told that I intimidate people, that I seem standoffish when really I know that the problem is that I'm painfully shy and have no idea how to interact with people in social situations. I hate small talk because it seems like a waste of my time. I mean, really, what's the point of talking about the weather with a stranger? Honestly, it's amazing that I've ever made friends ever.

    I have no advice except to remember that you don't really owe anyone anything, including a smiley cheerful face if that's not what you're feeling. And if your problem is like mine and everything you think or feel shows up on your face without you being aware of it or able to control it, maybe, like Meadow Walk said, things will be easier once you find people that you're genuinely happy to be around or situations that you're really happy to be in. I'm rooting for you.

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  7. This post made me tear up because I am also going through a phase of self awareness? depression? apathy? Whatever you want to call it, I have had the exact same feelings and rationalized them the same way.

    I think that it is harder for some people to make friends, it definitely is for me. I have always had an easier time making guy friends, but alas they wanted to sleep with me. Girls tend to dislike me, ignore me, or interrogate me upon introduction. I could say I have no idea why and maybe I don't, but I have felt the same way you do where you take the brunt of it onto yourself. I want to say it is not you, I want to say it is not me, but I completely understand the feeling that it is. BUT, but I don't think it is really you (or me). I agree with the above poster you said that maybe your feelings are more transparent than you realize. I have been told that I look "visibily annoyed/disappointed/etc..." in situations where I thought my mood was neutral. Perhaps you are the same way.

    Unfortunately, none of us can ever really "see" ourselves the way we come off to other people. I don't know what else to say, except good luck on your journey. Please now that there are other (friendless) people on that journey with you wondering what is wrong with them.

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  8. I"ve been there. I'm tone sensitive and have, well use to have quite a snarky tone when I talked. People would walk away mid sentence. WTH!?

    Question, did Jimmy James and Al invite you out? Or did you just run into them? Either way, I'm majorly pissed off at how they treated you. Friend or not. Good on you for leaving.

    Not to say that you do this, maybe you do. Stop worrying about other people. Only do things that make you happy. Personally after reading this I think the people you consider friends, suck. Who treats another human being like that?

    Seeing a professional you can talk to unbiasly, might work a world of help. I'm pro-shrink!
    You get over the stigma attached to seeing a professional for your problems, but in reality, you're stronger for knowing and seeking an outside source to hash out things. Remember, NO ONE has to know. You're not obligated to tell anyone you have a weekly or monthly appointment. Just cos you might opt to seek someone to chat with, doesn't make you weak, or mentally unstable. Which I'm sure you already know.
    Second - A shrinks word it not gold. They are there to challenge you, and give you the tools to help yourself. Guidance. You are allowed to disagree with an opinion they put forth. And move forward from there.

    I saw one after my parents passsed away for a few years, and turns out we talked more about my life issues than we did the original topic. Without a doubt, my shrink saved my life and gave me a new onion to peal. A healthier one.

    I was you once. I am you.
    But now, a better version of who I once was, and I like myself again. (really sounds corny but its true) I'm still painfully shy around new people, almost to the point of it having an axiety attack.
    That will never change. I'm still stand offish at times. But I've learned when to work on it and when to walk away.

    I still have my nights of tears and hating life and feeling like no one would know if I disappeared off the face of the earth. I allow myself the pity party for a short time frame, which some how makes the stress cries or grief attacks...okay.

    My point....It will always, always be a constant work in progress.

    You're allowed to wallow in some self pity for a couple days, then make a list of things you want to improve and try to cross one off every month. Be realistic. Baby steps.

    In changing who you are (for the better) is not easy. There will many many more nights of tears, screaming, lonely nights and hating the universe on this road, but it will change for the better, I promise.

    Whatever you decide to do, myself and I'm sure your other readers will support you 100%.

    Beauty of blogging. People will read your most off kilter thoughts and still like you.

    For what it's worth, I'll always have an ear to lend if you want/need it. Msn, email, etc. Just let me know and I'll send you my contact infor.
    I wont hold your hand or tell you what you want to hear. But I will be your cheerleader when needed. And quiet at other times.

    xo

    Just Saying - aka name to be released upon email. :)

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  9. Anonymous said this:
    "Your thoughts sound scarily like the kinds of self-critical, self-hating thoughts I used to think when I was at my most clinically depressed and unhappy part of my life, and I am terribly sorry that we have those kinds of thoughts in common."

