Updated: Apr 21
I was re-telling some stories from my high school days today, and had a moment of introspection about the climb towards fulfilling our potential.
But before I get into that, I'd like to reminisce about an uncomfortable moment in my life that will place things into a different perspective. a female perspective.
To live, is to be in chaos. (thanks Jordan Peterson for this description) And I say that girls are made aware of this chaotic state at an early age often through the blurry lens of unwanted attention. Becoming conscientious of the world this way leaves a mark, a ripple effect in our sense of self, self worth, and confidence.
The birth of a thousand contradictions in single moment:
When I was 13-14, I was at a family pool party wearing a one piece bathing suit. A MARRIED dude (not a relative) must have been looking at me a little too long, and a little too inappropriately because his wife (also not a relative) got pissed and started a fight with him. Neither of them knew my age, and in that moment I didn't know the fight was about me. I found out about an hour later while I was watching a movie with my cousins, when my mom approached me to ask if there had been flirting going on between us. She wasn't accusing me, she needed to make sure he wasn't a full on creeper. But I had barely even noticed him, so I brushed it off and went back to watching the movie. Needless to say the couple left the party angry, and I didn't leave my cousins room until it was time to go home.
I've always gotten attention:
Let me flesh that out a bit. A big chunk of the sense of self worth in a little girls' life is attached to her physical appearance. You can try to be an intellectual about it, but it is what it is. I was a cute kid, not so cute as a pre-teen, but blossomed in my teenage years. (And questionable now in my old age lol.) And being a girl is tricky because you are still too young to think of yourself beyond your current obsession with sailor moon and her shiny transformation pen. So when you're busy watching a Pokemon movie with with your pre-teen cousins and your mom walks in to ask you about a married adult man.... you're just NOT ready for it. A certain awareness does suddenly takes hold though, and you notice the energy shift from 'she's adorable' to weighty stares that don't always feel particularly welcoming.
Anyways, with this framework in mind I regress to the topic of potential. So again, I've always gotten attention. First to compliment the way I looked, then because I was shy and therefore somewhat polite to which my parents would proudly add: AND SHE READS! like the cherry on top of a delicious but carefully crafted socially awkward flavored ice cream.
And I get that all girls have very different experiences, but this was mine mmk?
So in school, and in the hobbies I would take up I always felt people watching me. Here are a few examples:
I used to like to draw in middle school (A bunch of anime characters, naturally) when a family friend noticed and by her suggestion helped me submit an entry to be part of this mural that was to tour certain museums in the U.S. I ended up being on the news for it, was then hand picked to have dinner with the artists behind the movement (something to do with empowering the youth) and was then asked to be part of a documentary where I strongly stated: We need to punch whomever is responsible for 911.
I got voted into student government in high school, mostly without asking for it (I mean I could have declined). The instructor chose the students eligible by writing names on the board and then asked everyone to put their heads down and raise their hands after she read each name out loud. Once she went through all the names and counted hands raised as votes, I won the election!
Who the fuck voted for me? I'm pretty sure I only spoke to two people in that class!
My personal favorite: I would get into AP and honor classes in high school without the grades for them. It happened about three times. My teachers simply stating: 'You have so much potential' while signing off on their approval letter for my next term.
Dancing has always come easy to me so when I turned my attention fully to ballet, although I was older than most of the girls in the dance school, within a year I was getting compliments and reinforcement of the 'potential' of my talent and had a fancy scholarship to pay for my dance education.
So here is what happened next:
I stopped drawing after that mural, I got kicked out of student government because of a week long suspension from school (that i'll talk about another day), I didn't pass a single AP test and c'd my way through the rest, and by 18 I basically stopped going to ballet class and ended up losing my scholarship.
I hated this 'potential' people could see in me, and it terrified the shit out of me that I wasn't going to be able to meet it.
on another similar but unrelated incident:
I worked at this call center for about six months when I got this comment in a forceful tone that was definitely not meant to be a compliment : You don't look like you belong here. You're too cute for it.
WHAT THE FUCK DID THAT MEAN?!!!
But anyways, I'm older now and looking back I think it took me a while to step into my own. To feel deserving of both the attention I've gotten and to push myself to actually see my talents improve.
Also I know I sound really ungrateful, but hopefully you were also able to pick up on the more predominant and crippling insecurity.
Unlearning, Unlearning. Unlearning. That's my motto now days.
Go check my other posts for other brain rants.