Insecurity is like a battle scar across your face that you’re forced to confront in the mirror every morning. Something akin to Harry Potter’s lightning bolt, but less, “You’re the famed Chosen One to save us all,” and more, “I wish I could wear his invisibility cloak and curl up into a ball.”
After years of writing, commenting on politics and otherwise putting myself out there, you would think I’d have rawhide for skin. Not quite.
Sometimes I like to think I can lift myself above the wave of self-doubt and insecurity, delude myself into thinking today’s the day I’ve made it, and then inevitably it washes back over my ginger head.
Let me provide a more concrete example of what I mean, an entry into the inner workings of my mind.
As the discussion rages about international students and whether Oxford is an inclusive campus or not, let me provide the perspective of a regional student. To be clear, I speak only for myself and bring to bear my insecurities in this viewpoint.
I live about 12 minutes from the Hamilton branch, nine if I make all the green lights and 20 if I get stopped by the notoriously long, slow Hamilton trains. (And if the train stops on the tracks, as it has done numerous times, you might as well turn around and go back home at that point).
When I travel the 40-some minutes to Oxford, it’s with a singular focus: going to the Armstrong Student Center for The Miami Student. I’ve never taken a class on the Oxford campus. If I wandered away from this singular trajectory to ASC, I’d inevitably get lost.
The campus would swallow me up and spit me back out with globs of red and white dripping from my shoulders.
In other words, Oxford (to my regional student sensibilities), as well as the embedded insecurity that, “I don’t belong,” is terribly intimidating.
This was no more apparent than one Saturday night when I went Uptown. All I know about Brick Street is what I read in every Police Beat before I post it online for The Student. Its bricks are strewn with the mistakes and follies of drunken youth.
To say I felt like a stranger in a strange land would be an understatement. Being the ignorant person I was, I parked about a half mile from Brick Street, not knowing the parking meters were turned off.
As I was walking, a black SUV with a family inside stopped and asked me where something was. I felt bad for them, as they happened upon the worst candidate for that job.
Coming up on High Street, it seemed like a bright, loud bubble incongruous with the surrounding darkness of the campus and nearby houses.
I was looking for “Steins,” or Steinkeller, and succumbing to the stereotypes of men since I was hell-bent on finding it by myself. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to appear like I was lost and bewildered, so I’d sneak furtive glances at the passing bars and restaurants to see if one said, “Steins.”
Suffice it to say, I must have walked up and down the length of High Street five or six times. Insecurity tells me that the people sipping their Peppermint Mochas in Starbucks were gazing through the glass window wondering what was wrong with me.
Finally, I had to ask someone, which itself took some time, as I wanted to scope out a friendly-looking person.
“Do you know where Steins is?” I asked a guy that I hoped knew the blueprints of Uptown.
“Steins?” he said, looking over my head, already trying to move on from this unwanted interlude.
“The … German bar?” I said, dripping with insecurity.
“Oh yeah, go back up that way and it should be on your left,” he said.
“Thanks, man,” I said, because “man” at the end of the sentence is the shield over the insecurity.
Of course, I still couldn’t find it. Then I asked some new person. Yep, still couldn’t find it. Thus, reaffirming my self-doubt that I don’t belong. Every mechanism built into my insecurity was hammering my cranium to turn around, to forget this odyssey into RedHawk land.
Somehow, I happened upon Mac & Joe’s and settled into an open seat at the end of the bar next to a waiter rolling silverware. Promptly, I ordered a Yuengling to wash away the ineptness I was feeling.
It turned out to be a great night, I should say, but it was frontloaded with the imagery that I was a redheaded worm in the beak of the RedHawk.
Insecurity does that to you … man. It tells you that you’re small, that you’re the unfit puzzle piece in the picture of life.
I’m not sure what my experience going Uptown for the first time says about the culture of Miami and whether it’s welcoming to “outsiders,” if anything at all, but I know anecdotally, I’ve encountered welcoming people at The Student and the few professors I’ve interacted with.
They help to take the coarseness off of the intimidating brick facade of Oxford.
Except for the guy at the end of my odyssey that I like to think was angling for a slot in the Police Beat. I was walking with my nose in my phone, again like a stereotypical young person, and from the left side of a side street I hear:
“Hey, you, with the phone, stop! Hey, stop!”
Yeah, I didn’t stop. Maybe he just wanted directions.