When you are not comfortable with who you are, life is just difficult.
It took me a long time to get to that point. As I mentioned yesterday, I spent a lot of my youth judging myself against what I saw around me. I have to believe that this is far more the norm than the alternative, but when you are a child, you don’t see the world through a very wide lens.
I don’t want to make it seem, though, like my parents were not supportive. I assume they knew I was struggling with some of these things, and I know they were struggling with their own things. My dad turned twenty just after I was born, and my mom was midway through being 19. A baby brings a big change.
It is no wonder why people learn to keep a lot inside.
I learned early on to keep a lot of things to myself or at least it seems that I did. My parents and grandparents would know better. I was quick to anger as a kid and quick to tears. I just wasn’t always quick to facing what was bothering me. I learned quickly to avoid talking about the real stuff and give answers that would satisfy whoever was wondering what was wrong.
Truth is, I didn’t really know.
I saw a lot of things that were above my pay grade at the time. It was the 1970s and things were way different in so many ways, yet still kind of the same. I am of the mind that people haven’t really changed that much. We just deal with things differently. We have the same problems and same curiosities and same appetites. We just like to change up the rules from time to time to keep others on their toes.
I don’t think people are good at applying the same rules to themselves as they would like to apply to others, and this is a main reason that being alive is often confusing as fuck. Which rules are we playing by today and how can I skirt them? I learned to skirt the rules, too.
You have to learn these types of things to survive. Basically, outwardly, I was a happy kid. At very least, this was the image I was trying to project. I’ve also always been good at trying to find the silver lining in things. I want to believe in the best sides of people. I never saw the point in being a pessimist.
To an extent, this didn’t serve me well, though. I learned to avoid the hurt and the bad feelings and look for the good, but I didn’t learn at an early age how to really solve a problem. Avoiding a problem will sometimes allow you to outrun it but it doesn’t solve it. Some problems have a certain shelf life and then they are gone, but since I didn’t learn how to solve them, they kept coming up again and again.
One of these issues contributes to my stress and frustration to this day. I often overextend myself and say yes to things that I should say no to when they come up. I’m realizing this started when I was very young. I wanted to belong so badly that I would agree to things that I probably should have thought twice or three times about.
Saying no is okay.
I needed to learn that saying no, even to people I really liked, was okay. I have a good governor for harmful things and unnecessary risks, but even then, I would avoid saying no to dangerous things and figuring out a way to save face and gently back out. I have lots of friends who have made terrible decisions that I could have been a part of if I didn’t find a way to not be involved.
Sure, sometimes, I have said, “no.” As I got older and realized I had a lot more personal power than I thought when I was younger, I got better at saying, “I don’t think that’s a good idea” or “you’re going to regret it if you do that. I’m out.” This skill started to develop in high school, but I’m not going to say I always had great judgement or didn’t do fucked up things. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I did a lot of fucked up things. Mostly to myself, but still.
I just didn’t know how to do this very well when I was under the age of 16. I didn’t know how to speak my mind. I realize now how much it cost me. I realize, again, how much easier I could have made my life if I had learned to deal with things head on. I was good at getting by or sliding by but not good at facing things.
That has been a tough thing to overcome as an adult. I still often look for the easy way out. I don’t like having the tough conversations, and yes, I know, no one does. I’m better at it. I have them now. I let them ferment a lot and become acidic in my brain, but I try not to let that flow onto the people I love. It still happens, though.
That angry kid is still inside me.
Sometimes he lashes out. Sometimes he just directs the doubt and inferiority complex inward. Sometimes, he wins. I talk myself out of doing and saying and feeling things because I fall back into that trap of wondering just where I belong and just what I am capable of doing.
I want to be comfortable with who I am. For the most part, these days, I am. I hope it comes off as genuine because I’ve worked hard for it be just that. I still have bad days, though, and I know we all do. Maybe, dear reader, this can be helpful to you. We are, as I truly believe, all in this together. If there is an angry or sad or lonely kid in you, talk to them.
See you tomorrow.
Childhood is messy sometimes. From my classroom last year.