Dear Every Trashcan Nine-Year-Old Me Couldn’t Find In My Classmates’ Homes:
No, really. Thank you. I know you’re probably not used to hearing that. I’m nineteen now, and to be completely honest, I haven’t thought about you much during these last ten years. I’d be willing to bet few people do. You lead a tough and thankless life. It’s about time someone gave you the appreciation you deserve.
You made me who I am. Before encountering you and all of the self-doubt, social awkwardness, and stone cold fear that trying to find you without asking Jacklyn’s scary mom entailed, I was naïve. I thought the world was good. I thought things would always be taken care of for me. The figurative peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich with toasted bread and removed crust that I always thought would be ready-made for me for the rest of my life – that was all a big joke. And you were the first one to teach me that.
Adults are scary. They always will be. Nine-year-old Liz was especially intimidated, though. Disapproval was and is at the core of the black ball of fear that has ever held me back from anything. So, clutching my crumpled-up napkin after eating snacks at Caroline’s house after school, I was naturally rendered paralyzed. How do I ask her scary dad where you are? This house is weird. In my house, the trashcan just sits out in the kitchen like trashcans are SUPPOSED to. But here, you’re being elusive. And I guess everyone thought it was TOTALLY COOL to not inform me of your whereabouts when I first arrived. I’m standing here in the kitchen, napkin now damp with my nervous palm sweat, trying to get IIIIN YOUR HEAD and figure out where you are without having to resort to asking that tall, deep-voiced man over there.
You see, every trashcan nine-year-old me couldn’t find in my classmates’ homes,…you gave me a gift. In order to finally find out from Mary’s loud, Long Island-born smoker mother that you were in fact behind the third cabinet from the right under the microwave but you have to jiggle the cabinet door a little bit because it jams, I had to swallow my pride and accept that the world is mean sometimes. I had to ask a strange adult for help, which at the time for me was like entering a dirty, dark poker game where I could most definetely die.
You were my first administrator of crippling self-doubt. That’s something that not only has never gone away, but has informed all of my life decisions since. If I didn’t have crippling self-doubt how could I ever do comedy? How could I be compelled overcompensate for my sense of inferiority by demanding positive reactions from others because of things I say? If I hadn’t met you, I wouldn’t have become the attention whore I had to be in order to audition for theatre in high school and win the Class of 2010 Senior Superlative of “Most Likely to Win an Oscar”. That award got me a hug from Caleb O’Connor, captain of the boy’s varsity soccer team. He played guitar and went to church.
P.S. – I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t just ask the kids where you were. Hint: I wanted them to like me even more than I wanted the adults to. I had to see them EVERY DAY in school. There was a social web and my brain told me that asking them a question like that would get me kicked out of the web as quickly as possible. Those issues were readily instilled long before I met you, so don’t worry about it. Just be happy you’re a trashcan.