The excitement hung thick in the air, a palpable nervous energy ripe with potential. My colleagues were eagerly waiting for our presentation. As we watched the other conference attendees buzz by, we alternated between chatting about “Game of Thrones” and sharing public speaking tips.
Our coordinator burst through the door and began handing out badges.
“Here you go, Ashley… Nick… Jason… Charlene…”
He went around the room in a frantic pace until his hands were free of the badges. As my colleagues adorned their badges, I felt a recognizable sense of emptiness.
“We all set?” he asked.
“Um, I didn’t get a badge,” I said, raising my hand as though in middle school.
“Oh! Oh? Oh…”
It was a familiar set of utterances. I realized the truth before he did.
“I’m so sorry, Rachel, I must have forgotten yours.”
As it turned out, he hadn’t even registered me for the conference. We had to convince the event organizers to grant me admission.
Sadly, this was not unfamiliar to me. Throughout my life, I’d been the forgotten one. The patient left ignored in the waiting room. The coworker who didn’t get their name listed on the office birthday board. The friend forgotten from the guest list. It’s not that I wasn’t welcome in these spaces. Whenever the person realized their mistake, they said the same thing:
“Oh my gosh, Rachel, I’m so sorry! I just totally forgot about you.”
If this happens once or twice, fine. Mistakes happen. But after decades with multiple such forgettings, I’ve realized a sobering truth:
For most of my life, I’ve been invisible.
It’s ironic to write this on Medium, but honestly, I’ve gained more acknowledgment from strangers than from people who actually know me. I can’t help but wonder if I’m wearing some sort of invisibility cloak in real life.
In one early episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Buffy’s classmate Marcie feels so ignored at school that she literally turns invisible. As the teacher ignores her raised hand again and again, Marcie lowers her arm only to realize it’s fading from reality.