When I was 10, I was guaranteed that everything gets better. My pre-teen hardships and burdens would ease, and my 20s would be a decade when I come into whoever I am supposed to be. This is what was promised to me by every adult, all coming of age books and my guidance counselor who lectured me on the importance of wearing a bra. It was the piece of truth I held onto at each obstacle I faced.
One day the beloved jock would change the oil in my car, and the mean girl who seemed to have a breeze of a time would have a reality of 16 and pregnant without the fortune and fame of MTV. I was confident that my success would skyrocket in my 20s. I would be so great the girl who called me a “slut” at 15 (when I hadn’t even kissed a boy) would regret using that four letter word and beg for my approval. I looked forward to dating because it was going to be easy. I was excited for my 20s because at 12 my reality seemed heartbreaking, so much so that there was no other way for it to get than better.
This is what I have been thinking about all month, who I was and who I am now. After journaling my most private thoughts I have come to the revelation that, if I could go back and do it all over again, if I could change who I was, shave off weight, tame my hair, learn that concealer was meant to be blended into the skin and not dabbed on in an extremely apparent way, I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, damn it, I was braver than any person I knew or have ever known.
As I learn what it takes to be an adult, I wish I could channel exactly who I was at 11. Today, I consistently hold everything I feel and think inside never exposing it to the appropriate parties. Why bother? She won’t care that she hurt me, and there is no chance someone like him could like me. I find myself being mean and judgmental to those who are mean and judgmental toward me because you don’t get to be an ugly human being without reciprocation.
But at 11, I dialed Walker Mason up. I told him I liked him, and asked him what he thought about me. When I was rejected, I went to computer class the next day and asked him to help me beat the next level of Snood. There was nothing awkward or uncomfortable about having expressed my feelings.
When Karen Keefer told the entire sixth grade class of girls that I was a Lesbian, I invited her to my birthday party, and I gave her a Valentine. As long as I kept being who I wanted to be (nice and smart and expressive), I was able to get up every day and look forward to the next because it got better. If I were then who I am today, I wouldn’t have asked Walker if he could fathom liking me, and I would have never dressed out for P.E. in the girls’ locker room ever again. I was brave.
So at 23, why is it so hard to ask someone if they like me back? And why do I feel the need to be mean to someone who thinks I’m not good enough. Whoever I like probably cares more about me and fostering a friendship with me if he doesn’t like me than Walker did. He still helped me over the 7th level slump. What’s so scary now? I am not facing a lunch room of 300 kids who repeat and believe everything they hear out of one person’s mouth.
I’m learning more and more that I want to be the chubby 10-year-old mathlete. She was brave, and she didn’t know it then, but she had confidence. Her denim overalls might not have been the best, but she is a role model to her future self. I want to find an NJB who will fall in love with that girl, because as far as I am concerned, she was pretty amazing. As my search for my NJB continues, I want to find the one who sees that NJG in who I am today.