I wasn't going to share this story. It seemed kind of pathetic at first. After seeing my late Beloved sister's face in the last Star Wars Trailer, she reminded me that it is good to share our inner selves even in a public forum. It may help one person Heal. To feel not so alone. Less like a freak. To address their own past.
When I drop off or pick up my two boys at the University, I often bear witness to an expanse of Humanity in the students who file past my parked car either in groups, or singularly. I can often discern the likely Freshmen, who are adjusting to a whole new World, as well as a host of social and personal challenges as well.
As a Freshman at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, I was painfully shy. I had body image issues. Self-esteem issues. I grew up with two older sisters and lots of copies of Cosmopolitan, Self, and other "Women's Magazines" to peruse and not much else.
My sister, Nalani, was painfully shy as well. She shared with me that her first year at UH, she often would eat her lunch in the women's restroom in a bathroom stall. It is where she felt comfortable and safe to eat outside of the peering eyes of others. She was gorgeous with her green eyes and dirty blonde hair but was so uncomfortable with the attention.
I told her that was the worse place to eat food and we would both laugh. I never shared with her that I too felt uncomfortable eating food in front of people stemming more from body image issues and thus ate often alone in secluded places around the campus away from crowds.
My first job during college was on campus. Because of the reach of the Internet, I am going to be a little vague in my description of my work environment and change the names as not to allow anyone to recognize the situation as a participant or to feel bad at all once they understand what I have to share.
The place where I worked required that we work also with an outside vendor several times a month, and even sometimes a week.
I had a Boss who was a very strong confident woman, and I enjoyed working for her and with the rest of the team.
During our work with the outside vendor, we began to become familiar with the voices on the other end of the telephone lines. Their names as well. They were a group of women who varied from call to call and the conversations were always pleasant, often with laughter.
One day, one of the girls on the other end of the line, blurted out, "Wow! You know you sound so smooth on the phone." I laughed it off trying to figure out what it meant.
Months later, the same young woman remarked, during one of our conversations, that I spoke on the phone with my "bedroom" voice. I didn't know what that meant either. I just laughed.
I knew however, that my voice on the telephone was deeper and more relaxed than in person with someone as my nervousness made my throat constricted and often my voice sounded unnaturally high, enough to bother me, especially when I heard a recording of myself talking and was horrified.
Well, months pass by, and I come into work one afternoon and the secretary says, "You know you have an admirer."
I incredulously asked, "What are you talking about?" as I chuckled.
She said, "Oh you know, Lisa, from the vendor. She called and we were talking and she said you sounded sexy on the phone and she wanted to know what you looked like."
I was horrified as I felt the pit of my stomach descend even further down into my body. "And?" I responded...
"I told her that you were about six feet tall, shoulder length dark brown hair and had hazel eyes. She said that you sounded like a hunk" was the response the secretary gave me.
We both laughed and she said I was turning red. We laughed more and I went to my desk to begin work. I felt really awkward and uncomfortable at the conversation we just had. I was the furthest thing from a hunk. I tried to shrug it off and not think about it anymore.
I only came in a few times a week in between my classes for the most part, although on some days, I could be there for most of the week.
In the months to follow, Lisa and I spoke on various occasions and the conversation was always light but in the back of my mind, I always remembered about her inquiry about me. I tried my best to not flirt or charm anyone during the conversation, although I had a strong sense of humor and wit which often came out.
Then one day I came into the office and the secretary said, "Are you going to the Christmas Party next month? It is the only time we get together with everyone from the vendor and celebrate together and they throw a really good celebration. Lisa said she and the other girls are really looking forward to meeting you in person finally."
I was horrified again. I actually felt queasy. I responded with "I hope to go. I am not sure of my schedule yet but we will see." Deep down, that conversation convinced me that I wasn't going to go.
In the weeks to come, Lisa and I spoke, as I did with a few other women from the vendor. Lisa said, "I am so excited to finally meet you in person. We all are. I hope you are coming!"
I tried to sound equally excited but I was more dreading it than anything else. I knew that I would walk in and a bunch of women who had envisioned some sexy beast for the past six months would end up getting me.
The thought of being under scrutiny for my looks, my face, my body, my everything, after all the build up was untenable and frightening to me.
Back in the day, there was no Social Media. There was no Google. The Internet was still fledgling. If you wanted to find out about someone, you couldn't Google them. Look up their Facebook. Try to find images of them and learn about their life. Their relationship status. Anything at all.
