I’m not who you say I am

October 28, 2014 LifeThoughts  One comment

Just like many of other people, all of my life I’ve been told that I could do anything I wanted to do, become anyone or anything I put my mind to. Unfortunately, it’s taken me a long time to tease out what I want to be verses who other people wanted me to be.

In the eighth grade, I started my own small group (bible study) for my group of middle school friends because there wasn’t one. And then I started up another one at my high school because I was supposed to be a leader and I was supposed to want to bring Jesus into my school and “shine His light”. I was supposed to want to pray every morning with my friends for the salvation of my peers, because surely that’s what good, devoted Christian girls do? Good Christian girls didn’t sit in a quiet classroom for twenty minutes before class started indulging in a beautiful work of fiction that wasn’t the Bible (or Christian for that matter) even though that’s what I really wanted to do more than anything else. Perhaps even while listening to some soft (non-Christian) indie music.

In the tenth grade, I was nominated to be a congressional page and told that I should want to do it because it was prestigious and looked really good. Even though I absolutely hated everything that had to do with politics, I interviewed for the position. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was when I didn’t get the gig.

It was also in the tenth grade that I listened to myself for half a second — listened to what I really needed and really wanted — and realized I had taken on too much. Despite arguments to how good it looked and that I should want to be in it, I ended up resigning from the National Honor Society and a small after-school club that helped raise awareness for all the horrible shit going on in the world (ie: Darfur). I quit the former because, honestly, I just didn’t really care. Sure it looked good on my college application, but I dreaded the monthly morning meetings and, although I liked the idea of volunteering, by the time I had to be up and functioning early on a Saturday morning to pack boxes at Gleaners, lets just say I was exhausted from busting my ass at school all week and that volunteering business was not as fun as it’s cracked up to be. It did suck that I had to quit the smaller “save the world” club, because I was running it with a dear friend of mine whose heart is pure goodness and a teacher I truly admired, but seriously, I could not stay after school every day of the week to participate in all these things. I had to take care of myself.

Also during my sophomore year, I was encouraged by my favorite teacher ever to sign up for his AP history class for my junior year. I loved history and learning and reading and really respected my teacher, but it was a no-brainer for me: I just did not have the time to commit five hours of studying a night with all the other responsibilities and obligations I had going on (namely the youth group). I was told I should want to participate in a college-style seminar class like that in high school (and I probably would’ve excelled at it too). But I just didn’t have the time. Or the energy, quite frankly.

I joined newspaper my junior year to be a reporter (probably entirely because Rory from Gilmore Girls wanted to be a journalist – not even kidding. I felt that her character resonated so much with who I was — intelligent, good at school, a bookworm, unconcerned about material things, lover of coffee and saddle shoes with a cute boyfriend — that I must surely want the same thing she wanted?). By senior year, I was running that shit with another good friend of mine. I loved working solo during my independent hour on an article. I loved the freedom it afforded me. I loved piecing together information into something coherent. I loved designing the layout. I loved being respected by teachers and faculty. I did not like being in charge, if I’m being real honest here. I don’t like managing people and being on top of them, and I’m sure someone else could have done it a heck of a lot better than I did. I just wanted to go in and do my thing and leave, preferably without having to talk to anyone. I did not really like seeking out people and interviewing them. Especially over the phone! I hate the stupid phone with all it’s pressure to react and answer right away. What can I say? I’m an introvert all the way through. But as I wrote more stories, many of them making the front page, and I got more praise, I thought, well I’m good at this, surely I should want this. But the truth is, I didn’t care that my story was on the front page. I did like co-Editor-in-Chief being under my name though. Probably more because I worked my damn ass off on that paper more than for the actual title.

It was during my time on the paper that I first started to discover my love of writing fiction. I wrote a fictional piece that continued from month to month and discovered – holy shit! I love this. I love that I can just sit here and make shit up and not have to talk to anyone! Plus, another good friend of mine, said to me after reading an excerpt, “You’re seriously talented at this. Like, I can’t even understand how you’re so good at this.” The seed had been planted.

Throughout my educational career (as the kids are calling it these days), I’ve been encouraged to travel the world. That I should want to travel the world. I do. And I will. Eventually. On my own terms. I won’t do a relay marathon across the continent of Europe over the course of a summer. But I’ll visit a country or two with each visit. So that over the course of my life, I hope to spend a week or two in each of the countries I really want to see and immerse myself in the culture there. Really be a part of it, instead of hopping from plane to train to cab like a crazy person trying to see all of Europe in a small window of time, not actually seeing much at all besides the insides of transportation terminals.

Looking back over the past decade of my life — my time in high school, college, the youth group — I can see now that I became who everyone wanted me to be. Or who they saw me to be. Because of my commitment to education for the sake of learning, my compassion for others who were suffering, and my ability to see the needs around me and meet them when necessary, people saw me as a leader and someone who was going to go on to become the next ambassador for the United Nations. My senior year I was voted “Most Career Driven” and “Most Likely to Change the World”. Talk about pressure and expectations.

During my formative adolescent years, when an adult I looked up to and respected, praised me and nudged me in a certain direction, I went with it because well, obviously, they knew who I was. They saw something I just didn’t. I would be who they wanted me to be because I liked how it felt for them to be proud of me. Why? I don’t know you’ll have to ask my therapist.

