Imagine, if you will, a large room. One in a series of rooms, all connected by large doors. I have yet to finally decide on the number of rooms, but there are quite a few.
Around the room there are many seating arrangements. Groups of chairs and recliners, sofas and easy chairs. Single chairs are littered across the room, and along the walls. People are sitting in groups, chatting, or they are wandering around from group to group, stopping ever so often to chat or just exchange opinions. Sometimes you hear raised voices and angry words, but they are generally quickly hushed and the people in question ushered out. Sometimes they come back in, and behave themselves – sometimes they don’t.
In the middle of the room there is a raised dais. Like a speaker’s chair. Different people go up there to speak. They talk about anything and everything. They share. They impress. They move you. They delight with facts, with fiction, with poetry, with stories from their lives. They make you weep, and they make you laugh out loud. Sometimes they just make you frown. You can applaud them if you want to. You may even boo if you feel like it.
You don’t have to listen, and you don’t have to speak, but most of the people in the rooms have come here because of just that: they came because they felt they had something to say. And here were the people you wanted to say it to.
I came here to speak and listen. The first couple of times I was extremely nervous about going up there – and the very first speech I delivered was very bad. Nobody wanted to listen, a couple of people even booed, and I slunk down from the dais, embarrassed. But some of the regulars came over and patted me on the shoulder and told me to try again. Gave me an idea of what topic to pick, and how to deliver it. And I did try again. This time I got applause, and a couple of people even cheered! It was an awesome feeling. The regulars smiled and nodded – and I knew I wanted to do it again.
I have met many cool people here. I have learned, by and by, to walk around and strike up conversation here and there. I have come to belong to some of the official groups here; I also find myself gravitating towards other groups, chatting and having fun. Some people I have great respect for, but I don’t socialize with them as such; some people I don't like, and I steer clear of them as far as I can.
Now and then some new guy will come barging in, throw himself (or herself) in a chair and begin interrupting a conversation. He (or she) won’t always take it kindly when the people in the group get irritated at the rude interruption. And every now and then a new visitor gets up on the dais and start ranting or shouting, and when they are asked to step down they get even more agitated. But that’s how it goes, and they are minor disturbances in the greater picture.
It happens that one of the regulars get fed up. It can be a very upsetting experience to witness someone you really like take his belongings and leave, and it will leave a hole in your heart. It’ll heal, of course, but still… But then, if you are lucky, you may see them again all of a sudden. Wearing different clothes, maybe, shooting you a wry smile. That is a nice feeling.
A lot of the people here I don’t know, a lot of people have no idea of who I am. It’s all how it’s supposed to be. It’s a very big place after all. I can spend ages here, just listening to the people speaking. I have learned a lot from them. I have spoken more than a hundred times now, and though I still feel apprehensive about going up there, I also feel much at home. I need to do my best for this place, for these people, so I try just a little bit harder every time.
Oldtimers complain that there aren’t as much partay going on now. That the rules seem to be stricter, the people fewer. I wouldn’t know. They may be right, but those are the facts of life, frankly; things change. This place changes too, and in ways no one can control - which is good.
I have now become one of those regulars
who help with the cleaning. I straighten chairs and pick up litter. I like to speak to newcomers and give them what help I can. I want to try to make myself available for any one who needs to ask questions. I want to be a part of making this place the best place there is. Ever. This is our place
For the E2 Quest: More Than Walls