When I was young, I was bullied a lot at school. It’s not something I think about a lot. In fact, I have blocked a lot of it from my memories. I’m the kind of person who tends to look forwards and never backward. But I do think it explains a lot about who I am as an adult today.
I know I was a weird kid with weird tastes who loved to get up to no good and push as many buttons as possible. Feeling like an outcast and an underdog, I never felt part of a group. I remember popular kids throwing peanuts at me during lunch (I was, and still am, super allergic to them), and I never went to prom or homecoming. It didn’t help that I would turn around and yell at them that one day they’d be washing my car.
In my small rural town in Virginia, I always felt like a black sheep. I knew I always wanted to escape and see the world. I dreamed of having a big life full of adventure and fun stories. To be my own heroine. I was an only child growing up with a big imagination. Oftentimes I find myself reflecting on the fact that I feel very lucky to be part of the last generation who grew up without smartphones or social media. So very lucky.
I’ve always considered myself to be introverted. In fact, I was recently diagnosed with severe social anxiety. That explains a lot! When I tell people this, it’s often met with disbelief. I get it. I’ve gotten really good at being a fake extrovert for my work. But the reality is that I need to rest and recharge alone in order to function well. Even now, after all this time, I still consider myself a stranger peering into a social world that feels foreign to me.
Sometimes I wonder if the fact that I still behave like an outsider stems from all of these stories. I may seem open, and I am in many ways, but I’m actually quite solitary. I try never to ask for help, believing I don’t deserve it, that I’m still that odd duckling eating lunch by herself. I wonder why? What made me like that? I can so clearly see how I’ve become the kind of person who stubbornly refuses all help. I can take care of myself, thankyouverymuch.
In saying that, the past eight months have taught me how much I need my friends and family. I absolutely hate it, but I’ve had to lean on so many people, and it surprises me every time that people show up and care for me. I think I expect abandonment; isn’t that terribly sad? And now more than ever. How do we recover from betrayals as adults?
I can feel my story shifting beneath my skin of who I am versus who I tell myself I am. I feel like, over the course of my life, I became very guarded, but this past year has ripped me to pieces.
As I rebuild my life, I find myself wanting to hide more than ever to protect myself. The truth is I’ve actually realized the opposite is better for me. Perhaps that joy I’m seeking is beyond my walls, and to live more openly is actually less scary and painful than I had imagined.
Perhaps it’s time to let people in again.