I can see now that a lot of the things I thought I wanted, I actually don’t and never did. I just wanted them because I thought I should or because I let other people tell me what I wanted. They saw me as an intelligent leader with a compassionate heart and a whole lot of extroverted energy. But this is not who I am. While smart and compassionate, I’m a leader by necessity, not by choice. And I certainly am not extroverted nor have lots of energy to be around other people.

I became who every else wanted me to be. Not who I really was.

The truth is I do not want to be a doctor. Or a lawyer. Or a journalist. I do not want to be a FBI agent. Or a CEO of a fortune 500 company. Or a politician. Or a youth minister. Or a missionary. Or a PR executive. Or a UN ambassador. Or someone who works with victims of human trafficking.

I just want to be me.
Because it’s just too exhausting trying to be anyone else.

Maybe in another life I think I’d like to be an animal biologist and travel to the ends of the earth to study them in their natural habitats. Or maybe be a teacher. Or maybe a historian in academia, at Oxford or somewhere really cool in England (because duh, that’s where Harry Potter and JRR Tolkien are from). Or a social worker.

Even now, it’s hard for me to not to let what I should want interfere with what I actually want. Or what I used to think I wanted interfere with what I actually want now.

Now I’m being told I should want to start a family now that I’m married. I should want to have a “real” job. I should want to go back to school because I’m intelligent enough. I should want to be really, really busy all the time rushing off to do important things. I should want a fancy job title. I should want to wake up and get dressed in professional clothes everyday. I should want to have a career that is so demanding and draining that I have no life outside of it. I should want to host book signings and book launch parties and be charming and personable at said events to push my career forward. I should want to be around family all the time and involve them in all aspects of my life. I should want to go out after work or on the weekends. I should want to be “out there” living my life in all it’s extroverted glory. While I’m at all of that, I should probably be skinnier too. And my hair should probably be straighter, not the wavy mess it is most days.

And there must be something wrong with me if I don’t want these things. I must be defective somehow. Especially with this delusional nonsense of living in a fictional world for most of my day, and not in the real world, doing actual things, helping actual people.

But I really don’t want any of these things. Not that any of them are bad or wrong, they’re just not what I really, truly, at my core want.

That being said, sometimes you have to figure out who you’re not to realize who you are.

I am smart and brave. Kind, compassionate, friendly. I am sensitive, too sensitive sometimes. I am deeply moved by beautiful things. I am creative. I am a list/pro con person. I am an introvert. I am a writer. I am selfish. I am kind of a bitch sometimes. I am strong. I am capable. I am generous and soulful. I am authentic. I am a size 6. I am a believer in fairy tales. I usually prefer to be around my furry companions than human ones. I am completely conflicting and complicated and confusing. I am deeply affected by my surroundings. I am highly perceptive. I am emotional and moody. I prefer to be at home and rest and take it easy, but that does not mean that I am lazy. I am easily overwhelmed by external stimuli. I am a reader. I am a wife and partner. I am a daughter and sister. I am a friend.

I really enjoy cussing and forcing people to confront their ill-conceived notions. I love movie days. I enjoy deep, meaningful conversations. I love nature. I get easily upset when too much is demanded of me. I would much rather sit at home in front of a fire in comfy sweats, reading a book, than being out and about. I absolutely love the Renaissance Festival and hate all the ugly things in this world. I have a tendency to get a little carried away when Jack Daniels is involved. I’d probably larp if I had the chance. I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons. I love all things fantastical and magical and supernatural.

And in all of these things, I am enough.

What I want is to sit in my house and make up stories for a few hours a day. Then I want to take my dog on a walk. Then I want to watch Netflix or Gilmore Girls and have dinner with my husband as we watch our shows. I want to spend my evenings and nights reading or working out. I want to live in the country and take hikes through the trees in my backyard, going into town maybe once or twice a week to get groceries. I want to never wear a pantsuit, ever. I want to surround myself with words and stories and beautiful things. I want to be a voluntary recluse (if that wasn’t obvious yet). I want to listen to music, all kinds of music. I want to be a writer and just write and write and write until I have nothing left to say. I want to be successful enough to have a readership I can engage with, yet remain unknown to most everyone else. I want to travel and spend weekends with family in new places. I want to get drunk with my sister-in-law and talk about zombies. I want to love my husband through this life and provide him with a home and family and give his life meaning, because that is a noble thing to do. I want to be that person who is available. I want to be that person who is comforting and when you’re around me, you just feel all the pressure and bullshit fade away because I expect nothing of you other than to just be yourself. I want to be that person who is quiet and still and listens. I want to impact people with my words. I want to make a difference in someones life. I want to love. I want to have a pet pig. Maybe some chickens. I want to wear boots and tight jeans to give off the appearance of being much more tough and badass than I actually am. I want to live a life that is gentle and fierce, quiet, soft, and unassuming, yet captivating and adventurous and full. I want all of these things and I want to have the courage to not apologize for them anymore.

Because I’ll probably never save the world or run a non-profit organization. I’ll probably never have a nine to five job. Or do super important things. But I’ll be happy, living the life I want on my terms. So maybe I just needed to get this down on paper, or screen, and put it out there into the world. Or maybe someone out there really needs to read this. Either way, I’m claiming here and now, that I am done apologizing and feeling guilty for all the things my life is and all the things my life is not. It’s my life, as Bon Jovi would say. And I just want to live while I’m alive.

 

Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who come alive.

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Thurman

 

Until next time, farewell, and may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity

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One comment to I’m not who you say I am

  • Dad says:

    That was probably the most moving thing I’ve ever read Lauren.

    Love you
    Dad

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