In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I present you this poem. Actually, it fits in well with the course of my writing because this was written at the end of my first semester of college. But maybe I should pretend that the timeliness of the content was planned all along.
He was a non-traditional student, about 10 years older and I think pursuing an undergraduate degree. I had met him through PACT, but I believe the first real opportunity to talk happened on the statewide retreat. He wasn’t Catholic, but he was interested in learning about the faith.
I remember being with a small group of people at the retreat, and then slowly others broke off for other things. And it was just the two of us. I wasn’t super comfortable around him, but I couldn’t just leave him. He seemed so alone, and I felt bad for him.
As I finish discussing my high school years and transition to college, I wanted to do another recap of where I stood with sensory processing problems.
The big list details all the different ways I was impacted by my environment and the way I interpreted the sensory data I received. I’ve also done a recap from preschool through eighth grade to show the progress of these sensory issues.
Sixteen years ago today, as a senior in high school, I sat in English class working on a random assignment when the teacher’s cell phone went off. It was such an unusual thing to happen; cellphones did not go off during class. She took the call and we heard words like “plane” and “trade center.”
Everyone goes through a hard time. It can be a metaphoric storm, a very real tailspin of nothing seems to go right, or a literal storm like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
I’m part of the Southeast United States bracing for the horrors of Irma. The projections are still projections, with any number of possible outcomes. We just know something bad is heading our way.
It’s hard to know how to react in these circumstances. You can get stuck just thinking about yourself and your family. You do have a responsibility to care for those who depend on you: immediate family members, in-laws, fur babies.
Seventh grade was the start of asking as many people as possible to sign my yearbook. I don’t know what prompted it because it had never been a thing before. But I asked friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, people I barely knew, people who rode the same bus as me. I knew a lot of people’s names but that doesn’t mean I knew them well or they had any idea of who I was.
It wasn’t a popularity contest of trying to get the most signatures or messages. That may be hard to believe because in high school especially I had people writing over ads and I even taped in blank sheets of paper just to create space. I brought my tenth grade yearbook with me to Governor’s School and asked as many people as I could to sign it. I received quite a number of weird looks from people as they reluctantly wrote something down.
But it was never a popularity contest. It was deeper than that. I was trying to cobble together some sense of what people thought of me. What was their impression? How am I actually viewed?
In April 2001, the church youth group went on retreat at a nearby campground for some team building, bonding, and fun.
By eleventh grade we were embarking on a new program at our church, following Life Teen, which meant having more adult leader support in youth ministry. It wasn’t just one person in charge but more of a team effort. And there was music. Fantastic music.
We met every Sunday after Mass for something fun to break the ice and then learning and discussing the Catholic faith, but in a friendly environment. I really enjoyed having something consistent to participate in. I connected well with the adults, over time feeling like I could trust them.
Throughout my junior year of high school I continued to write poetry. It was a way of getting out all these thoughts that were bouncing around my head. They didn’t have to remain stuck in a circular loop, and I didn’t have to worry about how others would interpret the words.
I continued to share some of my writing with my English teacher from ninth grade. We worked to build a literary magazine for the school, and she encouraged me to continue writing. I’m sure she’s the one who suggested I enter a poetry contest hosted by a local college.
I came off the excitement of Governor’s School to begin my junior year with braces. The wires, rubber bands and brackets on my teeth were cumbersome. Using wax didn’t help much to protect my gums from stray wires that poked out. Braces were challenging to clean, and wearing headgear at night was just a pain. I wasn’t a very cooperative patient, but eventually the braces did their thing and helped to correct an overbite. Mine stayed with me through at least the first year of college.
Junior year meant officially being considered an upperclassman. Many, well most, of my classmates were now driving to school. I was 17 at the start of the year and still hadn’t shown much interest in driving. I knew how much responsibility I would be taking on by driving, and I was scared.
Along with being unable to accept compliments, there was also this long held concept of being less than and inferior to others, which began early on for me. I struggled in so many ways to match the speed, ease and ability of my classmates that I saw it as a flaw in my very character rather than strictly my ability. It defined me to the core, this idea of not measuring up. That even if I managed to improve, it seemed to matter very little because someone else was still better. My focus was all about how I compared to others instead of establishing my own track of development.
You’re supposed to pay attention to your interests and abilities to recognize talents as those might influence future areas of study to pursue and a potential career path. How do you successfully accomplish this with a negative view of yourself? Yes to a degree I saw that writing and creative writing were more strong suits. But it wasn’t enough to completely draw confidence from it or to see it as an actual talent. I still felt misunderstood for preferring to write in a notebook rather than trying to talk with others.
I twisted most of the compliments I received, convinced that people were just trying to be polite or telling white lie because they felt sorry for me. And with this internal, self-defeating attitude, you can tear yourself down pretty far. I didn’t need extra help in this area. So the emotional and sometimes verbal bullying/antagonizing that I received in previous years just reinforced this feeling of being inferior and incompetent, unworthy.