top of page

Being Left Behind



{00:00:00] tonyehn: Welcome, dear listeners, to another episode of Life and. This podcast is dedicated to true firsthand stories and engaging those storytellers in conversation to learn more about their lives and unique experiences. Each new season brings new tales, new storytellers, and a new central theme. This season we turn our focus to the all too common and all too complicated topic of isolation.

Welcome, listener, and thank you for joining us. My name is Tonyehn Veritis. I am the co-producer and host of this podcast, Life and Isolation.

It's my pleasure to introduce the storyteller for this episode Simone Daniel. Simone is a Temple University graduate and award-winning theater and filmmaker. And while based in New York City is an active member of the Northeast Pennsylvania arts community, we're thrilled to bring her signature storytelling style and humor to this podcast.

[00:01:39] Simone: Isolation is a funny thing. I've always naturally gravitated towards isolation. That's not to say I'm not a social person. I definitely can be and have very much been at certain points in my life, but that is the result of a lot of hard work. Work that if done sober is terrifying and exhausting, which is why I find nothing more upsetting and chaotic than surprise boomerang isolation to put myself out there, to go so far out there that I unintentionally snapped back and get flung back into isolation.

When I was in middle school, we participated in a contest called PJAS, the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science. Looking back, it was basically a glorified science fair, but at the time it was the Holy Grail participants got to miss class and go around to all the younger grades, classrooms, practicing your presentation in the weeks leading up to it. So needless to say, I would look very grown in the eyes of those sweet young sixth and seventh graders. I got to stay after school and work really hard to make something cool. My science teacher would make kettle corn for us, and me and the other kids had these fun little inside jokes. And as an eighth grader, there is nothing sweeter than an inside joke.

We got to use transparency projectors and write on them with those fine tip markers. Sidebar, shout out to the absolute ASMR Heaven of a transparency projector. My mind is watering, just thinking about them. But here was the real reason to do PJAS, the state championships. All of the kids who placed first level got to go. So making it to states was the absolute dream. It meant a three hour bus ride with the other kids to State College where we would live in the dorms for a whole weekend. No parents, just us newly minted baby teenagers and our wildest dreams. It was nuts. So I worked in my project for months. I did experiments on whether homemade cleaning solutions work as well as the store bought ones.

Not the most groundbreaking science I know, but I maintained lofty aesthetic principles with my transparencies and told a few jokes. And I think the judges at regionals really appreciated the change of pace because even though I could barely answer any questions about my fuzzy data, they ranked me first level sending me to the big show, the state competition at Penn State.

I was gonna beat it. Beat the whole shitty system, jump in the line of life, be in college with a fun room that I decorated so well, everyone would wanna hang out in it. I was going to skip the rest of upsetting middle school bypass, a cliche and ultimately pointless high school experience. I was traveling through time to a place where I was cool and sexy and confident, where I was independent and smart, and I cannot stress this enough. Grown up.

I spent almost as much time preparing my room as I did my project. I borrowed a very cool, very colorful comforter with teapots on it from my aunt. I made dorm decorations of magazine, collages, VHS tape covers, anything I could find. I even brought an old calendar to hang that, to make it look like I lived there.

Then the piece to resistance. My mom took me to Old Navy, where she bought me what I clearly understood to be a very grown up pair of lavender, stripe, pajama bottoms, and a matching tanking top. I had not to that point, and still possibly to this day, ever felt so cool and confident in any piece of clothing that I have ever worn.

Then it was time to go blast off to the future, rewriting my stars. I left a desperate little weirdo, but I would return glorious. The laurels of my dormitory victory resting heavy on my head. We pulled up to the bus stop and I got out with my suitcase and my duffle and my backpack to, oh shit. Oh, I brought too much stuff.

Oh, I brought way too much stuff. What is wrong with me? What was I thinking? I look so stupid. Oh, this is too much stuff. It's really heavy. Oh my God, I'm so sweaty. Is everyone else this sweaty? No, of course they're not. Cause they're carrying a normal amount of stuff. Okay, it's too late now. Just stick with the plan. This is the dream. Remember? It's okay. Get on the bus. Go sit with your friends and don't think about how much stuff you brought or you the fact that you definitely like all of them way more than they like you. No, shut up. Shut up.. Go sit on the bus and be funny ya little weirdo. Go now.

Oh, the bus was a bit of a blur.

I remember someone had a disposable camera and all I wanted was for them to decide I was worthy of one of those pictures in that camera. I don't remember who it was or whether or not they took my picture. I just remember wanting it so, so badly. We arrived at Penn State. I got off the bus and I sweaty, clumsily, dragged my too much stuff to the dorm.

