Remember that awesome FDR quote? You know? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It was my favorite quote growing up.
But tell that to me when I am nearly writhing on the floor of my dorm hallway screaming, “I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT, I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT,” it won’t go over very well.
I want to make it clear that I do not condone my actions in this particular debacle. To say that this was a gross overreaction is the understatement of the century and I still get chills that this particular instance happened merely three years ago. People remember this. This was bad.
Sure, I can laugh at my emotions. But sometimes it’s a means to laugh first. Because my emotions aren’t always pretty.
My first semester of freshman year was a whirlwind. I came into Syracuse University as a tornado of ideals, emotions and the conviction that I was going to win an Oscar one day and this was my first step of getting there. I joined the SUMB and my time was filled with 18 credits of classes and practice, practice, practice. If I wasn’t marking time in the parade block I was marking off boxes on scantrons. I was also learning that, to my horror, I was way more of an emotional person than I ever realized.
Growing up, I had the hope that I would one day “get better.” But the older I got, the more that I realized that reactions weren’t going to taper off just because. When my mom and I first talked about puberty and the “emotions” associated with growing up, I bawled.
“But MOM,” I said, terrified, “this means that I’m going to be EVEN MORE EMOTIONAL?”
She did her normal consoling of hugging me and we laughed about it.
Unfortunately, my prepubescent self was correct. The peak of my emotions didn’t come during the breadth of high school, however; it was the end of my senior year of high school and my first year of college when it began to rear its ugly head.
Yes, Claire, I say to my younger self. You’ll become even more emotional.
I was going through an emotional rollercoaster like all freshmen, but I was letting my freak flag fly in front of everyone. My RA, the new people I met in band, my floormates. They all got a bit of raw, emotional, scared Claire. Everything was so new and practically no one knew me on campus and I hadn’t learned how to “reel it in” yet (something I’m still working on today).
Because I was so busy, I didn’t really make any connections on my first semester floor, and because I was in band and, well, let’s face it, a little hard to handle, I wasn’t exactly popular. My dysfunctional relationship with my floor was best represented when I burnt my popcorn in the microwave.
It was evening in the fall, so it wasn’t too cold outside. I was in my jammies. I didn’t have band practice that night. I had homework to do. I had set everything in its place and I was ready to get work done. I had prepared my workspace and my mind for a productive evening. I was feeling settled – whenever the world is a little too much, focusing on work is my go-to thing to calm myself down. So, for a lovely moment, I was at peace.
This didn’t last long.
Anyone who’s had to live with me knows that I live off of popcorn… no, correction: I exist off of popcorn. I always get it at the theater and it’s a perfect late night snack. So, as part of my homework ritual, I would prepare a bag of popcorn and do some work. I was going to do that on that very evening.
The microwave on the floor was right across the hall from my room, so I put the bag in for 2:30. Also, because I am the most impatient person on the planet, I went back to my room and fiddled around some more with my desk.
And then, the most horrifying sound started blaring throughout the dorm.
It was the fire alarm.
Everything in my being stopped and I could feel the prickly sensation of terror starting to settle in my mind. Footsteps came from outside of my door.
“Oh my god, who’s popcorn is that?”
“Oh man, are you SERIOUS?”
I don’t know why I did what I did next. I was in my room. No one knew. I could have played dumb. Damn it Claire, why didn’t you play dumb?
But the guilt was too vicious. I couldn’t live with a heavy conscious, albeit only weighed down with ashy popcorn kernels.
My mouth agape, I opened the door to the smoky, loud hallway with my RA looking concerned and two of the guy floormates looking pissed off.
There was no turning back now. My ability to moderate myself became null and void as soon as I stepped onto the scene.
“It… it was me,” I said quietly at first.
I stepped further into the hallway.
“Oh GOD IT WAS ME.”
Then I went full crazy.
I grabbed the popcorn bag and threw it on the floor.
“I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT. I’M SORRY. I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT.”
“Oh JESUS,” one of the guys said, backing away from me.
“I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT,” I yelled, crying, crouching down near the floor. “I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT.”
“Oh-okay, Claire,” my RA said, attempting to distract me from my meltdown. “We need to go outside, okay?”
I was so distraught that I only remember bits of the next five minutes. I somehow managed to get to the stairs before the rest of the floor came out of their rooms. I practically flew down the flights of stairs, my stomach churning at the thought of the consequences of my actions. I was going to be destroyed by everyone.
Outside, I heard the normal mutterings of people reacting to nighttime fire alarms. “God, who burnt soup?” “Ugh, how can people be so stupid?” “How hard is it to watch a microwave?” “Someone probably was toking up in the room, idiot.”
They’re all talking about me, I thought in crazed distress. They all HATE ME. They all think I’M STUPID. No one MUST KNOW IT WAS ME.
Why I thought that people would know by just looking at me, I don’t know. In fact, the more I worried, the more I started wandering around frantically, looking for my RA. So it was probably obvious that it was me.
I found the RDs and cried and explained that I burnt popcorn and that I was sorry. They led me to my RA and she consoled me, telling me that this sort of thing was normal and that I should just be more attentive next time. I started to calm down and everyone went up to the rooms.
Back in the room, I got what I had predicted: being teased behind my back. I spent doing homework listening to some of my floormates recreating my outbursts in the hallway.
“I’M SORRY OH MY GOD,” a girl shrieked.
“IT’S MY FAULT,” one of the guys shouted.
“God, she’s so crazy,” another guy said, the rest laughing in agreement.
I didn’t confront them about it. It hurt but honestly, I would’ve probably done the same thing if I saw someone have a conniption about burning popcorn. In that moment, I vowed to never go through that ordeal again.
The next semester, I burnt popcorn in my new dorm room. I had moved to do a different dorm and had two new roommates. We had a microwave in the room and the fire alarm went off.
“God DAMN it,” I said.
Fortunately, only the room’s smoke detector went off and the dorm fire alarm remained silent. My roommates came to where I was standing. When they me asked about why I got so angry, I explained to them my sordid tale. This time, though, the three of us laughed about it and I didn’t feel so bad. I made a new bag and went to my desk, ready to study the night away.