When my Dad got remarried for a second time, he and his new wife combined two families. Both had two kids, and each of our respective families literally doubled in size. The house I lived in became so much smaller, and chaos was the order of the day most days.
One of the first things we did after the wedding was a photo shoot in the fall at Ipswich River Park. The leaves were already starting to turn, and it was a beautiful day. I don’t remember what shirt I was wearing, but I think my ensemble consisted of a checkered blue shirt, khaki pants, and my trademark blondish/brownish hair, which when it was short enough, puffed out awkwardly. I had braces at the time, having had them since fourth grade, and I would have them for a few more years. I hated dressing up, and I don’t particularly like it even now. It makes me feel like I’m someone else, as if I’m playing a part in a play. If you ever want to see me get truly uncomfortable, take me to a black tie event.
Many pictures were taken that afternoon. I did my awkward forced smile that I had done for years, the smile that my sister had always given me grief for. I wasn’t enjoying myself, and I’m also not good at faking it either, so although I’m trying to get a genuine smile out, it looks more like I just sat on a rock, and I’ve been told to take the pain for as long as possible As I got up off of the ground and dusted off my trousers, a few more pictures were taken of my stepbrothers and their cousin. Thankfully, I got to sit these out, but I’ll never forget what my stepbrother tried to say under his breath as I walked away.
He claims not to remember this, and I believe he’s telling the truth. I realized long ago that my memory is a little freakish, and that I tend to hold onto things that others have long forgotten. Those pictures were taken when I was 12, and here I am almost 18 years later, still not forgetting my stepbrother’s little jab at me. It didn’t offend me then; I’m not even sure I told my Dad about it. I wouldn’t have told my stepmother then because it would take us many years before I felt comfortable confiding in her. I suppose that I’ve held onto this comment because at so many times in my life I have felt like an outsider. There may be some validity to the comment after all.
I spent much of those next years in middle school as sort of without friends, or at least a consistent group of friends. My stepbrothers had just moved to Reading, my hometown, and although I had a huge head start, they were cooler than me. That was a hard thing for me to wrap young my head around, and I remember even asking my younger stepbrother for advice on, “how to be cool,” because he seemed to have that down pat. I just wanted to fit in, to not get picked on. I also wanted to lose the baby fat that I had, since I was feeling rather chubby for the first time in my life. I played sports a few sports, but I was not the athlete I always dreamed I would be.
I wrote a second post about anxiety, but I haven’t published it yet. I’m going to wait. There are so many things about anxiety I’d like to address, but I also don’t want to beat y’all over the head with it. In that post, I wrote about feeling like a fraud, that feeling that wherever I am, I’m not supposed to be there. I also wrote a post about my grandmother’s funeral, and the clergyman making a comment about how young I look. I took this comment pretty hard, since it made me feel completely undermined, but that’s not what I’ll talk about here. I want to discuss owning what you are, even if you feel like you’re completely different from everybody else you know.
You spend so much time wanting to fit in when you’re younger, and then you get older and realize that you have to or want to differentiate yourself from everyone else. You want to stand out. You know longer want to identify with a group, but rather as an individual, at least I do. For so long, identifying with a group seemed like a safe bet, as long as I was still looking for an identity, someone to be. I couldn’t possibly be crazy if the people around me are just like me, and I think there’s a certain comfort that that logic provides.
I’m finally getting a firmer grasp on the person I want to be, the things I want to accomplish, and the mental peace that comes with this is amazing. I spent almost my entire twenties without a direction, or without a direction that I really could buy into; maybe my thirties won’t be so bad. I’m starting to realize that there is value in being unique, in being different from everyone else around you. You just have to realize what it is that makes you different, and be comfortable with it. Turn into the skid.
I’m working on forging my own path, and I know that this idea can frighten people, since the path you’re taking you’ll ultimately have to walk alone. Keep going. Own who you are, the person that you’ve become, or the person you are trying to become. You are a product of every decision that you’ve ever made in life, whether you are aware of it or not, so keep making the decisions that are in keeping with who you are. Life can only get better when you start to get comfortable with your own particular brand of insanity.