I was stunned, too stunned to ask her for any explanation. I crawled into my shell and swore it didn't matter.
I felt like a child in school, the one not invited to play.
I know I did my job well. No one could question my work ethic. I was treated with respect in the workplace, even so, I heard her words echo through the halls.
Time marched on, and I left that job behind. The words tagged along with me. They troubled me. What made me different? The woman's face haunted me. Late at night when I couldn't sleep, I ruminated on the words. I thought about them for years without resolution.
Then, one evening during a book club meeting, I heard some similar words. As authors were being discussed, one person chimed in with "writers, in general, are different". I agreed.
My mind went backward in time. I once again heard "You're not like us", but this time with new ears. This time I did not feel excluded. I felt defined. I realized the woman from my old job never meant to criticize. I should have interpreted her comment as a compliment, rather than as an insult.
I don't have to be like everyone else. It's the differences that make the difference. I'm a writer because I'm different. I'm different because I'm a writer.
All that time ago, I don't know what compelled my co-worker to make the statement that troubled me for years, but it doesn't matter.
I'm so over it.