I used to be afraid of seeing people I knew from growing-up in this town. When I visited my parents, I would dive behind displays in the supermarket, or turn my head when someone I knew was nearby.There is so much in my childhood/teenage years and early adulthood that was absolutely horrible. My relationship with peers was always very tumultuous. I felt weird, odd, strange and always felt like I never really belonged or fit-in.
I seemed to skip-over the teenage years, and didn’t understand what it meant to relax and have fun. I was always on-edge and lonely. I hated high school rallies, sports games, events, etc. I couldn’t understand why everyone seemed so happy while I was so miserable. Because I didn’t understand it, it all seemed fake to me. Everyone seemed fake and I didn’t know how to relate to that.
As I’ve grown-up I’ve started to have a better understanding for what happened in those years, why I was affected the way I was, and have had a better appreciation for the people who were around me at the time.
I have also grown in confidence. Being in the city has helped with this. There are far too many people in a large city for people there to be bothered judging them. Living in a place that, in comparison, is so free from judgement and harsh opinions, was liberating.
Thousands of people walked-by you every day dressed in all-manners of clothing, different levels of attractiveness, poor, rich, dirty, clean…and they were all the same; just another person you were passing on the street.
It is in the city where I began to feel confident wearing tank tops and shorts. I saw woman of all shapes and sizes just dressing to be cool and comfortable on hot summer days and didn’t hear one negative comment from any of the hundreds of people around, about how they looked and I realized – I could do that too.
I remember as a child/teen always wanting to be as “cool” as the “town kids”. The “town kids” had all the “in” name brands: Club Monaco, The Gap, Adidas and even B.U.M. Equipment. I don’t think I owned anything that was name-brand until I finally begged my mother to the point she bought me a B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirt for Christmas. But, my wiener dog, Gus, chewed-up the ‘U’ and my mom decided to stuff the ‘U’ with cotton and patch it with floral material. I hated it, but felt so guilty and pressured to wear it after all her work, that I did. But, I’m sure my ability to ‘fit in’ took several hits for the cause.
The “town kids” also didn’t smell like a barn when they arrived at school. I lived on a farm and did my share of barn chores (mostly shovelling poop), which meant that I always had a bit of a “barn smell” on my skin and clothing. I don’t really know if other people smelled it, I never asked, or if I was just self-conscious about it. But, it is one reason I found it difficult to get out of my comfort zone to hang-out with peers.
I also was a tomboy who never cared for, or bothered, to learn about things like doing hair, makeup, nails, plucking eyebrows, etc. It just didn’t interest me. There were so many other things to do with my time, like climbing trees, going out on the 4-wheeler, milking the cows, raking the hay and playing music.
The ironic thing about this whole period of time is that I thought that I was the one being judged harshly, but have come to understand that I was doing the judging myself. I judged my peers as being fatuous and shallow and determined that I was above that.
There were, at times, reason to feel this way. We were teenagers, after all, but I’m sure now that if I could have been outside of myself and looking at myself on occasion, I would feel the exact same way about me.
Though, I also did a lot of my “teenage stuff” before I was an actual teenager: I skipped school, got in fights, had boyfriends, fooled-around, tried beer and cigarettes, all before grade 9. During Grade 9 I did a bit more of it, and was kind of in one of the ‘cool groups’ (I even participated in a Homecoming float). But, by the end of Grade 9 I guess I just felt ‘over it all’.
I became a bit of a loner. I was just ready to get on with life. I wanted to be an adult, to be a successful writer, musician or University professor. I wanted to be full of knowledge and experience, having traveled the world and lived-through adventure upon adventure.
And here I sit, 15+ years later, having gained knowledge, experience, traveled and lived-through adventure upon adventure, and I’ve returned to this place, where it all began, changed and yet, in many ways, the same.
I still have no interest in town gossip, or want to be friends with people who think it’s ok to be mean to others and I still love to be a tomboy, spending time outside getting dirty, or doing heavy work. But, I no longer think of myself as an “outsider” or feel the need to hide behind shelves at the store if I see someone from my past.
I know now that I am a person, just like everyone else. I have things that are really fantastic about me, things that are unique and totally loveable, and I have things that are annoying about me and things that are weaknesses. And it’s ok.
When I was younger, I never felt like I was enough. It is still something with which I struggle. It’s a common affect of being a child that has gone-through divorce.
But, now I know better. I know that I am me. I am myself.
And I am enough.