    Anonymous said exactly what I was trying to say. I really hope you will consider talking to someone. I spent months, probably *years* of my life in bed, paralyzed by mental anguish. I don't want you to go through that.

    We really care about you, Rachel. True, it's hard to know how we'd get along in person, but that doesn't mean I don't consider you a friend.

    I've been told multiple times--by friends!--that I seem like I have Asberger's. Said friends are super-outgoing; I'm awkward and have a knack for saying what I think instead of what people expect me to say. I'm terrified of non-alcoholic blog meet-ups. But just because we're introverted or awkward or not 100% bubbly and effervescent all the time doesn't make us any less valid or interesting.

    P.S. For the record, my favorite teachers were not the Super!Happy!Fun! performers, but the more serious, thoughtful teachers. Sometimes professors (especially in education) think there's only one valid teaching personality. They're wrong.

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  10. Hmmm, that's a lot of advice up above and i think you should probably take some of it, but what i really think you need to do is learn to like/love yourself, no one else is gonna unless you do first comprende? i think that will help, see i don't know you(cept for the internets) but i think you're pretty cool, then again i like weirdos Charlie Brown, i've alwyas gravitated to the misfits and oddballs, of course maybe this isn't really helping and i don't want to go all Stuart Smalley and shit but you know you can change, hell even i've managed to do it and if a moron like myself can you can too, wow i really shoulda wrote this before i took those painkillers for my tooth, though i think it might be time to put the head in the books, finish up and get the fuck out of Mythica, place sounds like it's full of pretentious studenty types all up their own ass, trying to network and shit...

    here' the jist, you can write, you got talent, you're obviously pretty fucking bright with all those degrees and shit, you do have more things going for you than you think, so you're a bit of a social misfit, that can be overcome, being in the company of other humans is highly over-rated as it is, i think you're gonna be alright.

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  11. I agree a lot with Meadow Walk. The biggest thing I've noticed is how often you seem to be doing activities or going places to just not be alone. Well fuck that. Honestly, fuck that. You need to get used to being alone, get comfortable with it. Not because you always will be, but because you need to learn to feel comfortable with your own company. Perhaps what you can't admit is that right now you don't like yourself very much and that's projecting out.

    I think you are fantastic. I love your writing, your stories, but my heart just kinda crumbles up into little pieces sometimes for you. You seem to allow yourself to be in situations that are mentally unhealthy and draining. As for the "prickly" comment I am going to go ahead and guess that she meant you get hurt easily, and that you put a wall up, dealing with others with sarcasm.

    The good news is that yes, you can reinvent yourself. But not so that other people like you (because that will come later) but so that YOU like you. Who are the people you admire? Why? What characteristics do they possess that you are envious of? Aim for that. If you like them for those reasons, to be able to obtain that will help with your own self-acceptance as well as how others perceive you.

    Best of luck with this, I know it's difficult! And I'll continue reading and keeping my fingers crossed for you.

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  12. Aw, man.

    My heart rumbled for you when I read this. And true, we've never met--and you certainly don't know who I am--but I like you. When you were in Paris I wrote you a comment begging you to write a book and I've been reading along ever since.

    I have felt like this often. And I promise you, whatever negative things you think about yourself, well, they're simply not true.

    Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. Take inventory of what is truly good in your life. For every negative there is a positive--really, I believe this. Life is very yin & yang.

    Sounds cheesy, I know. But therapy has taught me that, at least: search out the good in life, and in you.

    I think you're fantastic. -- Lizzie

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  13. Someone who has felt similarly in the pastOctober 20, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    You must find someone to talk to about this feeling. Someone at the university health clinic, a therapist, maybe your Julia Child mentor again. I would consider bringing this piece of writing with you when you make an appointment if you end up going to a therapist or doctor.

    You are suffering. YOU ARE SUFFERING SO MUCH.

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  14. This sucks. And I totally get it - it's not that people don't like you - we're just too far away to hang out with you. I do think I would like you - but might be annoyed by your desire to constantly hang out with jackasses (although, I also get that you don't have much choice). My mom said to me recently "I know you're probably lonely sometimes, but at least you're not with someone like him (my ex) anymore." - Well, yeah - but NO, because you really have no idea what this is like, no idea AT ALL. All I'm saying is - I get it.

