Apr 13, 2005
Special, But not too special
I've been thinking a bit about my childhood lately. How I was when I was younger, how I am now, and what made me happy...what kind of feedback I looked for in the world, and what role community, family and other's responses played in such desires.
I've often noted that my ability to fit in and socialize, my revolving "shyness" if you will has been tied to a rotating desire to fit in and shine, with almost polar extremes. Looking back, it's funny to see how this was manifested in youth.
Until I was about 10 years old I lived in the same building as my grandparents, and in, well, more of a community. I always had somewhere to go to feel safe, or to get attention, or to play. Even though I was an only child I remember always having at least one friend in walking distance, and the general connivance of my parents to run along and play next door or within the block without much negotiation.
My grandparents living in the apartment next door was an especially influential aspect of this sense of security and comfort. When my parents were busy I could just run along next door and be with them. In addition, with my being their only granddaughter within the time zone, they were especially coddling and enthusiastic about my presence. They would humor desires of mine that no reasonable parents would be excited to entertain: I would put on shows, eat junkfood, watch bad TV with them, play cards, and in general play play play and be rewarded for every little talent I believed I had.
During that period I don't recall trying to belong in any real way. I don't recall any insecurities about whether I was normal or ok, or any desires to change myself to fit in and form bonds. Indeed, I was the charming little chatterbox that every little girl is portrayed as being: bright, excitable, fearless and unreserved, trying to find what made her special, and trying to stand out and find her "star".
When we moved a few hours north, this community and all my friends were left behind. I, in no way, mean to portray this as a crushing blow or a tragedy. But simply to express that this loss of community, coupled with moving to a new neighborhood yearly and into a much smaller, more uppity community, and impending adolescent suddenly made me realize what it was like to not fit in, to be kind of lonely, and to wonder what it would take to be more like everyone else, less demonstrably new or different. Specifically I began to have an aching desire to be about as typical and unnoticeable as possible. To be normal, or at least to not be a GREAT BIG FREAK.
And that's kinda how it went off and on. I'd find some place I fit in, suddenly find myself exercising all sorts of talents and strengths to help myself stand out and shine, then find myself in some place in which every part of my mind screamed "freakshow!" and try to contemplate what might make my oddness less notable, my presence less potent, and in the end, my wrongness more right.
Not to say I shine like the north star or anything. But circumstance can really put a highlight on anyone's presence, and being different is a good way to get noticed-not always in a good way, during those lovely teen year.
Thankfully, this is all in the past. But not really. In my best situations I feel comfortable enough to exercise my presence, to know what makes me unique, without having to advertise it from the rooftops. Sometimes I like it best when I fit in just enough to do most of the observing, the listening, if you will. Situations which make me feel awkward, sadly, still do not illicit that "so screw you, I'm different, I can still be liked!" response and will make me want to crawl into a whole, or find a way to fit in as much as possible, to be as dull and moldable as clay. And in contrast, situations of too much comfort, periods of inactivity, coupled with that sense that I am suddenly being misunderstood, or viewed as too part of the sea to warrant my own little piece of the reef, will make me want to dye my hair purple, dance a little dance, and throw on my highest heels.
So it seems to me that the key is balance. And the awareness that no personality is static. Nobody is necessarily the same type or person or has the same needs in every situation. Or at least I don't. And though all of this has stabilized quite a bit, I still find myself wondering, at times how to control these urgings. How to the little girl in the bikini not giving a damn or looking behind her back, or how to be the person who just is happy sitting quietly in the fray, alone or listening happily, when she'd like to be.
Posted by daff0dil