Kid #2

by Phoebe Kolbert

Getting the drift

I’ve been drifting recently. I can’t think of a better way to describe it, and yet calling it “drifting” makes it feel so insignificant. Because I’m always drifting. In everything I do, I feel as though I’m just barely scraping by — even the things I excel at. And this is most definitely not because I’m humble. I think it has to do more with a rather crippling and constant fear that I’m going about things the wrong way. I have the strange ability to be overwhelming insecure and yet still possess an incredible feeling of superiority.

I was bullied pretty badly in elementary school. That experience took quite a toll on my young self. The worst part was that the people who bullied me were in my friend group, and I cannot recall the rest of my friends ever lending me a helping hand. I distinctly remember being miserable in the backseat of our car, leaving home and turning the corner of Clark Street and thinking, What a sad childhood I’ve had, and now it’s almost over.

I was a very sensitive, dramatic kid, and those experiences have now made me scared for children, afraid that if I get near them I might break them like a vase. Being around kids all day everyday this summer has been, therefore, a bit stressful. Fortunately, I have not had to deal with any bullies. But the ones who do occasionally make nasty comments, what do I say to them? Because they are just kids. They quite literally have no empathy and don’t know any better. But at the same time, the kids they are saying these mean things to, or excluding from games, they’re just kids, as well. And they too are not fully developed and can’t deal with the nastiness being directed toward them. I certainly couldn’t at that age. I have memories of things that were said to me that make me smush my head into my pillow to this day.

When I entered middle school, I was so relieved to be out of elementary school that I didn’t really consider what came next. I spent all of middle school drifting. I spoke to almost no one, besides the few friends I had and the very rare seat partner. I wore t-shirts and jeans and ate at the same table for lunch, on the same side of that table, for all three years. I’d make sure I got to every class as quickly as possible, so I could sit down first. I participated in very few extracurriculars. It’s funny, because at that time I felt I was doing better than I’d been doing in quite a while. But I was just making light of my semi-self-induced isolation. I couldn’t bear to put myself out there. Hey, I figured, if they didn’t know I existed, they couldn’t hurt me!

I really was getting better when I entered high school. I was still extremely anxious, but for some reason the fact that Casco Bay High didn’t have lockers made me feel relieved. For the first time in many years, I was surrounded by people who, for the most part, where not outwardly mean or shallow. In fact, most were quite nice — complimentary, even.

I will be a senior this year. I keep saying it doesn’t feel right. I still view myself as, if not a freshman, then a sophomore. But at the same time, I also feel much older than that. That’s partly due to my co-workers this summer, most of whom are college kids who make me long to leave high school behind and start my life. I’ve been so disconnected from my friends this summer. It feels weird to be getting back into that social sphere, to see how much has changed since I disappeared for a few months.

But I’m excited to go back and see my homeroom again, to be encircled in the comfort of it for one last year. When I talk about drifting, I also mean drifting in my mind, going back and forth between ideas, seeing both sides of everything — wanting to be a senior, but feeling too young to be a senior; feeling as though I should be in college by now, but being scared as fuck by the prospect of college. It’s like I’m on a gondola in my mind, but instead of a nice Venetian canal, I’m floating by “what ifs” and “buts.” Sometimes I feel like I’ve made progress, hit the gondola captain over the head with his paddle and taken control of the boat. But more often than not I feel up the creek without a paddle.