But once we were there, it was time to make the bed and hang my decorations. Time to make the my half of that room. The Studio 54 of field trip lodging. I spent all day working on it actually, and when it was done, my roommate responded with arousing. Wow. That's a lot of stuff. Anyway, needless to say, we didn't party in my room that night.

I think the chaperones took us to dinner and then we walked around the campus for a while so we wouldn't get lost when we had to do it on our own in the coming days. I must admit that even though we weren't hanging out in my dorm room, my walk on the lit up streets of that campus felt like Gay Paree. I was so enchanted by my own life that I took absolutely no notice of where I was or how to get anywhere.

The competition is the next part of this story. That part's boring. I'll just hit the important notes. High point. We had colorful lanyards, low point, less time to hang out in the dorms. Anyway, it's the last day of the trip. Nobody spent any substantial time in my dorm, but that was kind of okay. I thought it looked awesome, and I loved being independent and loved the trip enough for all of its other merits.

Not to mention that when I got home, I'd still have my lavender stripe pajama of pants to wear to all the sleepovers that I'd be invited to after this amazing weekend of cultivating adult friendships. We all walked to this little campus, uh, store to get snacks for the bus. I was the last one to pay, and then I went out the wrong door.

That left me separated from the group and completely disoriented. Gay Paree was very confusing in daylight and I had absolutely no idea how to get back to the dorms. For the next hour, I became increasingly upset as I ran aimlessly around the campus. I shouldn't say run. I was and still am quite fat. I do not run.

I walk with great speed and conviction on my outturned hobbit feet. I outpaced the cruel wind that was in competition with my heartbeat to be the loudest sound I had ever heard. Tears ran down my face, my thoughts swirling, all the other kids left me, and I was so lost, and I was definitely gonna miss the bus.

And what would happen to me? Would they let me say one more night in my dorm, would I ever get home? How could they do this? How could they leave me like that? I thought we built beautiful grownup friendships. The feelings I experienced in this moment and over the next few hours are so real to me. 20 years later, just thinking about it still makes me embarrassed and flustered and frankly nauseous.

It is important to mention that this is an absolutely no way, the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me in my life, but for some reason, that world ending adolescent shame, I felt in those hours run so deep in me. To this day when I think about it, I am hit with the heat, so present that I start to sweat.

Even now, my throat starts to close and all I hear is my own heartbeat. It's actually kind of trippy how intense this phantom shame is truly wild. I cannot clearly remember any other time in my life feeling as viscerally isolated as I did on that walk. I put myself out there in every way. I knew how and it wasn't enough.

I wasn't enough. I mean, sure. I knew I wasn't enough in the present in middle school. Okay, yeah, fine. But I had just found out that I wasn't gonna be enough in the future either, and I was decimated. Finally, by some miracle, I found the dorm minutes before the bus was set to leave. I got to my room still crying, and I opened my door to find everyone who had left me standing in my beautiful dorm room.

I was stunned. For a second I didn't understand what I was seeing. Then it hit me. Since I genuinely was about to miss the bus, they were packing my things, taking down my decorations, and to my greatest horror, gathering all my dirty clothes. Everyone was finally hanging out in there, but it was without me. Because I was stupid and unwanted and got lost. And my dorm was gone. And they all saw what size my pajama pants were. And I just snapped.

"You left. Me!" I shouted.

"You couldn't wait one minute for me, and you left me and I got lost."

One of the girls who had the best Halloween slash birthday parties in the biz or so I was told, threw my pants at me and screamed back, nobody left you. You disappeared. And meanwhile I'm Here, packing all your stupid stuff for you.

You know what? I'm done. And then she stormed out. And the other is rightfully upset at getting yelled at, and visibly uncomfortable with my angry tears, followed her out. My roommate stayed though. She helped me finish packing and consoled me. I'll never forget her kindness in that moment. I made it to the bus, got on silently and rode home that way.

I got off the bus, saw my mom grab my suitcase and went home. But I didn't grab my other bag. And inside that bag that I left on the bus, never to be seen again, was the teapot comforter, and I'm sorry to say it, the lavender stripe pajama pants. I still picture them in my head. That's true. I really picture those pants in my head, well into my thirties, wondering if I hadn't left them on that bus, if I had worn them to sleepovers, would I have been enough?

Sure, sure. I'm enough now. I know that with great certainty. It just would've been nice to know that then.

