when you think you’re the only one

I had a really great dream. I’d dare say it’s the best dream I’ve had in a very long time.

My husband and daughter were with me in Chicago, visiting my old school, UIC. We met up with several English Lit faculty, staff, and alumni who were students while I was a student. Most of the former students had been working on their PhDs while I was doing my MA and essentially, all but one of the people we were talking with are people I’d stayed away from. It’s not that they were mean; it’s that I was scared they wouldn’t accept me. That’s not how I interpreted it while a student, but it’s the truth.

I was so intimidated by those I considered to be much smarter than me. Everyone else seemed quite skilled at living and breathing English Lit. Added to my plight was my Adventism, my Christianity–it was easy to think I was the only one, a thought that moved me a to a place of thinking others who weren’t like me wouldn’t fit in my world (as if my school world was some separate world from the rest of my life. Compartments can be dangerous). Overtime, I discovered that I wasn’t the weakest link, and that I was wrong about not being accepted–my dream confirmed that.

We were in a classroom chatting it up with all these people I didn’t think I’d ever be able to connect with. It felt like an accidental (and wonderful) reunion. If I’m remembering correctly, it started out with us talking to a couple of people and then the number grew as more people heard that we were there. It wasn’t as if we were famous. Rather, it was a time when people wanted to graciously set the record straight. Some were Christian. Some were not. All wanted me to know that I shouldn’t have felt alone when I was there.

The faculty member in the room that I’d gotten to know while a student had been my boss. He was great. I know I’ve written about him before. During the reunion, he mentioned to a former student that I’d almost quit school because of how disconnected I felt. I don’t remember this in real life but in my dream, the memory flooded back and I agreed. Yes, I’d almost quit. And in that moment, I realized that I’d almost quit all these beautiful people.

There was a meeting later in the day and we attended with all of them and, I think, met a few more familiar faces there. By the time the meeting ended, it was evening, the sun was setting. One of the women invited us to join all of them for supper. “Of course you’ll join us, right?” was the tone of the invitation. They wanted us with them.

It’s a problem when you not only think you’re the only one (whatever “one” represents) but use that conclusion to assume distance. Yes, our foundational beliefs sometimes clash but that shouldn’t always automatically cause us to stay away especially when we haven’t even had a conversation. Drawing conclusions should come after having conversations; what a novel idea.

The adult life is messy, often very difficult to navigate. It’s easier to stick to your “own kind” and create supposed judgment-free zones. Meanwhile there are rooms full of people who’d love to get to know you and are pretty excited to welcome you to their table.

I woke up happy this morning. So happy.

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