The past 5 or 6 years have included a lot of growing pains. This is, obviously, normal. Law school, marriage, and entering parenthood are all significant transitions. As my three year old can tell you, transitions are hard. In the haze of these growing pains facades are not manageable. I ran out of time to be anything but authentically myself. What a stroke of luck that was.
I think the first time I realized I wanted to be cool, but that I wasn’t, was when I was around 11. I was overweight (the horror!), I dressed too brightly, I talked too loudly, I unpretentiously memorized Shakespearean sonnets, I built erector set vehicles, and I was weird. In reflection, I was fucking awesome. Unfortunately, other 11 year olds didn’t uniformly agree. To be clear, I was not bullied. Of course the re were unpleasant moments – the quintessential junior high and high school stuff – but I was never the repeat target of unkind behavior. I had friends, who also thought I was weird, but seemed to like me anyway. So, it’s disappointing that at the age of about 11, I started to try to cage my songbird.
I was desperate to be cool. It was a slow build through my teens and twenties. This effort to be cool ranged from being a total poser about certain bands or activities, to trying so hard to be a girl who could dance, to mostly harmless recreational drug use, to smoking (which I still hate and miss dearly), to lying about having certain experiences, to sometimes being unkind to people didn’t deserve it. These behaviors are not entirely unique, but in sum, I was the “trying too hard” girl.
This started to taper off in my early twenties – largely because I met my husband who loved me so deeply (and didn’t buy my bull shit) that my confidence grew. Of course though, these habits still pop up. Everyone wants to be liked, but by-and-large I lead with my true self these days.
As the intense desire to impress others diminished the need to figure out my “new normal” grew – and there she was. Me at 10, before the media and the pressure got to me. Before I knew there was a difference between cool and uncool. She is still here, that young girl: fearless, confident, full of wonder and desperate to share her enthusiasm with anyone who will listen.
She does not worry if she’s smart enough. She knows she’s smart enough and that if she doesn’t get something right away it’s OK. She’ll learn. She loves to learn.
She sees her body as tool to accomplish her goals, not as an indicator of her worth.
She knows how to be kind.
She helps other people, even when she doesn’t feel like it.
She listens to her mother because age and experience do count for something.
She gets crazy haircuts.
She wears mismatched head scarves.
She has fun.
I lost her for 20 years, but she was there the whole time.