[00:11:53] tonyehn: So, Simone, thank you for sharing that story. It was funny and sad at points .Heartfelt for sure. But my first question for you is, were you a proud card caring dork? Because I was so, just wanna know for the record.

[00:12:13] Simone: Well, I can't say that I was proud of anything that I was in middle school, but I was definitely a big dork.

[00:12:24] tonyehn: I can understand that. I don't think I was proud of it then, but now I'm definitely proud.

[00:12:29] Simone: Oh, for certain.

[00:12:30] tonyehn: I do find one point of your story, well, lots of points, but the first thing that really struck me is the fact that you were so interested in decorating this room, like having this Studio 54 field trips as you said.

What about the room? Was it that drew your attention so much more than the activity itself?

[00:12:53] Simone: Well, I'm just like, I'm a nester. I need to like, I'm in a space for five minutes and like I need to like rearrange it to make it like the way I want it. So that's just like an impulse that I have and I have just always dreamed of having like a space to decorate of my own kind of, and I dreamed of having a dorm. I'm, when I get to college, I'm gonna have a dorm and that dorm's gonna look really, really cool. And I would just look at magazines all the time. So then the fact that I was able to then do that, like get a little sneak peek of my future, awesome dorm, or like my future apartment or my future home, whatever, like I was, I was over the moon. That was like worth the price of admission for me, was just getting to have like my own adult space that I could make what I wanted for a weekend.

[00:13:33] tonyehn: And then I also had to wonder how long were you actually there that you prepared these,

[00:13:39] Simone: oh my god.

[00:13:40] tonyehn: Two extra bags of items to bring on the trip with you.

[00:13:43] Simone: Like 40 hours, 48 hours. Like not long at all. It was completely, it was, it was such an overblown response to like what was happening there. I'm like, I can't believe that. Like my mother wasn't like, Hey, I think maybe you have too much stuff. Like, It was, that was, there was never a question I was going to go, I was going to bring this stuff, I was going to decorate this room that I was in for a day, two nights like it was.

It made no sense. I see that now.

[00:14:11] tonyehn: It is kind of interesting that your mother didn't say, Hey Simone, what the hell are you thinking?

[00:14:17] Simone: Yeah.

[00:14:18] tonyehn: Now that I think about it, I didn't even think about that fact, but, whatever.

[00:14:23] Simone: No, she definitely let me like weird out all the time, like possibly to my own detriment. But I am grateful for it, uh, now as an adult.

[00:14:32] tonyehn: So ,also, in you story, I noticed the way that you spoke to yourself, um mm-hmm. You definitely referred to yourself as a weirdo multiple times, and I just wondered if, is that how you spoke to yourself then and was it a way of, I don't know, feeling good about your own weirdness, even though you weren't, it wasn't nice self-talk, that's for sure.

But if you claim your own weirdness, does it make you feel better about it?

[00:15:00] Simone: Um, Now it does. But then I think I, I just was like always very mean to myself when I was a kid. Just very, very mean to myself. Um, I guess it was like, you know, in the sense of like, sure I'm claimming it and that like, if I'm mean to myself first, then nobody can be mean to me.

Um, and that doesn't bother me because I know I'm like weird or whatever. But it wasn't meant to be like, make myself feel better. It was like to beat myself up. Definitely. Which like, to be fair though, if you had seen me then I wore a lot of bright green eyeshadow. I, I, you would've thought I was weird for sure.

[00:15:36] tonyehn: I'm loving it though. Like, well, nowadays I feel kids can get away with anything in the sense that, you know.

[00:15:43] Simone: Mm-hmm.

[00:15:43] tonyehn: My daughter's favorite show is Drag Race. So needless to say, she likes to wear crazy makeup.

[00:15:49] Simone: Mm-hmm.

[00:15:50] tonyehn: So also when you were lost and that sense of isolation was building, I can't help but think that that whole feeling of being lost and isolated also reflects how you were feeling in the context of that trip.

Maybe in the context of eighth grade at large. Um, but that fear wasn't just about that moment, and not that you may have recognized that then, but maybe that's part of why this particular story sticks out for you so much. What do you think?

[00:16:28] Simone: Oh, you're absolutely right. You're absolutely right. It was like every feeling of like fear and like loneliness and failure that I was experiencing at that point in my life just like came onto me like a tidal wave.

It was just like, This perfect symbolic moment for all of my like adolescent misery to just like hop onto it was like the most intense feeling I ever had. I was like scared to go to high school. I was scared I wasn't gonna have any friends. I was scared to lose my friends. Like everything was like so upsetting and I knew that I had blown it that weekend and everything was supposed to be like figured out and it, and it wasn't and it, Ugh, God.

