Sunday, January 15, 2017

Your youest you

Today's me has thought many things: how do I be my muchiest self? How can I be true to myself? How do I live purposefully? What shall I do with my untaken time today?

Maybe I shall take it.

I could have one of my least favorite kinds of days (I've been thinking of them as "purgatory days" lately)... A day where I actually have hours to myself and I think "the possibilities are endless!!" and I spend it watching things I've already watched, eating things I've eaten before, thinking "I'll get around to it" when it comes to laundry and homework and dishes and letting them haunt me throughout the day. I end those days most of the time hearing Scarlett O'Hara's voice say "tomorrow is another day," but I ain't Scarlett. Nope nope nope. I am not living her life. 

Am I living mine?


As I forced myself to do motivated things, gathered my hair into a messy ponytail, and began throwing laundry into the washing machine, I thought "were I writing myself as a character aboard a sinking ship, what would I write? Would I write a person who found a corner and waited in misery for the end? Or would I write someone who made herself as useful as she could, helping others, and fighting for survival? I know I would idealize myself and write the latter. Absolutely, I would.

So why not write myself that way every day? Why not do things? My happiest times have been my most motivated times (even as a kid, when what I was motivated to do was go outside and climb an enormous tree in my family's backyard and look around at all I could see and wonder about what life is). When I do something because I want to, when I get the things done that I know I need to, when I do these things in a manner that allows me to take care of myself at the end of the day, I am my happiest self.

I had the unique opportunity to portray myself recently, in a play. I don't mean that I played a character similar to me. I mean, I played myself. My name was used, clothing similar to my own was worn, a hairstyle the designer saw me wear in class one day became my designated hairstyle. Of course, this "self" I played was not my truest self, but that in and of itself gave me so much to ponder. Would any portrayal of myself be completely true? I'm playing "myself" all the time, and even I think I'm doing it wrong sometimes.
Why did I need to gather my hair into a ponytail in order to start doing chores today? No real good reason. I've seen people do it, and I wanted to be such a people. No one was watching, but it was a performance, in a way. I was performing myself for myself. My favorite idea of myself in that moment, anyway.

Years ago, a sister of mine read "Tuesdays With Morrie," and in my opinion, misinterpreted its meaning terribly. My interpretation of her interpretation was that one should do whatever they feel, whenever they feel it, and the chips will fall where they may, but one must be selfish in order to be true.
I read the book and did not glean such a message from it, but her interpretation (or my interpretation of her interpretation) shook me. I did not like it.
The reason I bring this up is that I do believe we should practice self-care. But I also firmly believe that we should all take care of one another, also. BUT we can't truly take care of others if we are not capable of doing so because we aren't taking good enough care of ourselves first.
About a month ago, a beloved professor of mine called me out on my tendency to go against the metaphorical flight attendant instructions of placing the gas mask over my own face before helping my neighbor with theirs. This professor was one of the writers of this other version of "myself" that I played a few months ago, and while calling me out on my disobedience to metaphorical flight attendants, also said "you always say that you were playing this wussy version of yourself, but I never hear you step up and take leadership."
Certainly not my most favorite pill to swallow, but she is correct.
That version of myself is/was an idea. Every day the way that I portray myself is perhaps another (maybe similar, maybe not) idea. It is super rare that I perform "myself" with a real purpose, though. And whyever not? 
Does it make me completely false if I determine at a day's beginning who I'll be that day?
Are my choices true if their motivators are pre-conceived?
But where I'm the one who would be choosing the motivators/goals/purposes for the day, does that refute the previous questions?
How do you be your youest self?
Who am I living for?
Why do I choose what I choose?


Oh, the ponders.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Who even am I?

One of the most significant things I've learned in my relatively short life is this: the answer to the question "who am I?" is ever-changing.

As has been said by someone far more brilliant than I: "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his lifetime shall play many parts." Or something like that (I could look it up, I really could, but I'm trying to hurry because I'm probably going to a concert that my dear friend is singing in even though I'm already in my pajamas due to the fact that tomorrow will be my third consecutive 5am shift during my first week back for my last semester of college and all I want to do is sleep for 500 years. I really love that friend).

I'm just a'ponderin' these days, quite a bit. Like, who am I?
But seriously.
And the answer is never exactly the same.

