At the end of January 2002, the senior class had the opportunity to go on a class trip to Disney World. I think it was a Friday-Monday kind of thing, so we didn’t get to skip too much class time. It was an awesome chance to bond with classmates, even if it did require more than 7 hours on a bus.
I spent all day with a group of girls wandering around the parks and going on rides. They took pictures of me when I asked and it was fun. I had a good time. This was in the days of disposable cameras, perhaps just before the major surge toward digital cameras or at least before I became aware of the existence of digital cameras (there is a difference). I took at least two disposable cameras with me to document the trip. I was all about snapping shots of the park and random things that stood out to me, with less of an emphasis of capturing people.
The most memorable ride was the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. I wasn’t a big fan of roller coasters at the time. Before this ride, I tended to have a difficult time keeping my eyes open as the ride went upside down and whipped around curves. But this ride was different. Having Aerosmith’s music playing during the duration of the ride helped a lot; it gave me something else to focus on and it made the jolt of 0-60 in 3 seconds less scary. For the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed a roller coaster and was excited that my group immediately decided to ride it a second time. It was enough of a highlight that I bought a copy of the ride snapshot and then a shot glass with the ride logo. Earlier in high school I had begun collecting shot glasses as souvenirs. I didn’t drink alcohol, but it was a fun way to collect memories.
The other memorable moment from the parks was joining a bigger group of classmates in Japan for dinner while exploring Epcot. It might have been my first encounter with this type of food and spice palate. So it wouldn’t have been first my choice of dining options, but I did join in. The experience was special enough to warrant buying my second and final shot glass for the trip: a simple image of the Japanese flag.
Strangely, though, the ultimate highlight from this class trip wasn’t the roller coasters or tracking down characters for photo ops. It wasn’t trying different treats in the parks. Rather it was time spent back at the resort.
One evening we had an option of going back to the park for fireworks and Downtown Disney fun or staying at the resort. Many of those who stayed headed to the pool for a major pool party. I wanted none of it. Instead, I grabbed my notebook and took a seat along a nearby lagoon and began writing.
I’ve always looked back and viewed my desire to seek time to myself as more evidence of being antisocial. But if that were the case, I wouldn’t have gone to Disney in the first place. I think what it shows is that I recognized that I needed time to myself to recharge. Time away from the crowd and the noise. Time to think. Before joining my three roommates for the night.
Whether it was a combination of being self-conscious of how I looked in a bathing suit or just knowing I needed time to myself, I’m grateful I took it. I didn’t force myself to participate just because it was expected, especially since I knew I would be uncomfortable. I’m grateful I allowed myself to step away.
While sitting on the grass, I managed to catch parts of the fireworks show. And I wrote about it.
With one quick sweep,
The wax is lit.
Sparkling color shoots in the sky
Filling the universe with a palette of brilliance;
A lightning bolt
Of shimmering greatness
Illuminating the stars
Past their imaginable volume.
Swirling flowers with twists
Glitter the sky.
A falling silver weeping willow.
And in a puff of colored smoke,
Nothing has changed.
Everything is back to how it was
Ten minutes ago.
Next I documented my desire for being alone and the peace I found through writing. What jumps out at me with this piece is how much wearing stylish clothes seemed to equal being cool, accepted and part of the crowd. I know it’s a single line in the poem, but it’s a concept that comes up in so much of my writing. It’s not that what I wore was hideous, but for whatever reason I felt like I was being judged because of the clothes I chose to wear. So while I called out my classmates for being shallow, I was imposing judgment on myself that wasn’t even there … a backward, twisted version of the shallowness I saw in them.
I didn’t understand the idea and purpose of layering tank tops and button down shirts. Finding one shirt that was comfortable was enough of a challenge, let alone piecing several together for a unique look. I would have been the perfect candidate to find a shirt and buy out every color option available but for some reason I didn’t do that.
Being surrounded by girls who are size 2 and 0 can make a healthy body seem huge. And senior year I had a healthy body. But was majorly insecure and self-conscious. The junior yearbook offered a survey of each grade level, calculating the average height, weight, shoe size, pant/dress size for boys and girls. Which is a wonderfully horrific way to ruin self-esteem if you’re outside those averages. I had a healthy body and was at a healthy weight senior year, but since I was 6’1 and surrounded by female classmates who on average were 5’5, I definitely felt like the awkward giraffe.
