Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fletch -- jcarolek

Fitting in has always been a challenge. Where others might consider I fit well, I was uncomfortable or unhappy, and where I felt I would feel comfortable or happy, I was, more likely, not welcome. I learned pretty early on that being anything but myself was a recipe destined to failure.

So it was that, as I set out for FSU that September morning with Dad, I was nervous. This would be the first time in my eighteen years on this earth that I simply could NOT just go home to the relative security of my little bedroom,

if the going got too tough. I would simply HAVE to decide to find comfort and security within myself. I was a turtle, carrying with me my shell of safety.

My sister had preceded me at FSU, having arrived one year earlier, with the same chauffeur (Dad) and the same destination, Smith Hall (known as West Hall when Dad had attended in the 50's). My sister was not there to greet me when we finally arrived, as she was already on the clock at her waitressing job. Never mind, I had never found comfort in my sister, who had shared my room and, in my mind at the time, ruled my world since I was born. But her sentiment in my arrival was shared with me as my new roommate, Dottie greeted me at our door numbered 720.

"Hi, you MUST be Judy, Your sister said to be on the lookout for some goofy looking girl with glasses and about three violins and guitars!" (I was carrying only one of each, I'll have you know!)

In the next couple of days, after Dad left me to my own devices and Jeannie begrudgingly gave me her contact information, (in the event I was DYING or something, I COULD call), I spent my time preparing for my first college classes, and life on campus. I walked miles getting everything in order.

One afternoon, as I headed back to Smith Hall from the Student Union, I heard a couple of voices behind me.
"Hey, are you a freshman?" I thought they said.
"Yes, I'm a freshman" I replied politely to the two guys inquiring.

"No!! Are you a FLETCHER?" they corrected....I had apparently misheard their initial inquiry.

"Oh, yes, yes, I'm a Fletcher," I admitted, a little warily, not knowing whether this was a "good thing" or a "bad thing" in their book.

They both grinned from ear to ear and dubbed me the name I would carry through my remaining two and half years at FSU and to which Christmas cards and birth announcements are still addressed to this day, now more than 30 years later. "Fletch." As far as I can recall, they never asked my given name. It was enough that I was related to my sister, who, apparently, had made great friends with these two.

That simple, chance encounter, that misunderstood question, the willingness of a couple of guys to accept me based on my sister's credentials, that giving to me of a nickname that guaranteed acceptance in their eyes was probably the single combined event that made me "comfortable" in my new surroundings. It wasn't that people weren't friendly. It wasn't that I was not friendly. It was that I was not outgoing, and was uncomfortable "forcing myself" on others....and most were generally unaware of those of us like that....

So these two, Bill and Chris, gave me, in one two minute exchange, an acceptance ticket to "their world" and from there they introduced me to many more. Always, it was, "this is Fletch, Jeannie Fletcher's sister!" and the new person I was meeting would quickly size me up, clearly noting the differences between my popular, pretty sister and my own rather awkward and clumsy self...and they accepted me anyway!

I did enjoy a great time there and did enjoy those friends made through no action on my part. And, I DID fit in. But I notice that even today I carry that "freshman" feeling with me whenever I venture out of my comfortable, known world. And when I find myself suddenly accepted without ever actually "proving" my worthiness, I realize, again, that Fletch does indeed, exist. Freshmen and Fletch, I suppose will always be two very real states for me. And being myself means I am both.

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