If you had driven
Down Shields Avenue
Past a school at roughly
You might have seen a brown-haired boy
With glasses, and a button-blue shirt tucked in
Standing against the black steel fence
A score of other children swung and hula-hooped and dribbled balls and played tag
Forgive the boy waving
As if at the cars driving by
Or those waiting at the bus stand just past the parking lot
Or at nothing at all
He was waving to his mother
He was waving to me
I arrived late to class today … ever the greatest dread of any introvert (possibly even some extroverts). And it did not end in the humiliating walk-in-front-of-class-to-find-your-seat humiliation. No. See, there was no seat. Okay, there was one last seat remaining, but the classmate who walked in half a minute after me shot ahead and grabbed the last available seat in front of class.
I ended up sitting in a chair. Not my choice. I had opted to stand in the back of the classroom. Then (horror of horrors) the professor spotted me.
“You don’t have a seat?”
“I’m fine.” (cringe)
“Take mine. I never sit while teaching.”
“Thank you.” (My words were not quite in line with my thoughts, which were more along the lines of Anywhere but there!.)
She slid the chair across the front of the classroom and I sat, front and nearly center.
All because I was exactly two minutes late to class. I had a reason. My son was reading to me. He was reading, and he didn’t want to stop. I knew I would miss the bus, have to catch the next one, and end up late rather than early.
So I did.
And there I sat, with 27 faces turned more or less in my direction. I am still alive. I survived. I even spoke up a couple of times during the class.
Why do we fear these circumstances? Unwanted attention. Why is it unwanted? Why is attention feared? Not by all, but by many … if not most.
Usually, the things we fear the most are things that, when we face them, really aren’t that bad. Unless one’s phobia is an encounter with a lion, we usually have benign fears. Sitting in front of a crowd of people, when I always opt for the very back row. Relatively harmless. Not running a gauntlet or facing an accusing jury. Why does it feel quite the opposite?
And why, ultimately, does it not matter all that much? Not when compared to reading to my son, or listening to him reading to me rather than rushing off immediately to catch a bus, regardless of the result.
Perhaps it’s a matter of priorities. When we have a priority, the possible repercussions – even potentially negative – are not that bad. We survive. Maybe we even grow. We learn something we might not have otherwise learned. Is it a stretch to conclude that the price of priorities is also its reward?
My personal priorities dictate kids over comfort. Even when it means front-of-class humiliation over back-of-the-class anonymity. Why else would I have chosen to be a mom? Why else would I be convinced that it is worth it?