The hardest things in life don’t last forever.
“Hey, Brenda, is it… is it OK if I sit here maybe?”
“Sorry. Our table is full.”
I was in year four. I was new at school. And each day I ate lunch alone. I would often sit at the end of a long table of people – near enough to try to blend into a group, but far enough away not to face an overt rejection. I tried to look busy, taking long, slow bites of my favourite bologna and cheese sandwich. I would scribble in notebooks and steal frequent glances at the clock. I prayed for time to move faster. After a while, I began sneaking into a stall in the girl’s bathroom and waiting the rest of lunch.
This experience hurt. It hurt to not belong to a tribe. It hurt to feel inadequate.
I wanted to tell my mum. I wanted to tell her that things weren’t “fine” like I said every single day when she asked about school. I wanted to tell her that I was embarrassed to sit at a lunch table by myself. I wanted to tell her that I felt a sea of eyes on me and that I knew people were wondering what was wrong with me. I wanted to ask her what was wrong with me. But I couldn’t do that, because my mum loved me and I knew she would try to fix my problem. She would try to call other mums and make me friends. She would do this out of love, but it would make me feel worse. So I ignored the problem.
I ate lunch alone for months and remained stoic until one day I came home, went straight to my room and burst into tears. The pain of my loneliness could no longer be contained. My mum came in and sat down on the bed beside me.
She gently asked, "Honey, what's been going on?"