Attention is Not What You Needed

To my past self,

I don’t miss you. Honestly, I’m glad I’m not you anymore (at least I’m trying not to be) – but I don’t hate you. You, in all of your failed attempts at glory, just show the improvement I’ve made to my character. In your naivety you turned from seeking the attention you never needed to curling up within yourself, wishing the attention away from you. I hope you’re doing okay, though. Even when you bring a sour feeling to my mouth from some of your memories, you still manage to replace that with sweetness in the next. Your kindness seeps through it all, including all of your valiant efforts to teach yourself to listen rather than speak all of the words away.
Growing up, moving from school to school trying to find a place to belong, away from the judgment, you sought out refuge. Acceptance. With people leaving you and ignoring you from a young age, you grasped every moment of attention you could get, to try to make them stay and remember that you existed. When you finally made it to the elementary school you stayed at until high school, you took every chance to gain approval and love from people who never thought that way of you, who were irritated by you every time you took the attention away from them to yourself. You took action to gain acknowledgement in the wrong way, and you wondered why no one liked you. I know it hurt you: you didn’t know what you were doing wrong.
Moving to an online school during the pandemic, leaving all of your friends behind, you isolated yourself. Day by day, stuck in the house with distractions everywhere, you busied yourself with procrastination and self-pity. You could barely interact with the hundreds of people in your grade, besides a few, so you grew used to the idea of loneliness, of shying away from the spotlight. You became empty, a shell of the lively yet ignored person you used to be. This mindset of detachment you grew still affects me. If you had rerouted your attention-seeking into a more positive manner, an extroverted manner, you could have been better off. I could have been better off.
The moments you could have had, the chances you could have taken, the first impressions you could have made. All gone because of the social anxiety and self-isolation that you created, that I have to deal with. In school, in Sunday school, in every place where you interacted with at least one person. Every event, telling yourself “Oh, I’ll participate next time,” “Oh, I didn’t talk at all or use my voice in this discussion, but I’ll change for the next event.” I’ll give you this: you had a few moments, a couple of minutes of bravery. Giving the answers, briefly sharing your opinion. But those moments are insignificant in my memory, compared to the looming guilt and self-doubt after every failed attempt at participation. You didn’t put yourself out there, you didn’t take the time to introduce Morrison to the world, to network and make future connections.
But it’s not just you though. It’s me, too. It’s us.
If we knew how much this would affect our daily life, we would have thrown ourselves into the center of the action and participated. If I could go back in time, I’d grab you and shake you, trying to get you to understand to just engage in the activity. Use those 20-seconds of bravery. Have confidence in yourself with having the ability to do whatever it was you needed to do. I wish I could tell myself then to stop self-isolating, it isn’t healthy. Stop overthinking, it’s not as bad as you think it is. But while you’re stuck like this – I don’t have to be.
Even though we still struggle with putting ourselves out there, in fear of being too selfish or attention-seeking, or making a mistake while being vulnerable like that, I still learn and put effort every day. Even though I still continuously have moments of self-isolating and hiding, I’m fighting to get out of that mindset. I work to learn from who we were to become who we want to be. I know what you’re going through, I’ve been through it. Even though you’re a part of me, I don’t have to be a part of you.
We are the same person. I’ve just learned from your mistakes. I’m glad you made them though, so I can become better now, in the present. I know now that participating, putting ourselves out there, and moving away from isolation is okay. If we work together, we can make it through, with your hope for the future and my acceptance of the past. Some days are hard – when I can especially feel you writhing inside of me, the whirlwind of fear and depression and anxiety can overpower my mind. But I don’t need to listen to you anymore. We’re okay now.

With love,

Morrison Luban

Trinity High School – DMSF Class of 2026

Drawing by Morrison Luban

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