G: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Discovery of Self and the Letter G for Genuine: The Effort Involved In Learning To Be You and Me
Oh sure, Marlo Thomas, I get how important it is to be genuine and to accept others, in kind. I also get it’s easier said than done outside the lovely, Utopian, “Free To Be You and Me” message. In truth, there is nothing more important and nothing more difficult than being genuine, being one’s true self. It’s a lifelong process. And we change and evolve within our world, our time, our experiences, our intellect and with the tools we possess. Accepting everyone for who they are is a beautiful way to start childhood. But adult reality and even most childhoods encounter plenty of obstacles to being “free to be me.”
My decade-long hiatus from employment, while Dad was with me, left me changed in unimaginable ways. I was no longer the person I was before that fateful morning a police officer retrieved me at four a.m., informing me Mom had passed. And I’m still trying to figure out my life and my future. But the non-profit manager role certainly didn’t give me joy or offer me any valuable creative outlet, anymore. Maybe working for a dysfunctional employer right after Dad passed didn’t help. But maybe it was a gift. You see, sometimes chiseling away society’s labels and slipping out of the pigeon holes that we were pushed into along the way is the way to self discovery. And that job was rife with pigeon holed people. Yikes!
During those years with Dad I designed and nearly single-handedly built a second addition to my house. I wanted Dad to have more sunny space and adding equity would mitigate no income a bit. (I’m a saver and paid cash.) Of course, Dad and I shared a love for politics and social issues and I was afforded the time to volunteer for Democratic (and democratic) campaigns and causes. And I returned to my communication strengths.
Here’s the thing many don’t consider when you are a stay-at-home daughter, verses a stay-at-home mom or dad raising a child to independence; You don’t know when graduation comes. And you don’t get society’s praise for the person in your care because yours is no longer in the world. You’re just alone. Very alone. Besides this experience changes you but even without this major life event. the world changes a lot in ten years.
Lately, I’ve been recalling who I was as a four, five and eight year old, before most of us get labeled. Rediscovering what inspired me as a child, where I was drawn and what was drawn to me gives me a sense of calm, and it feels real to the core. And when coupled with wisdom from life’s experiences, I like the connection. I’m grateful. It means I am better able to give my best to the world, for what it’s worth.
I read this quote by Alfa (Alfawrites) a few weeks ago and heard my mom.
“You are going to meet people who are intimidated by you. You’re different. People don’t know how to react or how to accept people who don’t follow the crowd…They are not used to someone who doesn’t fit in — so instead of bolstering your uniqueness, they’ll try and make you feel like you’re weird or damaged. I’m here to offer some well- earned advice: Screw them.”
Please note, my mother would never use the words, “screw them.” But the first part, “[P]eople…are intimidated by you. People don’t know how to react to you,” is what Mom would say as I encountered hostile and unexpected obstacles and interactions. And she wasn’t one for empty praise. She saw me for who I was. She saw it even if I was trying like hell to blend. As a kid – especially an adolescent – you don’t want to stick out, or at least I didn’t. In hindsight, I wish I had been brave enough to develop that part of me that was there at eight or even fifteen and that endures to this day. Instead, I focused on how to be more like my peers. When my high school adviser informed me of my exceptionally high I.Q. score (which I feel icky even writing here), I think I told my mom but never told anyone else.
Maybe other only children can relate, but you can learn a whole lot by observing the world and it all leads to questioning why a whole lot more than those with siblings. I’d quietly study everyone at weddings or any large get-togethers, learning from the pack and observing social norms and practices. Maybe I noticed the absurdity in many of these social stages and, intellectually, I had a disconnect leading me to march to the beat of my own drum.
A lot of it is figuring out where you don’t fit, through rejection, criticism and that visceral feeling like your an oyster in the shell being irritated by sand. One moment while I flashback to past friendships, relationships and jobs. Ah, but that discomfort is critical to becoming.