No, I’m not talking about that lunch meat that someone forgot to put back into the fridge, that you really shouldn’t eat. I’m talking about way back when (in my case, at least), when one of the simplest, most unintentional things makes us feel terrible: being Left Out.
If you were like me, and were the slowest runner in your class, you know all about this. Being the last one picked for anything in gym class. Being the only one guaranteed to strike out when forced to play softball (because yeah, when you’re as bad at it as I was, it sucked). Being the unpopular kid, the one that didn’t get invited to the cool kids’ parties. Of course now, I look back and think, I wouldn’t have enjoyed those parties anyway (talk to people I don’t know? who were all drinking when I wasn’t?). But back then, it was just being Left Out. If I were a holiday TV special, I’d be Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
It happened in college too. See, freshman year, I was an English major. Writing was something I’d always wanted to do. Then over the summer, my dad had the “what are you going to do for a job with this” talk with me. Since I didn’t want to be a starving writer, and I liked art too, I changed majors. It worked out well, because the way the courses were set up, I could cram four years’ worth of major courses into three years – and graduate on time.
I met wonderful friends in some of my art classes. They were all a year younger than me, freshmen when I was a sophomore. But in my other art classes, the ones that were all sophomores, most people already knew each other from a year of being in class together already. Cliques had formed. Cliques I might have been a part of in the classes where everyone was new like me, but in the second-year classes, I was left out. Since I had my own artsy friends, I didn’t care, and unlike elementary and high school, it wasn’t like the students in the older classes weren’t nice to me – they were. I just wasn’t really one of them. Having my own band of misfit friends helped.
You’d think this stuff stops after we get out of school. It doesn’t. People can be clique-y in workplaces (thank goodness, not mine!) and really, anywhere people congregate, even online.
More recently, this has happened to me in online classes. Several years ago, one of my RWA chapters offered an online workshop on query letters, taught by a big NYT Bestselling Author. Every one who took the class and participated got a query letter critique by the NYTBA.
Except me. By the time I found my big girl panties and emailed the workshop coordinator to ask about it, the NYTBA had left the building. So no critique for me. It was a free class, and I already had a good query letter, so it wasn’t a big deal, but…. yeah. That Left Out Feeling never goes away, even when we can’t imagine that it’s intentional.
I was Left Out in another online workshop a couple months ago – mine was the only homework assignment the instructor didn’t address in the class. I still got a twinge of that Left Out Feeling, even though I’d taken workshops with this author before, and knew it was simply an oversight. This time I found my big girl panties right away, so I emailed her. Not only did she post my assignment, but several others in the class gave me some very nice feedback, and the instructor offered me a future workshop for free.
Yet that Left Out Feeling never stays far away from misfits! Just last week, it hit me again in a networking group I’m in on Facebook. I’d signed up for an activity offered by one of my peeps, yet when the schedule came out, I wasn’t on the list. This lady’s a class act, someone I’d interacted with plenty of times before, and she’d scheduled peeps whose credentials were as unimpressive as mine, so I figured it had to be a mistake, and posted.
It turned out, it was a mistake – mine! Yes, I’d signed up, but I hadn’t seen the instructions to provide her with my email address – d’oh!
Sometimes when we get Left Out, it’s our own fault!
So speak up, jump in… and who knows, you may be Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and end up doing something very special!
What about you – were you Left Out as a kid? What about now? Do you still get that Left Out Feeling, even when you know it’s unintentional? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know I’m not alone – or if I’m just too neurotic!