Saturday, March 19, 2011

"ATTENTION: All you rule-breakers, you misfits & troublemakers, all you free-spirits & pioneers... "

I saw a video online yesterday that gave me an "A HA!" moment. (I love those!) It was a video that was actually a manifesto on why some of us are different. Yes, I know everyone is different, but sometimes  there are those of us who just DON'T ever quite fit in. Let me explain and later I will share the manifesto with you.

I was always extremely shy, timid, hid behind my hair, my mom, didn't try to stand out in anyway, sat at the back of the class, was invisible, had friends but was a follower, never spoke my mind, was never popular, never looked like the crowd, never really understood school all that well, felt stupid, ugly, lonely and depressed. This was just always part of me as an elementary child and preschool child. I was even like this with relatives - cousins and extended family. 

Later as I hit junior high school those feelings increased ten fold. I was told by a group of "close child hood friends" at the beginning of grade 8 that they didn't like me anymore. They didn't want to be my friends, they were moving on - without me and to please leave them alone. They told me that I was too sarcastic, difficult and didn't fit in. One even said "I want to climb the social ladder and be something and you will never be that." Of course I was devastated and proceeded to spend the next school year hidden in a corner in the library behind a book, hoping no one would see me. This happened at the same time that my parents had moved us out into the country and we had a bout a 40 minute bus ride to school, no friends, no cable TV, lived on a farm and everyone on the bus hated me and bullied me relentlessly... daily. (Yes, I do see a parallel in this situation with me and my kids! However, please continue to read on!) My own brother (yes I forgive you!) even told me that he would not be my brother at school and not to tell people I was related to him.

You can imagine how depressed and suicidal I felt that whole year. At a time in my life when my hormones were changing, 12 turning 13, my school life changed from safe elementary to big junior highschool and I had no one... I turned to food or away from food however you choose to look at it, it was the beginning of my eating disorder. Back in those days there was no healthy lunch system at school, so with the little money I had, I would throw away the lunch  my mom gave me or just pick through it and then get a bag of Hawkins Cheezies, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and chocolate milk for my sustenance. Of course I didn't realize that by putting my body in starvation mode and then binge eating I was setting myself up for a lifetime of body issues as well as the dramatic mood changes I felt daily.

At the same time we were living a hobby farm life while my dad continued to work. My only socialization was at church and this was a part of my life that was equally tormenting. I had always been belittled there by a group of girls that made me feel like I was nothing. At the same time the stuff that was being pounded into my head as true and that I accepted although questioned (which was definitely not encouraged) was confusing me when I went to school. At school when we were asked to write reports about North America or the Middle East and history, I would intertwine the information I received at my church and the teachers would look at me funny. Why? I would get a fail or just pass for actually doing the work. I couldn't understand what was wrong, how could what I was taught at home be different than I was taught at school and if it was, who was write? You can imagine what a confusing time this was for me.

I was never a good student. I hated the "how many G's did you get?" system in elementary school and the "I get paid for my A's" system some parents had in highschool... All this was more to make it difficult to comprehend when I could barely pass. I read books voraciously, I understood what they said, I had a great vocabulary, I had an understanding of much that happened in history, yet I was stupid? How come? I just never fit in. After about a year or so on the farm we moved into town again. The experiment of living out in the country hadn't worked for us kids (I think it had more to do with location and the community than it did with country living.) Now that I was in town and in grade 9, I managed to make a couple of friends that I still have to this day. (I love you girls!) I also managed to learn how to skip out of school or show up to class for attendance and not finish the period. 

I spent a lot of time at home with my mom watching soap opera's while she folded laundry and watched the foster kids. My mom is not dumb and I am sure she knew that I didn't always have a spare class or study period, I think she sensed how miserable I was and she knew that I needed to be home, not at school. Thank you Mom for getting that!

I also had no social life. I went to school, came home, helped with the housework, foster kids and attended church activities. I hung out with my couple of friends at school and sometimes out of school, but I didn't really fit in with their other friends so didn't always get included or participate. At church I knew it was wrong for me. I couldn't understand how I could be sinning when I was a teen who didn't do ANYTHING! I was a goody goody as my daughter says. I didn't swear, drink, smoke pot, party, have sex, nothing! Yet I still felt distant and wrong. (I later learned a lot about our religious leader and evil he was doing and guess that my feeling left out of his inner circle was in fact a good thing! At the time though, it felt like one more slap in the face.)

I spent many hours contemplating what was wrong with me, going on crash diets where I ate 300 calories a day, competed with a friend about how little we could eat, going for days with 2 saltines and a dill pickle and lots of water... I still felt ugly and fat. I couldn't speak up in school, I couldn't answer a question if asked, I would start to cry at my desk and tremble in fear if I thought I would be picked out by the teacher. I learned to sit, head down, hair tumbling down the sides of my face, staring at my paper, looking at my watch as the minutes ticked by and hoping to get out of there as soon as I could. I was so naive I thought I had NO sense of humour because half the class went out sullen before break, came in after break and were laughing hysterically at nothing... It took me years to realize they were stoned when they came back - hence their "sense of humour". 