Reflections in the Stars
The cool gentle glaze of air
Encased my body.
The chilling green blades
Hinted at the freshness of life.
The Duck Head symbol sprang out of water,
Waddled the slight incline of hill,
Toward the top
Where they took a watchful stance.
No other sounds except the faint
Cheers from nearby swimmers,
The pitter patter of passing shoes
The lulling quack of floating ducks
And the pen across the page.
Not a soul aware that I found peace;
That I claimed my passion
By claiming my spot
Along the lake edge.
They see a loner,
A person lacking the right dance moves
Looking at them I find the same person in many —
All searching for pleasure
In temporary places.
In myself I see a wonderer,
One who wishes on stars
During a starless night;
One who finds peace in sandy beaches;
Spots comfort in silences;
Longs for sunsets.
I spot a face in the clouds —
Waiting for Prince Charming’s
Up above, a single star inches
Closer and closer to the moon —
Longing to be noticed.
Finally, I noticed a weeping willow tree and found a story in its formation. I leaned against the trunk. Have you ever sat beneath a willow tree? It’s a natural cave. It’s a neat feeling to surround yourself with the falling leaves and branches of a tree. Add in the star-filled sky and a breath-taking moon and you have a dream-like scene. Well, if you’re the kind of person who notices such details.
Weeping willow tree
Where the leaves
look like hundreds of shooting stars
caught in the branches
of a single tree
and will remain dangling for eternity,
stretching farther and farther
to their destiny
of their long-forgotten
At some point during this writing fest, a classmate came by in distress that she lost a camera. I think she also got locked out of her resort room. There always has to be some sort of drama, right? I picked up my things and tried to help her sort things out. In my haste to collect my journal and wallet, responding as fast as I could to the situation at hand, I managed to leave a disposable camera in the grass. When I went back later, it was gone.
At this point I remember feeling angry. Angry because my bubble of solitude was broken? Possibly. Angry at myself for not grabbing everything when I left my spot on the grass? Most likely. I was in need of a pick-me-up, so I wandered to the main building of the resort. There was a gift shop and I spotted a guy offering caricatures. I was going to get a black and white image because I was a cheapskate and thought the extra money (likely a whopping $5 more) for color didn’t seem worth it.
The guy asked how my experience was going. While the overall experience had been great, the quest for solitude and the recent encounter with my classmate had turned things a bit sour, so I vented about losing my camera. The guy took pity on me and gave me color anyway. I don’t know if I asked for a portrait or if he sensed I wouldn’t have wanted to see an exaggerated picture of myself, because I walked away with a straight up portrait. I’m so grateful for that because it really is a nice souvenir. At least I didn’t have to fake appreciation for an image with extra large ears or something else that would further complicate how I viewed my body.
It’s wild how much my insecurities shaped the way I interacted with others. I couldn’t just enjoy an experience; there was always an assessment of unspoken judgments. And it interfered with my chances to really get to know other people, holding me back from achieving a desirable comfort level.
Now I can see that most people probably weren’t judging me as harshly as I judged myself. But at that age it’s hard to look past your insecurities. I know many of the girls wished they were taller and their hair was different: curly instead of straight, straight instead of curly, blond instead of brown hair, and on and on. It’s rare for anyone to be perfectly happy with who they are, yet it seems all too easy to assume you’re the only one struggling.
It’s so easy to impose evaluations, criticism, judgments on yourself that, out of insecurity, you are convinced everyone is making. I end up holding myself hostage because of something that is blindingly obvious to me but maybe in reality isn’t even on the radar for someone else. Yet, I’m convinced that they see it too but maybe aren’t saying anything just to be polite. Why do we do that? Why do we weigh ourselves down with assumptions that honestly have no basis in reality?
During those high school years, especially, I felt like everyone could smell my insecurity. And maybe they could, but that doesn’t mean I was being silently judged because of it. It has taken a while to realize that everyone is insecure about something. We just have different ways of playing it off, and some are better at hiding it.
Here are a few resources I found that help address the issue of insecurities:
- How to Overcome Insecurities | PsychAlive: Psychology for Everyday Life
- A Roadmap to Overcoming Insecurities | Zen Habits
- Overcoming Insecurity and Low Self Esteem | Pathway to Happiness
- Overcoming Insecurity Using Self Discovery | Art of Wellbeing
- 5 Things to Do When You Feel Insecure | PsychCentral