It’s time for another writing prompt from the Isolation Journals. This one comes from Jon Batiste, an American musician and well known band leader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Jon has asked us to reflect on a particular moment in our past when we felt most in touch with our “Glorious Awkwardness.” It could be a cringe-worthy moment we’ve replayed a thousand times in our mind, or something essential about who we are, something unchangeable. Go back there. What did we learn from it?
That time I went swimming on my own
Upon reading this writing prompt, the first thing that sprung to mind for me was a moment in my second year of University, when I was twenty years old. At the time I thought I was gloriously awkward, but I have since looked back on this moment as something essential about who I am.
A girl I met at University had invited around 15 girls, including myself, to her house for lunch one Sunday. I didn’t know this girl all that well, though we were becoming friendly and I appreciated being invited to her house. In the group message that was sent around, the she said to everyone, “I’ve got a pool, so bring your bathers if you want.” Brilliant, I thought, I’d love to go for a swim. It was probably the tail-end of summer because I remember it being warm and I was likely craving a dip.
On the day of the lunch, I decided to wear my bathers underneath and chuck an old beach dress over the top. I didn’t see the point in wearing any makeup, because I’d be going for a swim after all, and for the same reason I didn’t put much effort into my hair. Mum offered to drop me off and with that I was ready to go.
Upon arriving at this girl’s house, I was straightaway struck by how large, white and pristine it was. With an exterior like something from Better Homes and Gardens, I was impressed and perhaps a little intimidated. Nonetheless, I rang the doorbell. After being welcomed inside, I came face to face with about eight girls that had already arrived. A sinking feeling hit me as I quickly realised how under-dressed I was. Everyone else was wearing beautiful summer dresses, lovely shoes, makeup (even lipstick), large straw hats and larger sunglasses. I felt uncomfortable and almost embarrassed I didn’t realise I’d need to dress nicely. If only I knew as I had plenty of nice clothes sitting at home in my wardrobe. Alas, here I was in attire better suited to being on the beach, as oppose to inside a new friend’s elaborate home.
Regardless of what I or anyone else was wearing, I was welcomed with a smile and the usual small talk ensued. I grabbed myself a drink and took a seat outside in the sun. While I don’t remember what everyone spoke about or what we ate for lunch, I distinctly remember eyeing off the swimming pool. I’d worn my bathers for a reason and with the sun belting down I was desperate to dive in. I asked around if anyone had brought their bathers, and one girl gave an empathetic “Yes, I did.” Okay, I thought, there’s someone who might come for a swim with me.
After what felt like hours of wanting to go for a swim, I eventually plucked up the courage and asked, “Can I go in the pool?” I was told that of course I could, and with that I made my move and descended into the blue water. It was so refreshing and right where I wanted to be. Everyone else continued to sit around the large outdoor table chatting away, while I kept myself company. At the time I knew I probably wasn’t making the most glamorous impression, but this pool was too good to ignore. The other girl with her bathers eventually came over and sat by the edge of the pool and put her feet in. This small act gave me permission to put my head under, finally, and get my hair wet.
After I was satisfied with my time in the pool, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting at what felt like an afternoon at a winery, while I resembled a drowned rat. So much for thinking my awkward days were left behind in high school, because right now they were here to stay. While I felt gloriously awkward, nobody seemed to mind. I pass no judgment on people who don’t want to go for a swim, or who wear makeup and nice dresses. Sometimes I am this person. However, in this moment, I knew I probably wouldn’t fit in with all of these girls in the long term.
Looking back, I think this moment was something of a turning point in how I perceived myself. While my sixteen year old self sometimes felt like I was missing out on all the fun of being popular, here I was making my own fun and not worrying about being popular or fitting in. I don’t claim myself to be stupendously unique or a rebel without cause, I can be pretty vanilla sometimes, though I do feel proud of my twenty year old self for diving in and being true to herself.
Years later, a group of friends from work were talking about moments in high school when they realised they were an awkward person. I levelled up and told them, “Well, I’ve got a moment at Uni when I realised I was awkward.” Cue the above story and all it’s juxtaposing outfits. One friend turned to me and said, “I love that you went for a swim, and I’ll always want to be friends with the girl that goes for a swim.”
I’ll always be friends with her too.