Dreams, Peer Pressure and Grade School
I had a dream last night that was rather amazing, or sad, or maybe mostly just thought provoking. Before I go this route I should warn you, it has little to do with tiny living unless you want to know more about me personally and the events that led me to this life, in some sort of offshoot way.
When I was about Hazel’s age I remember life way kind of scary. I was the youngest of three kids and by the time I was in first grade my parents both worked full time + over time. I was responsible for waking up, getting myself ready, making my lunch and making it to school on time. After school we each had to make our way back home (which to be fair was next door to school) and get our chores done before mom and dad got home. Everything was big and scary. I countered it by making myself small and not calling attention to myself. I was complimented often on being quiet and obedient. It was based on fear though, I see that now.
When I was in first grade I had a hard time making friends. Heck, I have a hard time making friends, now, nothing has really changed there. I’ve never been outgoing. If I wasn’t being praised for being for being quiet and ‘pleasant’ I was being jabbed for not having the confidence to ask for ketchup at a restaurant…
At the beginning of first grade there was this really neat girl, her name was Tessa Harwell. She had pretty curly black hair and she was really into animals and art. At show and tell she brought in this wooden duck that her dad carved and showed us the one she was working on, too. It was super neat to me. She was also quiet in the same way I was. I thought, ‘maybe we could be friends’. If you want to see something awkward, watch two introverts try to become friends. It doesn’t matter what age they are.
Anyway, we would hang out on recess and pretty quick the other kids started noticing. For some reason, I have no idea what it was, other kids didn’t like Tessa. When we would play together at recess other kids would come and make fun of Tessa and ask me why I even want to play with her. I can’t remember a single reason why the other kids didn’t like her other than she had curly black hair. I remember kids making fun of her curly black hair.
At some point I remember wondering why I was playing with her, too. These other kids made me question my own choices. I also remember thinking maybe her life would be better if I stopped playing with her because then the kids wouldn’t actively come make fun of her. There was this one girl, Sarah, who was particularly mean. She was just cruel to Tessa. Somehow Sarah became known as my best friend. As I look back at this, I think in my head I was protecting Tessa but I didn’t have the tool kit to verbalize that, or defend Tessa. I just kept Sarah busy and she stopped making fun of Tessa. It still made me really sad that Tessa sat by herself every recess.
I never told Tessa any of this, I just stopped playing with her one day. I missed her but it was the easier path to join the mob and at a point in my little brain it felt like the right thing. My family was more proud of me because I made a friend they seemed to approve of (Sarah). That kept me further off their radar. Tessa stopped going to our school the next year and I have no idea why. My suspicion has always been that she became home-schooled. I think I thought that because that would have been a good thing for people like her and me. Her parents seemed wonderful the two times I met them, it seemed like something they would do.
Sarah was not a good friend. She was loud, opinionated and loved being the center of attention. Having a friend like her helped me keep my small profile. We were friends until 5th grade, when we were about to move to middle school. I believe she assumed we would be going to different middle schools so out of the blue she told me, “I’m dying of cancer so if there are any gifts you want to get me now is the time to do it.” Totally weird, right? I didn’t believe her, that’s just an antidote of what our friendship was like, topical and strange. (We went to the same middle school, she never had cancer, just wanted a fresh start with new toys I guess. She pretended she had never met me on the first day of sixth grade, I didn’t feel any sense of loss.)
I have tried to find Tessa in the past, weird as that is, a grown adult trying to find a first grade acquaintance. To apologize now that I can see that situation with my adult brain. I feel like we would have been life long best friends if I had had better tools to navigate that stage of our life. I can’t help but feel I was beyond an awful friend though. When she needed me to stand up for her I ducked and befriended the enemy. It felt like helping but I have always held guilt over that! Seriously, over the years I have messaged several Tessas on Facebook just in case they were her, I have no idea what she would look like, we were first graders. In case you don’t believe me, here’s one of many messages from 2009!
The good part
Because all situations impact us, especially ones you’re ashamed of. I think because I have wrestled with this experience really early and hold shame over it it prevented me from ever caving to peer pressure again. By middle school, which was good timing, whenever I felt the pressure to ‘fit in’ I’d run the other way. It probably helped my internal fortitude stay strong when I built this crazy house that too many people had negative opinions about. I followed my gut anyhow.
I also think this experience has made me keep my distance from people, all people, pretty effectively. I have been trying to change this in my head, which is funny because there is a pandemic. It’s not a good time to decide friends are worth making again. 😀
Anyway, last night I had a dream. James, the kids and I found her! She was listed on something and I thought, ‘hmmm, wonder if that is her.’ Weirdly, I showed up at her house with a basket of veggies and an apology. In this dream she thought it was the weirdest thing ever and was totally creeped out by me. I left her with a heartfelt apology and my contact info. Some arbitrary amount of time later she called and we hung out.
We got to know each other and she really was the most awesome person, ever. She ended up owning this art complex where she helped cultivate artists of all types. She walked us through her facility where there were literally rooms for comedians, textile rooms for fiber arts and fashion design, an entire room for gardening. Everything. She had cultivated this giant space that empowered creatives of every single type you could imagine. There was even a skate park for trick riders. It was neat but what was really cool was this deep sense of friendship that I felt in the dream.
In conclusion… something…
So it’s weird, I don’t even know why I tell this story other than it feels substantial to me. I guess if anyone knows a Tessa Harwell, let her know I’m sorry. She’s still the coolest thing in my head. Or, if you’ve ever felt as lonely as I imagine that Tessa felt, perhaps there is more of a story of friendship than you know. Kids can be mean and not even understand why, and kids really don’t know how to navigate complex situations. I am trying to raise my kiddos a little differently. I woke up and told them this story and let them know they have my ear anytime they want it for any type of situation. They have now heard, again, it’s literally my job to help them navigate life, especially when it’s hard.