Hi. It really is very nice to meet you, by the way. Having said that, though, I want to backpedal so you understand I really mean that, even if it seems to be untrue, and even if you didn’t even particularly need me to explain further. And that means a little back-in-time, hand-wiggling-and-blurred-screens until we find ourselves in, like, 1979, at a small-town piano recital. The curtain opened to reveal the pianist, but instead, the audience of parents found an empty bench. The pupil was, instead, hiding under the piano. There was no sitting at attention straight-backed, small fingers poised over the keys, even though she had practiced like, a lot.
From the time I was a little girl, I hated attention.
But also, I loved it.
This was very confusing. From hiding at my own birthday party or behind the risers during a community theater production, to relentlessly running for student council and chairing the spirit committee in both middle and high schools, I was a mixed bag. Reading helped me escape conversation until middle school, when I realized that 1) people had friends aside from family members and 2) those people weren’t me.
I dreaded parties and girl talk. I killed every bit or conversation by blurting out something far too late or muttering something and then yelling it when asked to repeat myself. I was really tall and had broad shoulders, fine hair permed to death, braces, and a mother who forbade makeup ’til high school, so right out of the gate I was veering off the track with a (feigned) leg injury.
That being said, I felt fine. I played sports, which gave me enough confidence to throw myself into the competition. Meekly, often (I never fouled out of a basketball game, unlike my dad, nor was I thrown out, also unlike him), but I held my own.
A throwaway comment from a dumb boy in eighth grade Home Ec was the first time I sharply felt less-than. After that, I began the steady inner dialogue that plagues many of us:
While I didn’t write this to tell you all about myself, I also kind of did. You see, through all of it – my crippling shyness, my rich imagination that enabled me to be a person of great confidence with an incredible singing voice, and my failure to speak up even when I really, really wanted to – I was learning. I touched on the importance of remembering the wins last week, and that certainly applies here. There is not anything I would take back or change about my childhood, because it made me who I am today.*
*Wait. I’m not quite there yet. Edit: it made me who I am today, and who I am today is doing incredibly well.
Not in the ways of financial freedom, or in the ways of aesthetically-pleasing office space, or in the ways of knowing how to get to where I want to be, but in the ways of having grown up enough, having learned enough in my decades, to know that I can breathe through the bad times. That I can see the light at the end of the tunnel like, all of the time, in spite of it being a really long and really dark tunnel. That I can recognize when I’m wrong, and learn from the tortured pie-chart times, when I wondered why I had to be the way I was.
And I think, in that, we’re all the same. Whether you were the kid who sat up at the piano bench and tore into your recital piece with a flourish, or the one who didn’t have lessons. Whether you did have an incredible singing voice and looked great in every bridesmaid dress, or couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and swore off dressing up or participating in ANY kind of pomp and circumstance. No matter where on the spectrum of Confidence vs. Fear you fall, you’re doing better than you were.
If you don’t believe me, at least indulge me. Grant yourself the gift of one minute of time. Sit down (or lie down), close your eyes, and think about a time in your life when you felt like you were rock-bottom. And I mean, REALLY think about it. Don’t just start with “right NOW, stupid. You don’t know me. You don’t know my life.”
Don’t define yourself by your current circumstances, either. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all struggling a bit this year.
Define yourself by your thought patterns, by the way your wild heart beats when it thinks of what or whom you love, when you think of something you’ve achieved that Past You could have never even conceived, much less attempted. Define yourself by the way you react now to something that seemed like the worst thing imaginable then.
When your minute is up, it’d be really great if you could tack on another, say, 15 seconds (I’m not a monster, god). In that 15 seconds, repeat this to yourself:
Just kidding! (But the sentiment stands.)
Seriously, though, whisper the below statement. And then, even if the tears come hot and fast to sting your eyelids when you whisper it – freakin’ out of nowhere – repeat it again.
No matter who we are, and no matter who we were, we have it within ourselves to do hard things. To achieve previously-unimaginable obstacles.
And if you don’t believe you can, contact me. I’m happy to tell you that you’re wrong. Because I wouldn’t say it’s very nice to meet you if I didn’t mean it.