Something that you should know about me is that I believe in friendly ghosts. Not only do I believe in friendly ghosts, I live with one of them.
The ghost I currently live with is one of the best ghosts I have lived with. He lives in the back of the house and almost never goes downstairs. He doesn’t make too much noise but loves to make noise late at night just so he can annoy my dog. He likes to take the scissors we leave upstairs and hides them so it takes forever to find them or we end up giving up and grabbing another pair downstairs. I also have a sneaking suspicion he’s the reason we can never find the light bulbs. He’s not malicious or violent, mischievous, sure, but not malevolent. He’s a friendly ghost.
My belief started when I was young, when my mom told my sister and I stories about living in Pennsylvania. She and her family lived in an old house and she was lucky enough to have her own room. In this room was a closet where her own ghost lived. He would mess with her clothes and moved her toys. Oddly enough, when she was telling us this story, she never used the word friendly. When I asked her about it, she said she wouldn’t use ‘friendly’ to describe him only that she didn’t feel afraid to live with him. This confused me.
He never made a move to hurt her and his actions were more teasing and playful than anything. He pretty much did things that we would do to our friends or siblings in friendly jest. But she wouldn’t call him even friendly. So, in my eight-year-old self-wisdom, I decided to befriend any and all ghosts that I met.
Of course, as I got older, I met fewer ghosts and more people. I met people that were labeled weird and odd and an assortment of names with negative undertones by my other classmates. They sat in the corners and backs of classrooms, seemingly invisible to everyone else. That’s when I decided there were ghosts among the living too.
Both types of ghosts are invisible to most people. They do things like move scissors and make odd jokes in the hope to be seen. One of my favorite artists, Amanda Palmer, explains this very well. She says, “There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen…. One is exhibitionism, the other is connection. Not everybody wants to be looked at. Everybody wants to be seen.” The ghosts that sit in the back of classrooms don’t necessarily want to be the center of attention or have everybody look at them, they want someone to see them and make a connection with them.
Sometimes, I am this type of ghost. I don’t naturally get along with people and usually end up sitting to the side and listening to a conversation instead of participating in it. My social anxiety makes it hard to be in the middle of a group of people and talk to them. But I still long to have proper relationships with others. Luckily, I found friends that’ll drag me (even kicking and screaming) into participating. They will ask me for my opinion and how I am doing. They make me feel visible and valued.
Through them and others, I learned how to approach someone and start a conversation. It’s still hard sometimes and on occasion I feel tired afterwards but some of the weight on my shoulders has lifted. I feel more seen than I used to.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m much better at befriending actual ghosts than other people, but I also know how powerful a single ‘hello’ is. Sometimes it’s even enough to just sit next to someone in silence, being ghosts together, making us feel more human.