When I was in seventh grade my family moved from a small farming town in upstate New York to suburban Atlanta. To say I felt wholly out of my element and very uncool is an understatement. Eventually, I met some nice people who wanted to be my friends.
I wanted to be friends with Laurie Ogle. She didn’t like me. She would go out of her way to invite our mutual friends over to her house in front of me and then roll her eyes as she flipped her curled-under bob and walked away. I was determined to be her friend. I desperately wanted her to like me.
A little piece of that insecure 13 year-old still exists. Sometimes she’s tucked away in my heart, a memory of learning confidence and understanding sadness. And sometimes she’s in my underbelly, unprotected.
Right now, I am more confident and secure than I have ever been. I live my life how I want to live it, surround myself with people I want to be with. I care less and less how strangers and acquaintances interpret my choices. But, in all honesty, some cool comments and raised eyebrows still sting right in that familiar spot. I still want people to like me.
I get so bored and annoyed with myself. When will I REALLY not care? When will I REALLY trust myself? Because, it’s inevitable that I will write about something that someone judges and it’s inevitable that a woman at a restaurant will shoot daggers out of her eyes when I leave my children unattended to grab a fork. It’s also inevitable that the insecurity will fade and I will go on a walk with my family or laugh with girlfriends over wine. All that mud will settle to the bottom of my pool and I will be left with clear, energizing water and a crisp understanding of love and purpose and good.
I’ve heard people talk about the craziness of life like a hamster on a wheel. I think it’s more like a hike. There are rocky sections, smooth paths and false summits. Holy hell is it tiring and wow is it rewarding. I keep thinking about how we’re all on a hike. Some are on a steep bitch of a switch back while others rest on a rock and each a peach. We take turns in those positions, each of us challenged by different things, each of us experiencing triumphs and failures. We all have vulnerabilities and insecurities. There is a point, in each of us, when we want to give up, turn around, sit down and cry. There is a time when each of us are happily skipping, hydrated and rested. There are some who, when doing well, step over a depleted mama and carry on. There are some who, when another is doing well, give a sharp shove hoping she’ll fall. And, of course, there are many who offer a hand, a hug, an ear, no matter their own strength or weakness. It’s up to me to surround myself with and focus on the kind, unjudging people and let the others come and go.
I am trying like hell to raise good people, demonstrate kind behavior, balance letting go and holding tight. And all that while I am caring for myself, my partner, my friends, my interests, my career. It’s a lot. Sometimes it is too much. It’s in the moments I Want To Throw In The Towel, when the underbelly is soft and malleable, that’s when I am 13 and walking home from school with salty-stained cheeks.
The difference, of course, is that I am 32 and I don’t feel like I have to wipe the tears away and head to my room so nobody knows my pain. Now I admit the sting, self-reflect, embrace the discomfort and roll around in my sensitive brain and honest conversations with good friends. And I’ll tell you, when someone steps over me when I’m down or pushes me when I’m thriving? It hurts. Sometimes my process is messy and I am sure my husband wishes I could let it go in a more streamlined manner. I am getting there. I hear 40 is good for letting other’s opinions roll off your confident back…but, first, I embrace this journey.
Laurie Ogle had her own adolescent misery to contend with and, eventually, we ended up becoming close friends. Just like middle schoolers hoping for an invite to a friend’s house, mamas are hoping for an I am picking up what you are putting down, sister. We’re in it together.
Let’s hike. The view is much better when shared.