“If enough people tell someone over and over that he is no okay, he will believe it. And one way or another, he will die.” ~Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry on Woman Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed
I have spent the greater balance of my life trying to figure out how to be someone--anyone--other than simply myself. If I were just: thinner, smarter, nicer, more focused or more clever; more athletic, graceful, or edgier and creative; more feminine and less intimidating; more like her, less like me. Ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
I’m not entirely sure where this idea that I must do anything within my power to not be me was sown. I was absolutely compared to my older brother, but I also remember being set apart from him, as well. I didn’t need this attention or that extra help because I didn’t have learning disorders like he had. But the comparison ultimately evolved into a “one-size-fits-both” approach to what I should be pursuing rather than looking at the convergence of what I like and what I’m good at and where to go from there.
I was also the subject of much concern. Everyone in my family was worried that I was too big and thought that my mom needed to do everything within her power to make sure I was made smaller. And I’m over there thinking how special it was to be the second tallest girl in my entire grade! But they didn’t see tall and active and strong; they saw fat and future misery. I have come to hate looking at my childhood pictures because the imagery simply does not match the narrative.
The summer between 9th and 10th grades, I went back to visit relatives in Chicago and got to stay with my childhood bestie and her family. The old neighborhood even pulled together its annual block party while I was with them and other former neighbors made appearances as well.
I remember talking to the man who had lived next door to my friend for a few years and he admitted that he could not stand the likes of me back then. He thought I was a brat and he didn’t want me hanging around with the good kids that lived next door. He was relieved to find out that I had turned out so well.
But how dare I be this little blonde something who acted like she was comfortable in her skin enough to strut around her own neighborhood like she belonged there!
So here I sit on the edge of 40 and don’t really know who the fuck I am. Or if whoever I have become is really me. I question so many of the decisions I’ve made that got me to this point, wondering if I made it for me or for this bullshit alter-ego I’ve tried to create.
And it is terrifying.