For a long time, I have related to giraffes. I towered over my classmates at an early age and felt like my awkwardness made me stand out. Just like the giraffe, it was hard to blend in. There’s no place for a giraffe to hide, and I felt like all of my insecurities were equally on full display for everyone to see.
Experiences over the past two weekends have left me with an overwhelming sense of peace in the realization of how far I’ve come on this journey of self-acceptance in just a short time frame. And I credit it with being honest and open in writing while working hard to internalize these new ways of seeing others and myself.
Recently I’ve spent a lot of time trying to recognize and understand the impact of my inner critic. Those times when I let the negative self-talk have more leverage than it deserves.
This awareness began about two years ago when I finally realized the way I spoke to myself had all the hallmarks of a verbally abusive relationship. I could do no right. Every effort was twisted around. And I’d berate myself over making one mistake while ignoring the numerous things that went right.
We did these exercises in high school where we wrote ourselves a letter, most likely highlighting our goals for the future. Then the teacher collected them and maybe one year later (or five), we received them in the mail. At the time of writing, it seemed silly to write out your goals, completely convinced there’s no way you’re going to forget what’s important. But you do. The elapsed time prompts other interests and priorities. Opening that letter means grasping a piece of the past; tangible evidence of the person you were back then.
That’s how I feel with revisiting my old journals; I’m uncovering buried treasure.
I was reading through my college journals recently and came across several pages where I did some brainstorming for a new poem.
I know that by having a blog, it should be obvious that I’m a writer. However, a recent social situation has made me take a harder look at the way I see myself.
When offering an introduction to a new group of people, the words “I’m a writer” did not flow out of my mouth. For some reason, since it’s not part of my official job, it seemed strange to identify myself in this way. So, I need to be more confident in acknowledging that I am a writer. It’s not just a secret hobby; it is very much part of who I am.
As I turn the page on another year (happy birthday, Lindsay!) and look at what I’ve achieved so far with this blog, I really want to focus on improving my negative attitude toward myself. I want to continue to remove the blinders I seem to have, which lead to getting stuck with tunnel vision.
I’ve been reflecting on the yearbook comments I received and the resulting blog post. Throughout my life I’ve had a tendency to get so caught up in a few details, in insignificant things, that I miss the big picture.
Maybe we won the basketball game, but all I can focus on are the shots missed instead of the ones I made. Or perhaps I got a 95 on a test, but I mentally beat myself up for the stupid mistake that lost me 5 points.
I’m not sure where the phrase “show me, don’t tell me” first originated. I think it was through exposure to creative writing exercises and other writing efforts. But I took that to heart. I took that seriously. And in many ways that influenced my approach to poetry writing.
You don’t want to just say “she was upset”; that doesn’t tell you much. But instead you describe the used tissues scattered on the bed, the box laying nearby, how her eyes are puffy. You acknowledge the remnants of a bowl of ice cream. You describe the girl curled up on a bed, clutching tight to a pillow or stuffed bear. These images offer more details, they help tell the story. She probably didn’t just screw up a pop quiz; it’s more likely that she had a fight with her boyfriend or they broke up.
I was much more interested in showing the details of a story and describing the scene versus being straightforward. I still had trouble balancing what was described and how much to describe rather than saying things outright. I often went overboard on the descriptions and imagery, especially early on, but I was trying to find my style, trying to figure out what worked. How much detail do you really have to give?
Eighth grade English was a small introduction to the real world. Not everyone is eager to learn. Not everyone wants to be in school. Not everyone has respect for teachers or those giving presentations. Kids act up and cause disruptions in class for no reason. Not everyone does the work or makes an effort.
I viewed trying and making an effort, being respectful and paying attention as expected behavior. I wasn’t abnormal for following those protocols, but I viewed others as weird for not doing so.
This year was also a glimpse of the real world because of my teacher. I had known Mrs. Davis for most of my life. Her mother lived two houses down from us. Mrs. Davis had two daughters. Madalyn, the oldest, was my brother’s age, and we’d hang out a lot. I had a deep respect for Mrs. Davis. I knew she taught English, but I never would have guessed she’d end up being my teacher. I was with students who made an effort and then there were several who put up a fight every step of the way and just didn’t care at all.
First, I need to offer a glimpse of playing basketball during sixth grade. It was pretty routine with practices and games. I do remember jumping the bleachers. Seriously we jumped from the floor up to the next bleacher, and then continued jumping up.
It looked something like this video, except we were jumping on bleachers and not the stairs. It required a higher vertical jump. And the part I remember most is how scary it was; I was afraid of completely missing the next bleacher. I never did miss, but that scared feeling never went away.
Upon reflecting some on what I wrote for sixth grade (read that here), it occurred to me that I had actually transformed into that chameleon that I so desperately wanted to be. (If you missed that one, you can find it here.)
I really thought I reached that level much later in life, but in all honesty, the proof is shown during the misery of sixth grade.