Walking into a room of 300 hundred people and having to scan the place for the handful of familiar faces you know is an anxiety inducing task. It’s irrational and childish, to be worried about standing up at the door feeling like a fool as you stare into a crowd searching for your table, but it lingers, none the less. No one notices you standing there, but you anticipate sweaty palms, dry mouth, wondering, where are my people? Am I the only one here? Where do I go? Is everyone staring at me? Of course they’re not, but try telling your mind that.
I pondered this as I pulled up outside the school, mentally trying to prepare myself for a day of lectures and power points, engaging us in this year’s divisional goal. I grabbed my iced chai and stepped out onto the sidewalk, thinking, oh, God, I hope I see someone I know.
I did. The coworker.
There she was, the very first person I saw upon my return to work. She stood, beaming, glowing, and hugely pregnant, appearing even further along than her 7 months.
I smiled, waved. She did the same.
I plodded along behind her. Striding smoothly, no baby to weigh me down.
She adjusted her coat, pulled tight around her belly. I ran my hand over my flat (ish) stomach.
As we approached the school, others flocked to her, rubbing her baby bump, smiling and gushing over her pregnancy. I slipped past, unnoticed. Unpregnant.
Suddenly, that anxiety of wandering into a crowded room melted away. This moment, this sucker punch to the heart, this gut wrenching mirror image of who I am not and what I don’t have is the hardest thing I’ll face today.
And it’s done. Another hurdle overcome.
I walked in to the room without a pause and stumbled about through pushed back chairs and groups of coworkers, flipping through pages, their heads swiveling throughout the room. I wiggled my way through the clutter and din. Found my table. Plastered on a smile. Got back to work.