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  15. Sorry that you are in such pain and confusion.

    It's time to take the reins in your own life and make a change.
    Talk with someone who can reflect your behavior back to you and help you make improvements. Make an appointment with a counselor at your school.

    You are not alone.

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  16. I can't read this and not respond.

    Everyone has dark, ugly things in them that repel other people. Some people are just better at hiding them.

    But everyone also has beauty and goodness in them that attract other people. Some people are just really good at hiding their light under a bushel, if I may.

    I agree with Kalee and I also think therapy would help. Honestly. You are not holding up a mirror, you're holding up a piece of funhouse glass. Everyone has good and bad. You're not a monster.

    And jeez, who does respond well to tough love?

    Internet hugs from P.

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  17. I've never commented before, but I just had to. I feel so bad for you and I really am sure that you're a nice person.
    What your professor said seemed like an odd and very personal comment coming from someone in her position. Maybe she thought that you and her would be best best buds and that's why she's uncomfortable? Not sure. Either way not everyone smiles all the time and that's fine. It can be harder for people with more nuanced and sensitive personalities but they tend to be more interesting and thoughtful in my experience.
    Anyway, my main point is that you have met your blog readers before and they did like you. Sometimes in life all the bad things happen at once but I assure you that it's completely random and there's no reason to feel that it's some sort of affirmation of a believed character flaw.
    I agree with the others who say that you're feeling badly about yourself and you should try and stop that but I don't agree that you need to change who you are; why should you? Many people come to your blog and like your company online; if you can't find that in real life then as another person put it you're probably just in the wrong town/environment. I see pictures of you smiling and looking genuinely happy with your friends so I don 't believe for a minute that you are unlikeable. Try not to let the past week or two get you down. Do the things you enjoy because you want to and don't waste your energy around (or thinking about) people that make you feel unhappy.

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  18. Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful words, everyone. Every time I went to my e-mail today I would steel myself, afraid of what I might see, but whatever it was I was afraid of, it never came. Thank you. And I am touched by the number of people who shared similar thoughts feelings; it's nice to know that I'm not the only one.

    A couple things: One, I do value my alone time, and I am quite content being by myself--90% of the time. The other 10% of the time I get itchy and jumpy and crave the company of other human beings. And therein lies the problem, I guess. If I was fine being by myself 100% of the time then none of this would be a problem, right? But who can do that?

    Thing two: Yes, therapy. I know. I am not against it. In fact, I am very much for it. However, given my current fiscal situation and that I am living meagerly off of government loans, and the fact that I haven't yet found a therapist who is willing to be paid in baked goods, I am afraid things are at an impasse. (If you know a therapist who is willing to be paid in baked goods, please let me know.)

    I don't know what else to say right now, but to everyone who's commented, just...thanks.

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  19. Come to NJ/NY and have coffee/dinner with me! I want to be your friend. I'm pretty sure I would like you in person as I much as I like you in your blog.

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  20. I hate giving advice, but I love putting my 2 cents in sometimes. Short answer is to be who you are, work on changing what you think you need to change (not what other people tell you that you need to change) and deal with life as it comes. If some people don't like you, or don't notice you, then screw em - don't define yourself based on anyone else. Of course, all that's easier said than done, since finding those that don't mind isn't always an easy task. Keep on chugging.

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  21. And I don't mind adding that if you moved back to MD, then you would have someone to entertain you that 10% of the time! (because I'm pretty damn entertaining once I get past awkward--- or so I've been told.) I mean, seriously, I can't believe I missed the last meetup!

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  22. hey there, I'm probably not going to say anything that the others haven't already said, but I wanted you to know my heart ached for you when I read your post and I hope you find the way out of this black hole of feelings you've stumbled in.

    And to be honest, I think we've all felt like you describe so eloquently at one point in our lives. It could be a fleeting moment, or half a lifetime, but no one is a stranger to feeling unliked, or alone, or self-conscious. But what is different between all those suffering in silence and you is your courage (and talent!) to write your thoughts and feelings on such a public forum and wait for backlash.

    But you see? There was no backlash because everyone was reading your post, nodding their heads and thinking, 'she said what I've felt/am feeling. I'm not alone and neither is she'

    I can't say these feelings will pass or get better because that's your decision to see what you must do to get better (I hate that sentence grammtically, but I'm late for work so I cannot go back and self-edit, forgive me).

