Wednesday, October 22, 2014
A Beautiful Disaster
I'm one of those idiots who still kind of misses High School. I miss the feeling of facing an unknown future, the endless possibilities, the sense that something wonderful might happen at any moment. Oh I had my fair share of a tortured adolescence too, don't get me wrong, but I also always carried with me a real sense of hope that great things might come my way. I really miss that feeling, to the point that my heart physically aches to think of the faith I once had that all my dreams might someday come true.
But I really am an idiot.
I spent the day at a Vermont High School yesterday, sharing my story, talking about the impact that addiction has had on my life. I talked about my anxiety, about the power it had over me for so long, and about how I allowed that anxiety to dictate so many of my choices over the years. I know that anxiety and depression are two things that young people can identify with on a very personal and emotional level. I also know that it's something that adults don't talk about with kids in a way that each party feels they can identify with.
I don't know WHY adults suffer from a "Superman complex" when it comes to relating with our youth, but we far too often do. Why do we avoid talking about our weaknesses and shortcomings? Why don't we talk about our inner conflicts and how we all battle that shitty little voice in our head that tells us we're not "enough"?
No wonder there are so many kids out there who feel like freaks.
After my presentation, a young girl approached. She was stunningly adorable, with a short, shaggy haircut and funky glasses. She flattered her petite frame with a tailored looking army jacket sporting cool shiny buttons and a sleek pair of black leggings. I immediately loved her. She pointed at me, indicating that she hoped to have a word. It was then that I noticed she was quite literally shaking in her boots (which were also super cute btw). I immediately recognized the nature of her body language and I saw the outline of her life flash before my eyes.
I knew her story before she even told it. I knew that anxiety was the ruling force in her life. I knew there wasn't one other student in her school who could see how special she is. I knew she was a target--her weakness so visible to others. She said, "I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and to tell you that I've also had anxiety my whole life--that I'm just like you." Her eyes were glossy with tears that she clearly didn't want to shed, her hands shook, and her small frame seemed to cave in on itself--attempting to appear even smaller than she already was. My heart felt like it was on fire. She talked about this incredible burden she carries and how she's never had any control over how it impacts her. She talked about her peers and how they have always treated her like a freak. She confessed that she doesn't understand why they treat her that way....when they don't even know her.
But I know exactly why.
It scared me to think of how I might have treated her had we been in school together. Would I have been sophisticated enough to see how special she is? Would I have put value on her apparent intelligence? Would I have responded to her outward desperation to make friends? Or would I have zoned in on her, would I have exploited her weaknesses in order to deflect from my own nearly debilitating fear of not being "enough"? As much as I hate all those assholes who can't see her bright and inspiring beauty, I can't deny the fact that I may have been one of them myself. In general, I've always been a huge lover of the underdog, even as an adolescent, but I also know for certain that my insecurities have often ignited a desire to highlight other people's shortcomings in an attempt to draw attention away from my own. I always needed to make sure that the people I loved and respected weren't focusing their attention on my character defects. I mean, what if someone were to discover that I wasn't worthy of their love and admiration?! I knew that I wasn't good enough to be loved, but I wasn't about to let anyone else catch on to that!
So what do I walk away with from this experience? Well, I suppose it's just further confirmation of how important it is to allow my "freak flag" to flap and fly in the wind for all to see. It's yet another reminder that I must smack fear up side the head, that even if nobody else is willing to join me, I need to stand up and talk about all that shit inside that once upon a time almost ruined me. Because, while I have made it my business to open up and connect with others on an emotional level, it is not--nor has it ever been, my business what others choose to do with that.