I tell lots of stories. One of the stories I don’t think I’ve ever told stretches back to the last birthday party I had in 3rd grade.
Having a birthday in December meant I had just changed schools that previous fall. Beginning the school year at a catholic school in a neighboring town, I didn’t think to invite many kids from my previous town (and school). However, I did invite my best friend, Ari. He was known to have a good time and get a little out of control like myself. He always managed to keep it together just a little bit more than myself, so he made for a good governor.
3rd Grade Birthday Party
At my 3rd grade birthday party, I asked my dad to have it at an ice rink. Ari, was the only friend I invited from my old school. Everyone else was from the new school I was attending.
After a few laps of skating the rink, I found I wasn’t having much fun. Something inside was telling me that the party wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The skating rink seemed something like my new friends from the parochial school would be interested in. My old friends wouldn’t know what to make of it. Internally, I felt I wasn’t really into it.
It didn’t matter, I convinced myself to keep up the facade. No matter what, I had to make believe I was having a good time. Otherwise my father wouldn’t let me hear the end of it.
Within a few minutes my best friend Ari came up to me and said, “This isn’t fun!” I knew he was right. But I wanted to impress my new friends. I kept on skating around the rink and hoped Ari would act more like them. I pretended I had a headache. Ari did silly things to get me to laugh.
Hindsight is 20/20
As much as I wanted to laugh and have a good time with him, I didn’t bother. By the end of the day, I just hung out by myself. My new friends from the parochial school loved Ari and I was miserable. The party hadn’t turned out how I wanted it to. Ari was the star of the show. People wanted to hang out with him. I was supposed to be the big deal but no one seemed to notice.
As I look back on the situation with 20/20 vision I realize now I shouldn’t have compromised who I was. At the time I knew it too. I didn’t trust myself enough to be happy being myself (who I was inside). I thought assimilating to the new culture was more import. Since then, every day I kicked myself for leaving Ari left out in the wind trying to make me laugh by have a good time.
Now, I am an adult and I hope my children don’t make the same mistake I made as a child. I pray they will be themselves no matter who is in front of them. I hope and pray they will unapologetically be themselves. As dad, I’ll clean up the pieces proudly so my children grow to be themselves.