    And we've never met in person, but I think I would like you :) You like dogs and sarcasm, I like dogs and sarcasm. Yeah, we'd be friends :)

    P.S. word verification is "money"..I'm not even joking...straight up, correctly spelled "money"...the universe is mocking us.

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  23. I think you really have star readers who are giving great advice!!

    You are lucky that this lady had the courage to tell you how you come across to people. It is important for you to know.
    It looks like you're not happy in general and it transpires.
    To be a good friend, you have to be a happy person first.
    It's true that I avoid miserable people too. They drain me and then I become miserable myself.
    Maybe that's what you're doing?

    Now I think that you're not happy because you're misdunderstood.
    You're in the wrong city, with the wrong people in the wrong job.
    People don't appreciate how profound and witty you are.
    And feeling unappreciated when having so much to offer is tough.

    I have experienced it in France, where I was born, and in Spain as well a bit.
    I have chosen to live in a city (London) where I can find people like me. It's the place for me for this reason. Anywhere else I find myself out of place. And I think you're just the same.

    Don't let anyone make you doubt that you are a cool and intelligent girl. But you need to find the people that are going to see it.

    Take care!!

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  24. Rachel, I think we ALL have aspects of our personalities that turn people off. I, for example, am very defensive and can sometimes come off as a "know-it-all," despite the fact that people say that I'm "soooo friendly!"

    My point is just that you're not alone in your quirks. I try to be less defensive. That's all we can do -- try.

    And, for the record, in response to what you said ("if you met me, you probably wouldn't like me"), I think that you're wrong. No, I *know* that you're wrong -- because I *know* that I'd like you very, very much.

    Be kind to yourself, Rachel. Don't forget to be kind to yourself.

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  25. As I've never met you, I don't know how you act in public. I would be very horrified if someone told me this sort of thing, too. As you know this teacher is someone who likes you (her own admission), she obviously still wants to be around you.

    Perhaps in class you are a tell-it-like-it-is person, sort of like Lynette on Desperate Housewives (the one who has a heart of gold and is probably my favorite character, so that's not an insult)? But maybe others interpret this as critical? I'm only guessing based on what you've said.

    In this case it's probably a question of (incorrect) interpretation on their part. Sarcasm, however witty you intend it to be, doesn't always come across the way you meant it to. I have this problem with my French husband. He just doesn't get American teasing/sarcasm and thinks I'm harsh.

    Maybe you were totally misjudging the bar night and all those people were just totally self-absorbed jerks. Call it a "one-off".

    For what it's worth you seem like a warm and witty person to me. And anyone who survived all those mice/rat labotomies has got to be super courageous!

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  26. One more thing... about your professor who likes you saying that... well - I honestly don't think it was out of line for her to say it if she is genuinely concerned (and it seems like she is), but then to just shrug it off and say "just smile more!" Didn't you just want to punch her????

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  27. But do YOU like who you are?

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  28. I agree w/the person who suggested making an appt. w/a counselor/therapist at your school. While it might be someone still training they have to be supervised and I'm sure it's lower cost or maybe no cost. Please take care of yourself. I got worried...
    I've been where you are (though not for the same reasons) and therapy really does provide an excellent perspective. O.k. I'm done.

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  29. My heart goes out to you too. I kinda swear by counselling really, but if that isn't an option, then... just keep talking to all of us. We're here!

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  30. this is not as long as philosophical as all the others, but basically: I feel the same way too sometimes. And it's often when I'm not hapy wiht myself; when I'm trying too hard to fit in with people i don't really like or even have much in common with. Don't be so hard on yourself: I'm positive you aren't boring (only boring to those jerks who thing they are the only interesting thing on the planet) and are actually a really great person who is liked.
    and I beg to differ with your statement, I would like you :)

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  31. I wanted to mention that I am also in grad school and living off loans. Very meagerly. I looked up the local helth department for my county. Almost every town or county offers free or low cost mental health services. In mine, they have a crisis line you can call any time. I had to see a counselor and a doctor and get on some meds, and it was all free. So please look in your county or your town department of health and human services.

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  32. I’ve been there; it was the worst when I was in a place with a limited number of potential friends. What made me feel even more awkward was that I shared interests with many of these potential friends, but for some reason I just didn’t click with them.

