Last night I attended my neighbor’s Sweet Sixteen party. We used to be really really close, but because I no longer take the bus to or from school, we don’t see each other. Maybe the birthday girl hangs out with my little sister and felt obligated to invite both of us? Or maybe we forged that type of friendship that still resonates after you stop consistently communicating?
Anyway, it was the first fancy Sweet Sixteen party I had attended. Technically I’ve only been to two: my own party, which was held in my backyard, and though we wore dresses, it was pretty casual, and my semi-friends’ party, which was held at a house, no formal attire necessary. This party was at a reception building, required black and white formal clothes, and included fancy cake and the sixteen candle thing (which I had never heard of before).
When I got there, I expected to see a bunch of sophomores (that’s what birthday girl is), and to spend my evening following my sister, maybe interjecting myself into the conversation every now and then. Upon entering the glitzy ballroom, I immediately locked eyes with my good senior guy friend, and we were both like, “hey, what are you doing here?”. To my surprise, there were quite a few seniors there…though I do not talk to most of them, and they quickly filled up a table of their own so I stayed at my sister’s side.
I felt quite awkward, just sitting there with my sister. In my mind I kept thinking of reasons I was not mingling-excuses I could give to other people, though I was sure no one would ask, so they were really just excuses for myself. Sentiments like, “my sister is really shy and I don’t want to leave her alone”, etc.
Then another senior girl came in who I am good friends with, and I basically followed her around and talked to her (and whoever she had chosen to mingle with). She sat next to us when we ate, and when the music started she danced with us. However, she soon found other friends to dance with, which left my sister and I alone in the middle of a crowd of (mostly) strangers. In addition to my inherent awkwardness on the dance floor, I was now alone.
But you know what? I didn’t really care. Why couldn’t I just dance with my little sister at this party? Why should I feel awkward because I’m terrible at dancing, probably making a fool of myself, and a senior without other teenagers to talk to?
I suppose someone (my overbearing parents or aunts, for example) would have encouraged me to mingle with everyone and anyone at the party, because that’s what people do at parties, right? That’s the supposed reason for get-togethers? Plus, how would I expect to make new friends or have any fun if I do not converse with other people? This seems like a fairly important skill to acquire for college.
But you know what? Dancing with my little sister, along with dance interjections from my two seniors friends, was fun. I did not feel the need to awkwardly approach strangers/acquaintances to complete my evening. I was, except for my sister, alone, but I did not feel alone. I could just dance and sing (when I knew the lyrics) and be content in my own skin.
In my opinion, changes in mindset like these do not occur because of silly encouragements telling you to “be yourself” and “not care what other people think”. Maybe they help guide you on the path to self-enlightenment, but the ultimate transformation has to come from within. Someone else cannot tell you you are a wonderful person, or that it’s okay to be quiet/alone/an introvert, or you do not need a boyfriend to be self-assured and confident. You must discover these things for yourself.
And in the dimmed lights of that wooden dance floor, I realized I could be completely comfortable with myself, a skill I cannot wait to employ in college.
Of course, it’s also Mother’s Day, and as soon as my mom gets out of the shower I’ll be spending most of the day with her. Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful women out there who deal with us rowdy, impertinent children day after day. Your perseverance is truly one of your greatest attributes.
And good luck to all my fellow introverts/low self-esteemers in finding comfort within yourself.