I have been: a Mormon engaged to be married to her first boyfriend at age 20, a weed-smoking/shoplifting/smartmouthed 14-year-old who wanted nothing more than the label "BADASS" stamped on her persona (guys...that was never going to happen), a kid afraid to tell her teachers for a good month or two into school years that she went by a nickname and was rarely ever called by her full name, a successful pediatric dental assistant dreaming of becoming a dental hygienist one day with her own fantastic office, a kid who abandoned her regular group of friends for a year in order to hang out every day with a group of girls who played "vampires" at recess (admittedly, one of my happiest times, if I'm recalling my life correctly), the fourth child (out of five) whose primary identifier was the fact that she was most likely to be playing in a corner with a doll while the other four were cartwheeling in the other room, a Mormon married to not her first boyfriend and constantly seeking artistic outlets with him, a pretty much ex-Mormon who went back to college full-time in order to get a degree in Musical Theatre.
Among many other things.

I am still working on that Musical Theatre degree, that one is something that I have been/still am. I'm so close, and feel so ready to quit. That is much of what has me pondering who I am currently. There have been much more motivated me's along the way. Me currently is feeling all tied up. Much of my current situation is not/was not my very first choice in all the discussions and compromises that led me here. Now, I've been incredibly blessed in the program I'm a part of. The faculty is teeming with fantastic mentors. So many of the students there are people I would love to work with/keep in contact with for all my life.
But that's the thing, my experience is different from theirs. I'm fairly positive that, one day, once we're all graduated and moved on from where we are, they're going to matter to me so much more than I do to them. I'm near thirty, most of them are almost or barely past twenty. They will move so far past these experiences, and who knows who they'll be when they're nearer to my age? My age difference makes me an outsider, and (though sometimes I actually love that fact) that's a struggle for me. Knowing that I'll be saying goodbye to so much so soon makes me wonder what I'll be remembered for, and I don't have a clue what it could be. It's ironic that I've spent so much of my life trying to be unobtrusive, but then hurt that people know nothing about me.

As the musical First Date puts it, "I go building up walls, yet I wish to be found."

It's terrifying to leave and to feel as though it won't matter. The people who shaped my life (aside from my immediate family) at age 20 are no longer a part of it. I hate thinking that these people who have changed me and taught me so much will see me as a part of that area of life. Maybe they won't. Maybe I'll come back and read this only to slap myself on the forehead 10 times over for how ridiculous I'm sounding.
I do want to clarify that I know these friends love me. I know that I "belong here" to so many of them right now. But one day I won't be someone that they rely on or think of on a daily/weekly basis anymore. And it feels silly to want them to, because I am so much older. Shouldn't it not matter to me? Most of these people were born when I was 10 years old or so. I'm closer in age to some of my professors than I am to most of my "peers" (which is kinda embarrassing - 'cause that brings up the question of what on earth I've been doing with my life all this time).

I'm not sure who/what I am, and often I'm kinda at peace with that notion, but I'm currently struggling a great deal with it. I need a Narnia. I need some other world to escape to for a while, but to reappear after learning a million things to discover that I've only been gone five minutes. Too many thoughts, too little strength, too much to do, too little time. So many answers that I wish were easy to find, and yet I feel like I've never stopped asking most of them from the moment that they first occured to me. And I'm sure I'm not alone. There must be others who feel exactly so many of the things that I feel. I'm just not particularly adept at reaching out. Sakes. Gotta go. If I'm going to this concert, I'm going to have to pretty up a bit.

So, hopefully that's an answer to who/what I am right now: a good friend. Whatever it will mean in future years. I guess being remembered well is all most of us really can ask for.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Prettier than"

I have always enjoyed the look of silver more than gold. I think gold is lovely (as is bronze), but silver has always been my favorite.

I nearly began this with "I have always been of the opinion that silver is prettier than gold," but "prettier than" is a tricky little thing. "Prettier than" is in the eye of the beholder, and can be sort of mean. I spent a lot of my super-young years obsessing over "pretty" and "prettier than," and it isn't a very nice thing to think about. I am one of the youngest in a semi-large family, and I compared myself to my elder sisters and younger sister far too often as a kid/teenager.
Once, at around age 12, while bemoaning my lack of "prettier than" quality out loud, a particular beau of a particular elder sister even told me once, "----- is beautiful, ----- is pretty, and you're cute. When you're a little older, you'll be pretty, and when you're a little older than that, you'll be beautiful." So in my mind I accepted my current appearance because it wasn't my turn to be "prettier than" yet.
It's a little odd, and maybe it didn't happen as often as I remember it... But people around me (people at church, elder relatives, friends of siblings, etc.) had a pesky habit of telling me how beautiful and talented my older sisters were. "It's not my turn yet..." I'd tell myself. But then when I seemed to be the correct age for it to be my turn, people started telling me all about my little sister! I was shook. I was supposed to be the "prettier than"/"more talented than"/"special-er than" one! But, no. Nope. Not my turn... And maybe never my turn?

