On any typical day at my middle school, the closer you were to the bench, the higher your social status. It was a cheaply made concrete bench, painted over at least three times, judging by the multicolored paint chips littering its surroundings. Nothing separated this bench from dozens of others around the school, except for its location. Standing alone under a tree, this bench was prime real estate, especially to junior high students.
The elite of my small town classmates gathered there. I was never royal enough to sit on the bench or cool enough to regularly engage in those bench-side chats. I stood awkwardly on the periphery of the popular crowd. I hoped that my presence there would make me more popular, more interesting, and more engaged. I thought it would happen by osmosis or something.
I know, I know; I feel sorry for young me, too. Maybe awkwardness isn’t something of which you grow out.
I sometimes get a random notification on social media: “Caleb D. invites you to watch his live video,” or, “Miranda H. invites you to watch her live video.” These invitations always come from an online group of people with ataxia.
And I always decline the invitation.
I say it’s because I’m not into small talk. I tell myself it’s because I am introverted and only interested in deep conversations. But maybe if I’m a little more honest with myself, it’s less about longing for meaningful discussion, and more about being uncomfortable talking in a group of people.
Regardless of my reasons to avoid banter, the live video chats happen regularly. These chats may seem arbitrary and meaningless in the long-run. But to participants, they are pleasant, easygoing, and a small way of connecting with others.
I am learning that I often look at the big picture and ignore the small details. Here in Louisiana, people describe that as having “book smarts” while lacking “common sense.” And, well, I can’t completely deny that. But I think a balance of the two is needed.
Looking at it another way, it’s easy to live by focusing on special events; the marks on our calendar we anticipate. Parties, graduations, anniversaries, outings with friends — these are the highlights of our lives.
But life is made of those other in-between moments too. And to disregard those is a mistake. Sometimes there’s nothing noteworthy about a particular day. I’m learning that’s OK. Sometimes we need to focus on the average days and on just getting by.
I missed my chance to small talk with my junior high classmates around the bench. Maybe one day I’ll get over my perceived awkwardness and join one of those video chats. It won’t have profound meaning, but I think that’s the point. In between the calendar events, we need to survive and find some happiness doing that. Maybe video chatting about nothing in particular is one way. I’ll keep you updated.
Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.