When I was six or so, my parents had to ban the word “kindergarten” from our household. I kicked, screamed, cried, and basically had meltdowns every time the word was mentioned in the months leading up to my entrance into “real school,” so they finally just decided to stop mentioning it. Ever.
I mention this as a benchmark for the first time my irrational dislike for anything new made me inconsiderate to those around me (to a point beyond normal toddler tantrums). And I mention this because at lunch today, while discussing an exciting summer opportunity that just became available to me, I found myself complaining more than celebrating. I complained about how people at my university were asking for press releases so they could put a blurb about me somewhere on the website. I complained about how when my family and friends found out, they were going to ask me all sorts of questions. I complained about how I would have to take a huge chunk out of my summer to participate in this Exciting Thing. I complained about how I wouldn’t know anyone at the Exciting Thing, or even really what all was involved, and how I felt like at any point they were going to email me and say, “So sorry, so awkward, but it wasn’t actually you who got the Exciting Thing but the other girl with similar contact information and a vastly superior resume.” And I would be half-relieved.
My boyfriend pointed out that some of those complaints bordered on being selfish; he said, as nicely as possible, that my reluctance to publicize the Exciting Thing could be construed as dismissive of it, as saying that it was so easy to obtain the Exciting Thing that I hadn’t thought it worth mentioning to others.
My sister pointed out that the Exciting Thing is “one of those things you apply for, not something you actually get,” meaning, of course, that it’s one of those things that you meet the criteria for so you send in the forms and letters and essays and then you twiddle your thumbs and wait for the rejection email that doesn’t sting too badly because after all, you spent the whole time you were filling out the application telling yourself that it’s a Nationwide Competition for this one Exciting Thing, and only a Select Few can get it and, nice as you are, you are probably not one of those Select Few.
I somehow got it. And now I have to deal with that. Because, as evidenced by this post’s title, I do not like new things. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.
Preparing for my first high school dance? Almost called all my friends and cancelled the plans we had already made.
Starting my first job? Stayed up all night worrying myself sick.
Heading off to my freshman orientation for college? Went nearly distracted with half-baked schemes to change my mind and take a gap year (or five).
First week of college before classes started? Subsisted entirely on Goldfish and coffee with powdered creamer and Skyped my best friend from home for eight hours straight, never leaving my dorm room.
You see the theme. When I am faced with a situation which involves uncertainty, in which I have no experience, I freeze. I look around for the nearest exit. And sometimes I do actually try to bolt.
This Exciting Thing, attractive and impressive though it is, has set me off on one of those phases. I recognize the signs: I’ve thought of emailing them quietly and telling them I’ve changed my mind, then covering up with my family and friends; I’ve thought largely about the downsides, like not seeing or talking to my boyfriend for several weeks, as opposed to the aspects which drew me to apply in the first place; I’ve imagined scenarios in which none of the other Select Few like me and I am ostracized and miserable for the entirety of the Exciting Thing; I’ve avoided telling others about it in case I do chicken out.
As I’ve gotten older, regardless of the degree to which a thing is new, I still have this same reaction. Perhaps the ability to identify this behavior and tell myself (however unconvincingly) that I’ve always survived before can be counted as progress, but at this particular moment, as I view furthers emails regarding the Exciting Thing and cringe, all I can see is how far I’ve regressed. Yes, it’s ungrateful and a bit selfish and maybe even kind of hypocritical (I wasn’t exactly forced to fill out the application, after all) – but I’m scared.
So I’ll try to hold in the complaining (despite my boyfriend and sister’s niceness about my Dislike of Newness) until I can face the Scary-But-Admittedly-Exciting Thing like any other fear.
Oh, and kindergarten? Dashed away from my mother’s side on the very first day, calling, “Bye Mom!” over my shoulder.