Between my living under a patriarchal system at church, at home, in school, I did not learn to think for myself, have an opinion (because when I did it was wrong) and struggled to survive day by day. I was terrified to walk down the halls of my old school - eyeball alley - was a long hallway that had kids sit down each side of it and stare at each person who walked by. I was never one of the kids on the side and I would panic at the thought of walking the gauntlet alone. I would wait for someone to walk down it and walk near them so that I could blend in. I was average height, a little chubby, big boobs, no butt and told that my long arms looked like a monkey swinging so was completely paranoid about them. I was so scared that in Grade 12 English, I begged Mrs. Petch NOT to make me give my speech to the class and I told her that I would take a FAIL (from my A grade - I liked English) instead. She finally agreed that she would let me give my speech with one friend and the teacher present but my grade would drop from an A to a C. I was thrilled. How frightened was I? I even cried giving the speech in front of my best friend and teacher... but I did it.

College came after high school. I had thought I would like to go to a church college in the States because it seemed like what I was supposed to do. (I don't know how I thought I would pay for it.) It didn't matter though, I did not pass the SAT's - I had a score of about 750 when others got twice that. I was too stupid even for church college, no wonder I felt like a failure. I was getting heavier and more depressed, angrier, sullen, disrespectful to my parents and did not like what I was seeing in life. I ended up going to the local college in the city next to us like lots of the students did but had no path, no career goal, no idea of what to do and to top it off, I was considered a remedial student. I was put into remedial math and English classes to bring up my grades before I could start college courses.

At the time I thought, thank GOD I had started drinking! I managed to completely blow the 3 months I spent in school, partied too much to forget my pain and get evicted from my bachelor apartment. Life sucked! I am not going to go through it all, but I faced many years of feeling incomplete and lonely even around people, I would feel like I was floating above them and didn't understand what was happening. I knew that what I was doing had nothing to do with me or who I was. Later I realized I suffered from anxiety, depression, no self esteem whatsoever. I would believe whatever you said to me, about me. 

Later, I took a college program that interested me and although I still cried if I had to speak or present and felt excluded, non-existent, I actually managed to get straight A's and B's. WHAT? I am NOT stupid? How is that? My theory? I did something I wanted, was interested in, teaching methods were interactive, not blackboard ,blah blah blah work and I excelled. What a trip!

Suffice it to say that through my twenties I continued to grow but was never seen as a leader or strong person. I was still incredibly shy, battled with my body, drank to forget things and grow courage and was devastated that my church dumped me and excommunicated me from their records. I couldn't understand that at all. I made lots of bad choices and was not always in great relationships, but I survived. I lost friends that were dear to me and have never gained back.

It took me into my early thirties to start to stand out, get a voice, gain confidence, begin to question authority and the norm. I started to be seen as someone of value, insight, worth knowing. It continued to shock me. My career was on an upward swing and I was in the running for bigger and better jobs, with more power and authority. I was seen as a person who both staff and management respected and that was rare. Sarah finally started to emerge. I also started to gain back some of those childhood friends that had dumped me in grade 8.

Why do I recite all this? I guess because I never fit in. I was a square peg in a round hole. I was invisible and quiet. I learned that we all have something to contribute and we can find a way to stand out in this world. I was and am, easily distracted, prone to depression, procrastination, fear of success and I have great ideas. The problem is, that the world, society, the norm, is set up for those who maybe cause a few waves and are noticed, those who adapt well to school and jobs and don't think for themselves, those who don't say "Wait a minute, this isn't right!" I learned to be that person. I do think from what my friends, acquaintances and colleagues have told me that I have a voice. That I am respected and that I can help create change.

In 1990 I would never have thought that in 2008 I would argue via the media with the government over ineffective policies and win. I never thought that with the help of others and working together as a team that we could take on the big guys and create positive change, but I did it. I never thought I would be someone who would write down words and people would read it... Even people who aren't my friends or family and being nice to support me!

I saw this YouTube video yesterday via a friend on Facebook and it is sent out with the message via a manifesto... Now you don't have to get into the self-help or other stuff this guy has to say, but just listen to the words in the message and think about whether this has ever been you? Or someone you know? Maybe this helps explain the personality of a loved one better. It hit me, hard and meant a lot. It confirmed to me things that I have learned about myself, the positive and negative. It is also empowering to watch and see the people profiled in history and think "WOW! We share traits? That is amazing!" 

I invite you to watch this, just click on the link and be prepared to spend the next ten minutes thinking a little bit differently. This doesn't mean putting aside your values but it does mean reevaluating what you think, about yourself and others. After you do so, if you think you are one of the people I referred to in this blog, don't apologize, just know that although I moved on, I forgive, I don't forget. I think the saying "Forgive and Forget" is meant to allow us to be strong and go forward, but not to forget in the way that we let the same things happen to us again.

Now, it is a beautiful sunny, New Brunswick day. It is warm and I have things to do, so I bid you, adieu!

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