Things never get boring here at institute. Tonight six of us on our hall were still awake at 1:30 a.m., having a deep discussion about love and long-distance relationships (etc), when the fire alarm went off.
In a way, that alarming, abrasive sound was my savior, because the conversation was getting uncomfortable. People were sharing a lot about their relationships, and while I enjoyed listening to others and thinking about how their anecdotes and insights related to my own life, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my own story with them. Which is silly, because even though we’ve only been together for four weeks, that time frame in a camp-like environment is enough to get to know most everyone on a deep enough level to feel comfortable to share.
My mom once told me that knowledge breeds contempt. The more you talk about yourself, the more people can find to dislike or hold you in contempt for. And right or wrong, that information has considerably shaped the way I deal with my life without realizing it. I don’t tell people very many things about me. I wont volunteer information about my family, my relationships, or my dreams/hopes for the future without feeling that I know you really well first. Really really well.
But I don’t think I actually realized this about myself until today. It’s like when I was in high school and my volleyball coach remarked to me on a road trip that my dad is a quiet man. Not a huge remark. Just one made in passing, while we were talking about parents who she knew well and didn’t know well, etc. But until that moment, I actually never realized that my dad was a quiet man in contrast with the other dads I knew. Which should have been obvious, because he most definitely is very reserved around most people.
And this was that exact same kind of situation. I never realized how much I don’t volunteer personal information until one of the guys mentioned this to me. He asked me why I wasn’t joining in and sharing my story. I guess I mumbled something about not having anything to say. Which is wrong. I felt like I had a lot to say about long-distance relationships, etc, since more than one of my relationships have gone through that phase. But I had nothing I wanted to add, because I didn’t want people to know about my life. At all.
Thanks to the fire alarm, I was saved from dwelling on this very bizarre, unexpected moment of self-discovery (when things that are glaringly obvious to other people suddenly become apparent to you– like when my friend Valerie told me that I am a meticulous person).
Unnerved, we all grabbed our things and headed down the fire-escape stairwell– but not after knocking on the doors of everyone on our hall to ensure that they were awake. And once we were all outside, we counted numbers and made sure all nineteen of us were there (we take care of our own). We then joined the seven-hundred-plus tired, cranky people waiting for the shrieking alarms and whirling white lights to stop.
For a second there, we thought there was going to be some serious action. Five fire trucks came to the scene (which either means that they originally thought it was a serious situation, or it was a really boring night at the station). But of course, it turned out to be nothing.
As of yet, no one knows what caused the alarm to go off, but it was probably just a bad popcorn job. But in a way, I didn’t really mind. The commotion let me avoid, for just a bit longer, a situation that would ask me to examine my odd tendencies.
Side note: How am I supposed to be a writer if I don’t want to reveal personal things about myself? Some of the best writing happens when an author exposes themselves, raw and open to the world, either in a memoir or in semi-autobiographical fictional characters. Those are the stories that have the power to rivet people in their intensity and truth.