I was 17 when I first remember really feeling alone. Please indulge me as I recount this memory:
I had been involved with my high school’s service club and was the acting Local Director. Earlier that year, the club had organized a Book Drive for our county jails and a few shelters. The drive went well and some how the adult leader of the club got the news station to come do a story on the club’s service projects, highlighting the book drive and a few other things we were involved with. A few of us were interviewed and got to be on the news. I remember sitting in front of that camera and talking about how great it felt to be a part of something bigger than myself, and my little town. I genuinely glowed with that feeling of belonging to something so great.
Later on that month, there was to be a gala with the Governor. A special dinner where a few high school clubs and certain prominent people of the community were invited. We were to be recognized for our service in the community. I guess it was sort of a big deal, because I went out and bought a dress for the occasion. The day came and I skipped swim practice to come home, finish my homework and then get ready. I put on my little black dress (with feather boa on the hem), curled my hair even and then waited patiently for my carpool ride to pick me up. It made sense for me to just get a ride, since both my parents were working and I was home alone. Also, my little house was the last one you drove past to get to the city.
I waited. The appointed time for pick up passed. Thirty minutes passed. Then 45.
The phone rang. It was the club’s adult leader- my ride. “Holly, I’m so sorry! I forgot to pick you up!”
I remember the pit in my stomach. The tears welling up. She forgot me.
“Can you get here?” She asked eagerly.
“No, I can’t…I’m the only one home.”
I lied. I did have a way to get there, and I stared at the Jeep. You see, it was not about whether I wanted to go anymore. I just could not wrap my head around the word forgot. Even if I had jumped in the Jeep and sped to the function, it would not have changed the fact that she forgot me. And in my teenage mind, I just didn’t think I could face her.
“This thing starts in 15 minutes, are you sure?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. That’s okay…um, I’m not feeling that great anyway.”
That was not a lie. In fact, I felt as thought I was going to throw up into that phone listening to what sounded like pathetic remorse…though there was little effort for her to jump in her car and come get me. We would have been 30 minutes late if she did do that. That’s enough time to eat dinner. That was the time it would have taken for her to save me from the storm of emotions that came crashing down on me as I hung up the receiver.
Humiliated. Deflated. Forgotten. Broken. Alone.
There never was an apology. Never a word about it again. Just a little brown bag on my porch a few weeks later with a VHS of the news clips and a message from the Governor. I watched it alone and cried when I saw my interview clip.
I quit the club soon after, and felt hurt for a long, long time. Even as I write this, I feel those emotions again. It hurt really bad. And I let myself be in that for a while. In fact, I loathed in self-pity and became withdrawn around those people. I kept thinking why is it that I can allow myself to feel so alone, and at the same time be surrounded by so many people who obviously care for me? I have friends, teammates, a church community and family- are those not all elements of belonging to something bigger than yourself? Why then, do I remove myself? Where is the maturity in that?
I never did talk to that lady again. And after a while, I grew up and moved on.
Through the years, I have learned that sometimes you just feel lonely, even if you are not consciously removing yourself from those around you.
I think about someone who truly did know what it felt like to be alone. I think about Him quite often. And I continue to just be alone, knowing that I am not the only one that has ever felt this way.
The irony in that truth is thick. I guess I am not alone after all.