Microwave brownies as a clue to the meaning of life.

Being at the beach with my family made me reminisce about the many times we have stayed in that house. Early in my teenage years, I went to the beach house with one friend and then spent the next week with another friend. What I remember from those trips is an overwhelming sense of my own awkwardness, that these girls were so advanced compared to me. They knew things about the way that the world works (that is, boys and hair and clothes) that I had not yet been able to figure out. They were my age, but emotionally, they were way ahead of where I was.

Of course, the idea that the people around me know the rules and I don’t is something that I worry about all the time, even now. I touched on that earlier this week in a conversation I had with Melissa (though I can’t remember if I specifically mentioned the beach in the conversation or if I was just thinking about it at the time), talking about how other people are always so much cooler than I am. Still. “When do I get to be cool?” I asked her. (You can see why I fit in so well at a middle school. Hey, at least I am cooler than they are.) (Well, sadly, not all of them.)

One of the defining moments (for me, anyway) of my friendship with Melissa was a moment when we were decidedly uncool. We were basically in charge of a retreat and had decided to do something nice for all the girls who were there, so we went to the store to buy the stuff to bake brownies. When we got back, we realized that the place we were staying had no pans and nowhere to bake the brownies, so we had to go back and buy microwave brownies. This is the type of thing that makes me feel deeply incompetent, and Melissa and I bonded over our shared feelings of incompetence compared to the people around us, who undoubtedly would have bought the right brownies in the first place. Because they know how the world works. I did not know it at the time, but now it seems as if that drive back to the store down those winding roads in the dark changed something for me. I realized that other people feel the same way I do, even if (like Melissa) they seem more competent than I could ever hope to be.

This is the way that the world works for me: I screw things up. A lot. At least I have pretty awesome people who screw things up along with me.

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