I can't say that December has been the kindest of months to me. It's incredible how very happy and very sad I've been, often at the same time. Often I put on a good face and tell people things are going fine, that I'm good, that everything is just great, even when I feel the opposite. Maybe it's because I don't want to clutter up people's times with my troubles or maybe it's because it's easier to pretend to be okay than to have people worry about me and how I'm doing. This of course causes other problems - when I am upset, it seems very out of character and I worry about people knowing that I conceal it, afraid that people will thinking I'm a fake or not honest. I've often felt as over-reactive and so I've learned to try and quell it down instead of showing how truly thin-skinned and reactive I can be.
I am also abundantly self-aware that every section in this post begins with "I" and I cringe at it. It all seems so me-focused and selfish. Who cares that I'm dragging along a gaggle of emotional baggage and feel a little more clouds and less sun? But denying my right to feel these emotions is partly what got me into this mess to begin with, this attempt to pretend that everything is okay when maybe it's not. I don't like to talk about my problems because there are people who have it much worse than me and they need their voices heard far more. Yet when I start to apply this to all aspects of my life, I feel I'm cutting myself off from other people or from truly understanding some aspect of myself. It then feeds into a vicious cycle of thinking that I only want to talk about my problems because I want to talk about myself and I'm selfish and love to victimize my life and am terrible, wretched creature. I demonize myself, which only feeds into the problems, which makes me simultaneously try and repress and yet yearn to discuss all the more. You see the issue.
Often I wonder what seed is planted in the subconscious to make some people so doubtful, so self-critical of themselves, so certain that there is something wrong with them. Are we born that way or is it thrust upon us? I don't know. It seems like I've always been this way. I remember writing in a journal for fourth grade, in an entry where we were supposed to talk to Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street about our faults and short-comings (or whatever the fourth grade equivalents to that are). I eventually divulged in this very long entry (which I still have, somewhere) about how this voice appeared in my head, telling me to do terrible things or saying terrible things about people. I made it out to be a very literal devil on the shoulder but it was less like that, more of me realizing that, no matter how much the little Catholic school girl I was yearned for it, I would never be a saint. I had terrible thoughts appearing in my head and there was nothing I could do about it. I was not a perfect person. I was angry at my teacher. I hated some of my classmates for their cruelty and their ease at attaining things I would never gain. I wanted to skip class and run away but was too afraid to do so and had no where to run. The only thing I'd ever seen as mattering - being a saint - was utterly unobtainable and the only other option left for me was to be a monster. But it didn't entirely start here. This is when it manifested itself more clearly, because I wrote about it, but I'd often felt like a problem. Ever since Jordan the blonde-headed boy I can perhaps label as my first crush ratted on me to my pre-school teacher for stealing clay did I begin to ruminate on my flaws and feel there was something wrong with me.
The point isn't how I began to feel this way, but that I do, and others don't. It's left me struggling to act confidently and to believe in myself for many, many years. This year though, for the first time in my life, I felt like things were changing. I graduated from college, I got a job (even if it wasn't the job I had imagined for myself), I had a career path, changed it, and found one more suitable for me. I felt stronger, better, happier. Sure, I had some mishaps, but I pulled myself through them.
Then there was a moment at Globe University when this woman, Carol, said something to me that has continued to echo through my mind. Carol was the most amazing person I met at Globe. She's animal rights activist who's in her sixties (should have just turned 64, I believe) and gone back to school so she can get a degree in activism. She went to the University of Minnesota during the protests of the 60s and majored in theater and Russian. She developed a drug habit and worked as a prostitute (not necessarily in that order, but she did seem to allude to link between the two) and dealt with arrests and prosecutions multiple times. And yet here she was, pulling herself through school despite health problems and a lot of emotional turmoil in her life. I really like Carol and she's one of a few people I truly miss from Globe. Sometimes she'd be a bit inappropriate or say something crass in class, but I admired her forthrightness and fortitude of opinion. Yet she thought so little of herself when speaking about her abilities. Before class one day, she was talking about how nervous she was for a mock interview (being the interviewer rather than the interviewee) we had to do in another class. She turned to me and asked how I felt about it. I shrugged and said it was okay. She couldn't believed I wasn't concerned and asked if I was nervous about it. I said no. She looked at me, aghast. "Where do you get your confidence from?" she cried. I blushed and shrugged, saying I didn't know, but that I'd done other job interviews recently and it was nice to be on the other side of the table for once.
That was the first time I can ever remember someone describing me as confident. A woman who has no problem expressing herself verbally, who can argue animal rights all day, thought I was confident because I wasn't nervous about a simulated interview. It occurred to me that confidence comes in different forms and it was a pity that she could see mine so strongly and not her own, while I'd been oblivious to mine.
I of course then made the fatal mistake - I became too over-confident. I started believing I could do anything. I walked with a certain bravado. I felt utterly self-certain and elated with myself. It didn't last. Cracks formed and my ground of certainty was shaken. It crumbled and I fell through. I'm still trying to regain my footing, trying to put on a brave face. But all that bravado felt like a masquerade, not the real thing. I can't see that confidence Carol thought I had.
I made the mistake of reading a few sections of my old high school diaries over Christmas. I found them embarrassing at the time, even more so now. I was so concerned with the most miniscule of things, but world was smaller then. However, that isn't what bothered me. What truly bothered me was how much I still sound like high school me, how my voice still sounds the same. I'd like to think I've left high school me behind - I didn't like her very much. I'd like to think I've left her behind precisely because I didn't like her at the time and I caused myself a lot of emo self-hating misery. Long have I tried to embrace the fact that I will always be high school me in some respects and that it's important to remember when I came from. But that's little help when your very mind and body feels monstrous.
What causes people to hate themselves when others feel far less negativity? Where does it come from? How is it born and/or bred? This time of year always makes me a bit nostalgic for childhood, especially here recently because I'm recalling my deep, deep love for Peter Pan and my long suffering empathy and appreciation for Captain Hook. I like to think of my childhood as a time before I felt all this darkness, all this personal dislike, but I'm not entirely sure that was the case. Sure, there was less of it, but I remember feeling particularly crummy about myself around six or seven. It starts young. How? Why?
And so it's the end of another year and I look back at all that's occurred. 2013 was a particularly wondrous year, full of excitement and new beginnings. But it was also a rough, full of mistakes and mishaps and ends. As much as I love change, I also fear it - whenever I gain something, I also lose something in the process. And I'm afraid to see what else I will lose.
This has been a post I've gone back and forth between writing but never actually have. I'm just going to publish it, in the hopes that getting it off my chest will allow me get back to regular blogging. To end, I'm sharing go-to song for the past few weeks. I have developed a love for Bastille and this song's lyrics really resound with me after some crazy things happened this December. While I've struggled to be an optimist about things, I believe that I can still be and that at least if I've been here before, I know the territory - and I know I can get through it.
So with this, a very happy New Year to you all. May 2014 be warm and bright and good.