Girl in a Pool

Growing up, it was just me and two of my three brothers all the time, isolated while homeschooling. The rare interaction with children outside of my home were magnified in significance and re-projected in my mind; however mundane, these moments were played again and again, hoarded in my memory.

I was 9 or 10, my family lived in a nice neighborhood with a pool. I was swimming along, minding my own business when a boy laughed at me and said, “You have boogers!”

In that moment I felt terrible.

I felt terrible because I was being laughed at because there was something apparently wrong with me. And I felt terrible because I didn’t even know what boogers were. And not knowing a word that another child would use (or, so confidently hurl at me) felt shameful.

I turned and floated away, I checked myself while in the water, pushed my hair back, squeezed water out of my nose, etc. A moment later, swimming around again, the boy looked at me and exclaimed, “She picked it, she picked it!”
That’s when I figured out he was talking about my nose. I hadn’t “picked it” but I was nonetheless gross. The grossest. For having a “booger.”
It seems sort of silly now: he was just a boy who felt a need to alert the world to boogers and what one might uncouthly do with them. But at the time, it wasn’t water off my back. At the time, cruelty gripped me, and embarrassment held me under.
I was sensitive child, and contrary to my mom’s intention, I wasn’t “guarded” by my isolation; it just made those moments stand out more, made me feel worse for having no idea of how to respond.
Without practice of social interactions, I had no self-confidence. I was unable to brush comments off. If someone said something to me, it pierced me: I was automatically afraid that I might not know how to respond, or what they were talking about.
So I tried to keep myself hidden–and succeeded sometimes–in hiding the tears, the insecurities, and areas of ignorance.
I know a lot more now, but I’m still anxious and sensitive. That didn’t change overnight–perhaps it never will. But I realize now that many people feel nervous, and we’re in this together. Writing my thoughts makes me stronger.
Expressing what’s hidden can make us stronger. It’s okay to be hurt or afraid. We don’t have to carry our burdens on our own; we can share them. While they may become momentarily heavier while speaking up, some of that weight lets go when we share our troubles with a trusted friend.

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