the attention

You’ve always hated the attention.

They’re here again. Your mom tells you to be polite and greet them. They’re distant family, family friends. This is one of those times when the distinction doesn’t really matter.

One in particular thinks it’s really funny that you don’t like hugs much and makes sure to give you a big bear hug and a heavy slap on the back. You shrink back as soon as you are able to.

Two hours later they’re staring at you again. What now? Oh, this time it’s because ‘You’re so quiet!’ Of course you are, you have nothing to add to a conversation you can’t even follow.

Looking back on it now, the worst were the ‘thank you’s. A little thing. You honestly would just forget in the moment, but your mom would always cut in with a, ‘say thank you’ and steal the words from where they were stuck in your throat. And then the words just weren’t yours to give anymore. She’d just proven to room that you didn’t have the words yourself. Even if you said it now you’d just look foolish. It would be meaningless. It’s already too late.

Saying the same has always been easier than changing. Not because of the change. Privately, you love change, you love to grow and learn. But how much of your time is your own? They’re always watching you. And they’ll say something, they always do, they’ll call out with a loud voice, ‘Hey everyone! Look at this!’ and there’s nowhere left to hide.

Change always catches people’s attention. Especially if it’s something they’d already criticized you on before. They’re always looking to say, ‘See? I told you so!’ and take credit for that too. It’s not yours either. Unless they don’t see it. It’s best to stay the same, avoid their attention. The criticism is preferable to having your growth stolen from you.

Only now, after years of fearing change, you realize it’s not the change it’s not even the attention — because now you want them to pay attention, you have something to say — it’s always been the laughter and the jeering. And you know they meant well. You know they were only joking the way family and family-adjacent people do. All in good fun. But how much was stolen from you that should have been yours? How much of yourself did you hold back so that you’d never peek into their field of vision? How many days, weeks, months did you spent behind a locked door where they couldn’t see or speak to you?

It’s always been like this. As long as you can remember. And it’s never been fun.

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