    A year of therapy paid for by my grad school health insurance helped me a lot. I think it was good to just have someone to talk to that I didn’t have to prove myself to for an hour a week. It is so hard to keep up your public face up all the time, and therapy allowed me to drop my guard.

    Therapy also allowed me to open up my heart to dating my imperfect, but perfect for me husband. Now I’m socially awkward with him, rather than alone. Before therapy, I would have never given him a chance because he didn’t meet some of my dating requirements. For example, the only foreign country he had visited when we met was Canada. I was not impressed, but since we started dating we’ve visited 10 foreign counties together, and I see more trips in our future.

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ve met you in real life and liked you. However, in real life I felt childish next to your worldly ways. Through reading your blog I see things in a different light. I see your fears mirror mine, and you have the same weakness. I don’t know what this all adds up to other than, maybe your mother was right, the boys (and everyone else) were intimidated.  However, intimidated does not equal unlikeable.

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  33. you take classes you aren't passionate about and the professors take it personally, worried it reflects on their ability to be engaging and interesting. oh well. i don't see that as you being unlikeable! it just means you have a decision to make--pretend to like what you're doing even when you don't, or choose only to do what you really like.

    as for dudes in bars, they suck! who knows why they didn't want to talk to you. perhaps because their goal was to fuck someone else that night and talking to another girl is a surefire way to get in the way of that. one incident doesn't mean people in general don't like you

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  34. i wrote that before reading the other comments. re: therapy. i think all institutions of higher education have some sort of counseling center w/ free, confidential therapy for students.

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  35. Unfortunately, I prescribe to the Tough Love school of thought. So I say, fucking suck it up. Life is goddamn hard. Some people are just better at hiding their pain than others.

    You aren't good at it. That's fine, I'm not good at it either, and it seems like a lot of other readers are in the same boat. I think that's why we turn to blogging in the first place.

    Smile more. That's the best advice. At first it feels like a lie, but it's a brave lie so it's acceptable. You smile more, you accept the reality of things, and like Kono says: work on loving the things about yourself that are brilliant until those are all that's left.

    So, you're an excellent writer. You're super smart all studious and willing to take risks. You're brave. You're funny. And that's all that I know for sure from what I've gleaned, but I'm pretty sure those traits cannot be argued. Also, you can take a wicked cool jump photo. You win.

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  36. Dude. We think alike. thank goodness I found people I can empathise with.

    I'm not particularly pretty. I'm plump. well. my parents tell me I'm fat. WTF some support >< im not even overweight. yeesh.AND i get gold for physical fitness [NAPFA] every year. im FINE! ugh.

    In fact my name is an irony- lol come on, Joy??

    oh and im also dark-skinned and i feel so fucked up inside when they have all these beauty commercials for white skin and all. and im like, WTF is so good about white skin? how utterly hypocritical, when the world is going on, drive out racism! yay!
    thats noble, but fix ur own ads first, dumbasses.

    okay, going out of topic. i hate my school, dislike many of my schoolmates, despise the world, am bored with life...my classmate once asked me- why are you so critical of people?! and she said it really drawn-out, so i would feel every word.

    well i dunno babe, im like that. i criticise everyone.
    oh PS i hate myself most of all. im self-pitying, depressed ALL the time, have a poisonous personality too [why else do people avoid me?],
    and basically i trample on myself.
    oh well. fuck the world, just find 2-3 good friends and never let go.
    im a total pessimist, but it helps when you expect the worst coz then it never seems to happen. it's like whenever i dare to hope, my expectations are just dashed to hell. nyuh. sucky.
    i have a few close friends. and i know they're close, i try my best to keep them around me.

    I got this quote, "when you're happy, you laugh. so when you laugh, you'll be happy!" weirdly enough, from a manga. LOL.
    just laugh the world away.
    write poems.
    paint.
    get a new haircut.
    fuck the rest of them. XD

    oh and you should hear that song by spose- I'm awesome. man i love that song.
    you rock, gal.
    people with your writing talents are rare.
    it's your TALENT!
    and we're your fans. yeah, we all love you <3 coz ur rachel and you write about life and you aren't scared of facing up to that. kudos to you,
    RACHEL ROXX!
    ooh, alliteration.

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