I woke up to a day shrouded in clouds, the ground covered with newly fallen snow and a layer of pristine, sparkling ice, even freezing my back storm door shut. It was with relief that I remembered it was Saturday and turned up the heat and ignited the gas logs in the fireplace. Hot coffee in hand, I decided that a bit of plumbing the past was in order.
I ventured into my basement and set about pulling old files and folders. Soon, I had my past spread about me: years of journals and assorted notes and scribbles. As I began to read, the years fell away. Essays I had written in grade school and high school; diary entries from my teenage years; quickly scribbled notes from school chums; journals and notebooks from my years of chronic illness with Graves Disease and throughout my lengthy recovery.
I focused on the earlier stuff. The girlish scrawl, the earnest voice that spoke from those pages, the words from a young mind brimming with imagination and hopeful dreams for her future. I remember being that young girl, so at odds with her surroundings and the other kids. At times my environment felt jarring to me and I just wanted to escape.
There is a theme to my early writing, of feeling isolated, peculiar, lonely and different. If I had stayed on the sidelines, I probably wouldn’t have had as many problems with the other kids, but I was outspoken, fierce even, and participated passionately in my favorite classes.
But I received my due when I would get on the bus, often sitting alone, while the other girls would whisper and snicker about me just loud enough for me to be able to overhear. I dressed funny, my hair looked stupid, I wasn’t “cool”. I couldn’t wait to get home after school. My mother’s cheery, “How was school?” was often received by my cool and deliberate “fine.” Yes, just fine. Peachy. I wanted to fling myself off the nearest cliff.
But I also remember thinking I was meant for better things, and I looked to the Future as if it was a true beacon of hope. Grade school and even high school weren’t going to go on forever and I pinned my hopes on blossoming at 16. To me, that was going to be my turning point, when I became beautiful and all the boys would want me and all the girls would clamor for my friendship.
At the core of it, I was simply a lonely young girl who wanted to connect with someone, who wanted to be understood, who wanted to be loved.
The summer after my junior year in high school, something happened. I trimmed off about 12 pounds with daily bike rides and had my hair coiffed in a buoyant Farrah-like ‘do. I returned to school that September head held high.
And. Nothing. Changed. Oh, yes, I received admiring looks and glances, and one of the “nice” popular boys asked me to a party. But the long-established cliques were impenetrable and when we attended, barely anyone would talk to me, such was the penalty for trespassing.
That was an epiphany for me, that year. I knew I would never let another person make me feel less than who I was at any given time. Fuck them, fuck them all.
Something splashes on my hands and the keyboard and I realize that I am crying. Even now, the pain can reach out and touch me. Sometimes, I wonder why I am writing about this stuff, it seems so useless, like wallowing in the muck. But I’m aware of having a different perception, one of surviving the pain and moving on. In many ways, having a solitary childhood prepared me for adulthood and the challenges that I faced therein. I am resourceful and determined. And I know through experience, that things do get better, and that my tears are as much tears of compassion and release, as of pain.
A dear friend of mine suggested that perhaps this project will be cathartic. I like the analogy of peeling away the layers of an onion until you reach the core. Until you are naked and exposed. I’m feeling very vulnerable with my writing but also excited and passionate. It’s been a good journey so far.