|by Laurie Lipton|
I don't really care what other people think. My entire life I've spent time trying to be someone I'm not. I've become so accustomed to code switching that I've lost myself. I let reality television, pop stars, and my peers tell me what was cool. But now? The stuff I thought was cool back then is cool now. So really? There was nothing wrong with who I was. There's nothing wrong with who I am. There's nothing wrong with being as many people as I want to be. There is never anything wrong about being. That's simply my existence.
I try to be kind to people. I try to treat people like I'd like to be treated. I try to take the concerns of others seriously. I try to respect different cultures as different as opposed to wrong. I don't judge a person based on their religion, sexual orientation, age, sex or gender, or political beliefs, even if I don't agree with everything. (If you know me, the only things in there I really take issue with are opposing political beliefs (although I'm working for a better adjective than opposing) and a person who denies their own pleasure by forcing themselves into a relationship that is untrue to their emotional and physical desires, when someone uses age as an excuse to close their eyes, when someone sees their sex or gender as superior to that of another...). Basically I don't like when people make other people's business their own or when someone isn't true to themselves. Other than that I try to accept people as they come and to judge by a person's true merit: the way in which they treat others; and yet to understand and coach those who don't treat others well. It's my duty, and it's yours too.
Those things are things I'm proud of. Those are my values. I think it's important to define our beliefs and values in our ceaseless journey to self-discovery. I'm still finding a belief secure enough to follow blindly besides that of love. Love is the only religion I trust entirely. But my values? I've got them down. I don't always adhere to them. I'm not perfect. But the way I treat other people is a direct reflection of how I feel about myself.
And here comes the epiphany: It's not a bad thing to be happy.
I used to have such an aversion to happiness. I felt guilty in happiness. I didn't like myself well enough for happiness. Whatever. Now I don't. I don't know if it's the meds, the mere knowledge of my condition, or if I'm just finally embracing a journey to enlightenment. I don't know if I care. I'm here anyway.
I love this. I don't know if I've ever embraced life this way. I'm so okay with myself. I'm okay with my body. I'd like to lose some weight, but hey! If I don't I don't care that much. I wish I'd managed better than a 3.5 this semester, but with everything I was up against, I'm really proud of that GPA.
I still have heartache. Happiness is a state of being and it doesn't mean I don't get sad or lonely or disappointed or frustrated or angry... my feelings are still very real and present. I worry about Ian all the time, and I have both nightmares and dreams concerning him. I miss my family in southern Illinois and I want to make more of a difference in the lives of the children of my family. I still get really insecure at times, and I have to remind myself that there's nothing wrong with me being myself. There's something wrong with a person feeling the right to judge me for being me. There's something wrong with society for condoning that arrogance and entitlement and standard of "normal." It's still hard. But I'm choosing to live in happiness and feel those hard feelings as they come, rather than feeling nothing until those feelings break me. It's a conscious decision that I have to work to keep to--just like giving up meat and soda.
I love everyone. I love the idiot drivers I cuss at behind the wheel. I love the most annoying child you've ever met. I love the people who have hurt me--some more than others. Speaking of which: I've gotten over the Sarah Simpson thing (Go ahead and Google yourself! I have nothing to be ashamed of, and there's no teacher or principal to run to now that we're adults.) She was a nasty, cruel little girl, and I'm sure she's a cruel young woman. But I'm sure she had her own heartache; heartache I'll never know. And at the time I was not confident or secure enough to handle her bullying. Who is in junior high?!
But now I am. I dooooon't really care what she had to say. Because I was a badass back then, just like I am now. I was still kind as often as I felt I could be. I was still doing my best with what I had. I have nothing to be ashamed of, just like I don't now. Just because I didn't fit Sarah's idea of physical beauty did not mean I was not beautiful. And I'm disappointed in myself that I ever let her childish comments wreck me the way they did. But it is what it is. We all have a bully who breaks us. We are defined by the way we put ourselves back together. I've grown up since then. I just don't care what she (really she just represents all the people who have hurt me) think.
It's so freeing to wake up knowing that if she were to call me today and call me Weight Watchers Dancer again--something that used to have me crying in the bathrooms at Marshall Junior High, I wouldn't care. I would feel bad for her that she still felt the need to bring people down to feel good about herself. <-- That's something I used to think was just something grown ups said to make you feel better, but it's so true! People only hurt people when they are hurting. But I wouldn't really let that change the way I see myself. Really, at the time she was just affirming all of my greatest insecurities and making very real for me a truth I tried to hide and ignore. But now I've displayed that vulnerability. I've learned to accept myself as I am. And bullying words can only hurt me if I think they're true! Since I love myself as I am, and I accept and forgive my own faults, no one will have that power over me now. I do not judge myself based on the opinions of those I do not respect.
I've done things I'm not proud of. I could list them, but most of you know them already. Instead I'll say a big I'M SORRY. I'm sorry to the people I'll never see again. I'm sorry to the girls I may have been unkind to. I'm sorry to the boys whose hearts I've broken. I'm sorry to the family I've said hurtful things to. I'm sorry to those I respect that I may have disappointed. I'm sorry. I know I'm not perfect. But the only thing I can really do to make it better is to live well. I will take this summer by storm and I will make those children my own. I will fill them with so much love they won't know what to do with themselves. They won't understand why someone can love them so much, because they still see their flaws so clearly... but I don't overlook them. I love them anyway. Because there are some really, really beautiful people that loved me anyway. And I would do them a disservice not to carry on that legacy of love.