I saw a kid in the coffee shop today,
probably late high school or early college age.
He looked a bit like the kids I knew when
I was his age. They were confident, affluent,
self-possessed. I couldn’t sit in a room with them
because I was insecure, poorly dressed, and impulsive.
They could see it written all over my face, I thought,
not just how poorly I fit in, but also how afraid I was
that they would find out.
I didn’t feel that way when I saw the kid today.
I could imagine a conversation with him,
being myself, saying what I think, not worrying
about whether or not he would like me.
I remembered being drawn momentarily into conversations
with those guys I knew when I was his age, trembling,
sure I’d sound like an idiot, knowing that they’d judge
each word and mannerism. I’d make a weak effort and defer,
happy when someone else would jump in, drawing off
the desperately unwanted attention.
As I watched him leave, I thought back. For the first time, I considered
how interesting it could have been to get to know the guys I was afraid of,
instead of reliving the awkward discomfort and regretting wasted youth.