Middle school's really hard, man. It's gross.

[00:17:11] tonyehn: Do you think that this is kind of your go-to fear feeling like, you know, as an adult now, right? Something bad happens and instead of the fear or sadness of that moment being what you replay, it's almost like you go back to your default, you know, trip to Penn State, isolation, feeling.

[00:17:35] Simone: Yeah. You know what I kinda do? I think like I, I, I'm someone who, uh, who gets lost a lot and I, I'm not kidding when I say I genuinely have absolutely no sense of direction. I never know where I'm going, and I have gotten really, like, comfortable in that place, but when I feel like I'm missing something, Like I, I, I like, I'm like just even thinking about it now, like my hands are sweating and like my stomach is like getting, like, just putting myself in that mindset of like failing and just being lost and alone.

Like it, Ugh. Ugh. It's so weird. It's like my, uh, that moment's like my horcrux or something.


[00:18:20] tonyehn: When you talk about forgetting the bag with the blanket, I couldn't help but wonder. So you get in the car after with your mom? Mm-hmm. Clearly you forgot the bag. Maybe she asks how the trip was. You say it was great, or you don't.

But then do you tell her the whole story of what happened? Or do you just let her maybe go on about the fact that you lost the blanket and never tell her the story of getting lost?

[00:18:48] Simone: I don't remember if I told her the full story. I think I like didn't want anybody to know that I was like such a pathetic dork because I did recently like tell this story.

I was like having dinner with my family and I told the story recently and it was kind of like the first time they ever heard it and we were all like laughing really hard and it was like very silly and like, like, oh, that's like a sweet story. Like, oh baby monny, that's cute, whatever. But I don't remember that.

But I do remember like the next day like. Calling the her, like having me call the bus company to see if I could like get the bag back. And they, they like, we don't know where that is. I think we thought that was trash, like whatever. I remember her trying to help me get the bag back, but I don't, I do not think that I told her the full story about the weekend.

I didn't.

[00:19:35] tonyehn: Yeah, I asked primarily because, The way you told the story, there was also shame attached to the fact that you had gotten lost. Right. And after having dealt with your own moment of insecurity, sadness, shame, isolation, I was just curious to know if you would relive that, would someone else, or keep it to yourself, because I know even when I was young, there were things that happened that I definitely kept to myself because, well, a, who wants to relive miserable periods, we can beat ourselves over head enough without sharing it with someone else. Um, but there were certain times where I felt I could share something and I would get empathy from my mother.

And there were other times when I knew she'd be a little bit like, well, why the hell didn't you pay attention to the directions and why did you lose your friends? And I would end up feeling worse rather than feeling better.

[00:20:32] Simone: Um, I don't think I was like nervous about her reaction. I just was and still am so embarrassed about the whole thing. Like I just could, I just couldn't imagine telling anyone that story, feeling as embarrassed and, and absolutely ridiculous as I did coming home from that trip.

[00:20:54] tonyehn: Well...

[00:20:54] Simone: and I think like that's part of it too. I think just like shoving it down, being like never tell anybody like how embarrassed you were. Like then, like planted a nice little seed of embarrassment that like gets watered every time I get embarrassed or something. You know what I mean? Like I think it, I think it like really dug in there nicely having like not if I had just told somebody instantly, I probably would've like laughed it off and been like, oh my gosh, you goon, like, what were you thinking?

But like right.

[00:21:17] tonyehn: Well, I'm hoping that in telling the story here, hopefully you're giving that plant away or killing it, whichever way you like to look at it. Um, but I'm also glad that you have kind of, you know, named yourself the person that gets lost and you're comfortable in that position. And I thank you for sharing your story with us.

[00:21:39] Simone: Thank you for having me on. This was so much fun.

[00:21:41] tonyehn: Thanks.

This podcast can only grow with your support. We love bringing these stories to you and we'll continue to do so as long as we can. If you've enjoyed your time with us, please take a few moments to like follow, review, and share this podcast wherever you're listening. A few moments of your time can ensure we'll maintain this podcast for yet another season.

And on a personal note, I'd like to send a big shout-out and thank you to my brother DJ Williams for creating the music for this podcast. Until next time, listeners, remember to breathe and make time for stories, yours and others.


Life And Show Logo_Season 3_1400x1400.png

Thank you for listening!

This podcast is made possible by the combined efforts of the Northeast Counties Medical Society (NEPAMS), Scranton Fringe, and Park Multimedia. 

To learn more about NEPAMS and the work they do in the community, click below.

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Spotify
bottom of page