All you had was a name and a voice on the other end of the telephone line. Unless you happened to meet in person, like in a work place or college classroom, you had no idea what people looked like back then over the telephone. I was so sure that I was going to disappoint them.
So despite all the prodding and reminders and urging and encouragement by my own boss and co-workers to attend the Christmas party, and Lisa and her co-workers, I did the only thing I could think of as the day drew near. I ended up feigning sickness and called in sick on the day of the party.
I actually was sick, now that I think about it. Sick to my stomach with nerves, fear and apprehension.
Of course, the following week at work was filled with "Oh we are so sorry you missed the party. The girls were so disappointed."
In the following weeks, I avoided work and only came in the minimum days to do what I needed to do. It was even more horrifying a few months later when I came in late one day and the secretary told me that Lisa had stopped by earlier that morning to deliver paperwork and was bummed that I was out at the time.
I nearly threw up from anxiety. I could feel my heart pounding. It was so rare for the vendor to ever stop by like that.
Then shortly thereafter, I ended up speaking on the phone with Lisa who shared the sentiment that everyone was so sad that I didn't make it to the Christmas party. They were all looking forward to meeting me. Then came the dreaded words, "It is okay, there will always be next year's party."
My heart stopped at the thought, but it was so far away that I didn't think about it and just did my work and schoolwork.
Before I knew it, the year flew by at record speed and sure enough, we were about a month out from December and talk of the Christmas party permeated the office. Lisa would remind me, encourage me to attend, and express how excited everyone was to finally meet me.
Our boss and secretary would also chime in about the party and my opportunity to attend. I felt the pressure growing and dread building as well.
Now after two years of waiting to meet the six-foot tall, shoulder length brown hair, hazel eyed "Hunk" that they all imagined, here would be me walking in the front door. I imagined eyes on me. Whispers. Jokes. And giant disappointment. A big let down for everyone after so much anticipation.
I was in a precarious situation as well mentally and emotionally trying to survive college. My best friend from High School had just taken his life that first college Summer after we spent so many nights together lamenting at what pathetic losers we were turning out to be.
To be laughed at, ridiculed, or confirmed to be a big disappointment to my "admirers" might have devastated me enough to have ended my Life as well.
I knew that I couldn't call in sick again for the big Christmas party for a second time after even more anticipation and encouragement to attend. It would only confirm that I was a freak. Mentally fragile. Socially inept. The thought of that was almost as bad as showing up and being the big letdown for everyone. I just could not call in sick for the second time as it would turn into the focal point of conversations from there on out.
So I did the only thing that I could think of at the time. As drastic as it was in hindsight.
I quit my job. In the weeks ahead of the Christmas party.
I came up with a false reason much to the open disappointment and lamentations of my boss, her secretary and everyone of of my co-workers. I concocted some sad story that I can't even recall at this time in the fog of the distant past.
To avoid a Christmas party. To avoid attention on myself. To avoid being a disappointment to others. I quit a job that I was good at, that fit my class schedule, that surrounded me with great co-workers and a great boss. I simply quit.
So there it is. My story that I really didn't want to share. But for the urging of my sister Nalani from the Otherside of the Veil.
I am not that same young man entering the college world with trepidation, with debilitating shyness, with insecurities and body image issues. I can still be painfully shy however at times even today. It has taken me so much to overcome it.
However, in sharing and reflecting upon this story, in trying to understand who I was, and who I am now, I do recognize that one thing hasn't changed. I am still very much worrisome about disappointing people. I disappoint myself all the time. I can live with that. However disappointing others. That is untenable.
Those who have put their Faith, Confidence and Trust in me. Fearful of letting them down. Of not living up to expectations. Especially that of my family.
Disappointing my family living here with me. Disappointing my family and ancestors living on the Otherside of the Veil.
Me, the culmination of all of their sacrifices, hopes, dreams, struggles, prayers and Love.
I am doing my best not to Disappoint. My God. My Family. My Lāhui. My World.
My very Life depends upon it. Many people's Lives depend upon it...
Thank you to my Beautiful Beloved sister Nalani for the chance to Reflect. Love and Miss you. Always and Forever.
One day we shall be able to share lunch together. In the bathroom stall of a Unisex bathroom. See you then...