I woke up at 5:37 this morning. And I’m staying up, lest I should batter my alarm clock into submission again. I have been working all 3pm-midnight shifts for the last five days. Yesterday, I went back to bed after waking up at 5am from my mother’s alarm and my daughter’s nightmare that she was about to be run over by a car (the beeping of the alarm coincided with the beeping of the car, incidentally). I made the mistake of going back to sleep: I don’t remember hitting the alarm, but I must have. And Violet ended up being an hour late to school.
But back to dreaming. I woke up from my own nightmare due to the alarm as well. In it, I was driving down a road with my daughter to an unfamiliar highway. The car in front of us slowed to a stop. I got out to discover that the passengers inside were dead. Soon we learned the cause of their death: there were violent, baseball-bat wielding zombies ahead. They looked like regular people but if you stopped making eye contact with them they would try to smash your windows in and kill you. Violet and I were soon surrounded, trying to make eye contact with every single person in view. A young man with a baseball cap and a patchy beard was about to smash the front windshield in when I woke up.
My dream analysis? It’s quite simple. The social anxiety at work has been getting to me, as I am instructed to make eye contact with every customer I see.
And why the social anxiety? Well, the root of it is obvious. I was once a carefree, outgoing kid growing up in Poughkeepsie, NY. I hit fifth grade (I was Violet’s age at the time). I had many, diverse friends: Carol Chow, Archana Aiwhaldi, and Wakeelah Wakefield, to name a few.
Then I moved to Idaho.
The first few months at Pierce Park Elementary were great: I quickly made friends with a gal named Becky, and we jumped rope and joked and played board games all the time. I moved from a trailer to a house, and consequently changed schools.
Ah, cute little Collister Elementary. I was excited to meet new people and I met another lovely girl named Donelle. She and I were nearly instant besties. Her friend Rhianna, however, became jealous of our friendship. Soon everyone in the sixth-grade classes was making fun of me, besides sweet Donelle.
They mocked everything, from my hair to my shoes. I even had the class bully pushing me around, most memorably when he shoved me down the stairs and pushed me up against the stairway wall. He was rewarded with a weak punch to his left jaw.
I came home from school crying every day. My mother’s suggestion to tell them to “stick it where the sun don’t shine” was met with derision. I couldn’t do anything to please those unbelievably cruel assholes. Yes, I know they were kids. But assholes is the appropriate term nonetheless. I learned something about human nature that was extremely important: however, apart from Donelle’s supportive friendship, I would vote to skip this chapter in my life altogether if given the choice.
Seventh grade, and introduction to other kids, made life a great deal better. I finally decided to sing in front of other people (I had been practicing Debbie Gibson and Madonna songs for this very purpose). The choir director, Mrs. Rosen, allowed me to join the older girls choir: Reflections. This was a transformative period in my life, and I am ever grateful for all the friends and memories I made in subsequent choirs.
But the cruelness displayed by my sixth-grade contemporaries has scarred me. In my weakest moments, I have been too afraid to even speak to someone on the phone. Customer service isn’t difficult for me considering that one just needs to be polite and respectful to others from all walks of life. However, my therapist at one point declared that it was not an ideal situation for me to be in constant social contact for a living.
So. What do I do? I get another job where speaking to strangers is a must. The people I work with are wonderful, and it’s a great company. But the trauma from ridicules past sometimes comes to the surface, especially while cashiering. Because with each new customer the awkward social situation starts afresh.
Foolhardy or immersion therapy? Only time will tell…