It was such a silly thing, and so much stress over utter ridiculousness. Why on earth did I care? And it didn't help a ton that my best friends growing up tended to be many/all of the following: skinny, witty, competetive, talented, and beautiful. (And occasionally mean, depending on the "era," as it were). I felt awkward among them because I was a curvy, people-pleasing, shy and insecure kid. I decided making people laugh was my only chance at being likeable (since being deemed "pretty" and "talented" by my peers seeemed to be so simultaneously important and impossible for me). I had decent experience being funny-ish, after years of trying to make my older brother and my younger sister laugh. And in my adolescent years, being the funny, "smart-ass" (pardon my French) friend, as I was often referred to, suited me well. Different expectations are placed upon the "smart-ass." I wasn't pressured in the same way that other friends of mine were. I could fly under the radar among the bustling crowd. I accepted the "Chanel 5"/"Chanel 3" position. (Have you seen Scream Queens?! I've only seen the first season, but oh man... It's entertaining. And it also calls attention to the nonsense of popularity/beauty/competition over shallow things). I've never been a Chanel or a Chanel 2. Or, if Scream Queens references aren't your jam, maybe Mean Girls? I accepted the "always a Karen/Gretchen, never a Regina" position.

Honestly, thank goodness my family moved to Utah when we did. Having grown up primarily in Alaska, I was thrown into a completely different cultural standard by moving to such a different place. The people surrounding me now were generally kind-ish, but sort of not? (Utah is lovely in many ways, but several people here operate in a very back-handed and passive-aggressive nature. Adjusting to a High School environment packed with that at 16 was far from a joy). My humor was too mean for these people to handle. I did not look like I had any older siblings who worked as beauticians. I was not tan, nor bleached, nor did my hair resemble in any way alien Britney's 'do in the "Oops I Did It Again" music video. I thought the term "sloughing school" was stupid. I thought the term "what the crap?" was stupid. I thought seminary buildings next door to high school buildings was a little much. I started to resemble Katerina Stratford from "10 Things I Hate About You" (especially once my little sister began to thrive in her middle school environment and began resembling Bianca Stratford - it was too perfect). That jolting move to a new state robbed me of my comfort zone of powerful friends who already accepted me and thought I was funny. Now I was just a blank canvas who couldn't hide the insecurity and awkwardness I felt so plagued by. I blanched and basically just started glaring at people a lot and never took my coat off. My little sister told me once that she'd been hanging out with a group of older boys (boys my age) and when they realized who she was describing as her older sister, they said "YOUR SISTER IS THE ALASKAN ASSASSIN?!" To be quite honest, as much as it meant that a lot of people who I didn't know at all thought I was super-weird, I kind of loved that nick-name. And the Kat Stratford resemblance. I felt so free of needing to be pretty, because suddenly the beauty standards were no longer a norm to me. The beauty standards were weird, and people in Utah were going to judge you no matter what you looked like, for one reason or another. I was such a grump, but I felt so free during that time.

That freedom propelled me into becoming involved in whatever I wanted, and no longer attempting to fit into other "socially expected" groups (I had attempted cheerleading once upon a time. Woof). I actually thrived when I let go of needing the approval of the crowd. I recall, as a kid, feeling a certain expectation on my shoulders to be nominated for some dance royalty during my high school years. (My Mom had been nominated for Prom Queen, as had my eldest sister, and my other older sister had been nominated for Homecoming Royalty). Well that didn't happen. But I was in a couple of musicals, and I discovered talents and strengths that I had previously struggled to believe in. I made friends who I am happy to see now, when I see them (as rare as it may be, unfortunately). Perhaps that was a part of my non-desire to attend my Ten Year High School Reunion. My high school experience actually taught me that I didn't need that. I didn't need validation from my past peers that I'd really become something special. And I didn't need to see them in order to remember that I loved them. (Moving at 16 years old had also taught me that you can let go and still love those you've left behind.) My experiences surrounded by people clamouring for whatever their notion of "the gold" was had taught me to love "the silver" prize. I think I learned so much more by never really seeing myself as the top/best/special-est person around. Maybe I always liked silver more, or maybe it represents this okay-ness with not being some sort of "Regina George," but regardless, I'm super grateful for all the not-gold (and for the glimmers of gold here and there instead) in my life.