It’s hard to admit, but I was afraid of who I was 30 years ago.
Back then, no one would have noticed or known. Most people wouldn’t have cared, too busy with trying to figure out who they were just like I was. I had some pretty high walls that only just recently came down. Maybe I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. It’s difficult to be yourself when you don’t even know what who that is or what that means. Honestly, I was too scared to find out, too.
So, I did what most of us do…we hide behind our activities and academics, doing our best to just get through to graduation, hoping no one even notices us. We don’t want to show someone what breaks us, the scars we still see, or even feel anything.
To prove my point…this is me 30 years ago…
Looking at these pictures, you would never guess that I didn’t have it all figured out…that I was nervous about who I was or where I thought my life was going. But, like you, I had become really good at faking it. We put on the smile and do what everyone had expected us to do. From the outside, you might think that I had tons of friends and had everything going for me. I worked hard to get good grades in school, was a 3 sport athlete (I also played basketball) and earned honors such as being selected as Girls’ State representative, awarded the Principal’s Trophy, and was even a homecoming court nominee.
Yep, I had it all.
Or at least that’s what I wanted you to believe. That’s what I believed.
Come to find out, I had no clue. No stinking clue.
As we age, we begin to see life differently than we did when we were 18 – already convinced we were ready to take on the world, but secretly scared out of our minds.
God, what we wouldn’t do to know then what we know now.
Somewhere along the way, we got the message that pretending was better than being authentic. Now, don’t get me wrong, not everyone I went to high school with was afraid to be themselves. Maybe I am the only one in a class of over 400 who, only once she put the walls down was not only willing to let the world come to her, but to allow herself to be seen (really seen) by the world.
Even through my 40’s, I didn’t realize how much I would need to stop being afraid to be free. I didn’t know how scared I would be when I shared my story. Some days, I still want to run. I want to quit. I tell myself that I can’t do it anymore. I convince myself that in the big scheme of things that “my story” doesn’t matter and that there a million others out there just like it. I argue that it isn’t special enough to matter.
What’s one more untold story captured in the life of a middle-aged woman?
But what I didn’t understand is how much work it takes to take to not be who you are and to hide behind the walls that need constant reinforcements. So one day, I just quit putting up the bricks and eventually, the wall crumbled. Mostly, it lay in ruins that most wouldn’t recognize today. There are moments when I look back and I cannot say I see what I used to find safe and familiar.
Life is short and as I pulled out my senior yearbook from high school this morning, I made a very startling discovery…as much as I who I was then, I am still as much a part of that person, but better. I cannot undo the road I have traveled; only my acceptance of it must change. In that acknowledgement, we also find peace and the recognition for needing to take it as its purpose has now become fully known.
Although I am more comfortable with who I am, you still only see what I am ready to show you.
I guess some things don’t change completely, but I know they do change for the better.
Michelle A. Homme 2016 ©