Well, I’m doing it.
I’m going to share something very private and very real with you here. I was very convicted a while back to tell my story. Not because it’s great, or I am. But because it needs to be told…I learned that last week.
For the first time, I really opened up to a group of college-age girls about insecurities and told the story of mine.
And I’m not the only one…and it hit me: it simply is time to tell the story. I’m not really sure where it’s headed. If I’ll just share it here, or want to try my hand at a real-life book…but for now, that’s not my concern.
I’m sharing it here because some of you will relate, some of you will just get a glimpse into what makes me tick, and some of you are raising daughters who have or will go through some of the same.
I have to admit it…I don’t get nervous much, don’t have real anxiety. But I do now. Knots in my stomach. If there was ever a time to leave a comment and tell me what you think, it’s today. I’m feeling kinda vulnerable. Be gentle with me.
So, without more explanation, here’s what came out of my heart and onto my Mac a couple of weeks ago…
I want to tell you a story. A simple story, really. About a girl caught up in the world’s view of security, a searching heart.
It began ever so long ago, in that place between innocence and desire. The place where friends are luke-warm, wishy washy, and frequently fleeing your side.
Sometime after I began freshman year, I realized something was off. I wasn’t happy. Wasn’t whole. I felt like the people that surrounded me were complete idiots. Attacking one person to the next for the very insecurities they possessed. And so was I.
My so-called friends. My so-called life.
Around that time, they began to see me differently, too. I didn’t quite fit the mold. Cheerleader, Pep Club, gossip. We bumped heads, and when I say bump, I think rammed might be a better word.
So, as it is with all things teenage girl, it got ugly. That year changed me forever. It led me to do things that were not me, things that still left me wanting.
Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending. An evolving ending. But it contains its share of pain, of loneliness, of struggle. And with those come the story of healing.
I write to you for myself. For my daughter.
For you. For your daughters.
And for the story of healing.
CHAPTER ONE: Belonging
I was too tall. Out of place. It would have been weird to kiss a short boy, if any had tried to kiss me. I was too fat, or so I thought. I bought the lie that being 13 and 5’7 meant large and in charge.
Because of this, and my ever growing insecurities about my size, I sought affirmation like a drug. Looking from one friend to the next, one boy to another, I sought. And yet, it was this uphill climb I never seemed to master. I could feel struggle within my self to find comfort, belonging.
To name names would be cruel. It wasn’t totally their fault…doesn’t make them cruel now. It was only a series of careless choices. And while I believe all make fickle choices and serious mistakes when young, these mistakes…these fickle choices ignited a battle within me.
It happened on a Monday, after I had missed school for a week. The stomach flu had kept me home, kept me away from the chatter. And as silly as it sounds now, it began on a phone call from one of my friends. She wanted to talk of the other, the one who she was mad at for some childish reason or another, and my wanting took over. I probably said things I shouldn’t have, probably became what I hated. And in doing so, sealed my fate.
They blasted me with hate when I sat down at my old wooden desk that Monday morning. Called me a liar and awful, and told me they couldn’t stand to look at me. I begged Friend 1 to tell the truth, to fess up to starting up the trouble. It was pointless. They were done with me and tossed me to the side like my toddler does with banana peels.
The guys were involved. Friend 1 and 2 made sure of that. Not only were the girls hating me, but the boys berated me. Called me all kinds of names. And say what you will about sticks and stones, but it’s real. It was quite easy for me to believe what they said was true. To know I was worthless. To know that I was destined to be alone.
The hot tears swelled in my eyes, and in one gangly jog, I ran out of the room and into the smelly girls bathroom. Apparently, my sobbing was so loud the school counselor had to get involved. She promptly escorted me to her office and within moments, had brought in 1 and 2. With all the malice their teenage eyes could muster, they stared more misery into me. I was absolutely heart broken. Shocked they could be so mean.
1 proceeded to tell her side of the story to Mrs. B, and while some parts were true, she conveniently left out all the crap she had done and said. She was telling half-truths, something I’m sure many of us are good at.
2 sat still, quietly knowing she was choosing to be a part of something intrinsically wrong, but doing nothing to stop it all the same. She bowed out, and never came to my defense.
And after what seemed like a full Shakespearean monologue from 1, Mrs. B finally spoke. “It seems as though there really is no trouble, Shaunna. 1 here says she didn’t say these things to you. Are you overreacting, dear?” I thought I might throw up. I could have smacked that condescending smirk off of her face and never looked back. Even if she was my elder. 1 and 2 exchanged vicious looks and the thought they seemed to silently scream at me was, “we will make your life miserable.”
And so they did.
In the months that followed, there was something or another each day that would get them going.
“Shaunna, why are you so tall? Are you retarded or something?”
“My mom says your mom and dad are drug dealers and that’s why your daddy drives a mercedees.”
“You’re so fat….get out of our way.”
And the boys…well, they did the same. You could see struggle on a few faces, knowing that the hate they dished out daily was empty and cruel, but again, did nothing to stop the hurt. My hurt.
What they seemed to solidify within me was that I was incomplete without them. I realized I couldn’t hang out with the other kids in our small-town class of 40, because no one else even knew me. If I wasn’t cheerleader friend of 1 and 2, then who was I?
So, I ate alone. I studied alone. And while they continued to pretend to be my friends one second, they would abuse me with their words the next. It was this sick game, and I was like a mouse searching for the cheese in the maze of fulfillment. It is so clearly twisted now that I look back, but in the moment, I hated them and I hated myself.
My parents did all they could to fulfill me, to make me feel better. They were so supportive, giving me hugs and space whenever I needed it. They took me shopping a little more, helped me study, and we traveled on the weekends. They even offered to let me change schools, and over the summer, I considered it heavily.
I hated my life now. I hated being alone, feeling out of place. But running away didn’t seem right. There was something inside me that sparked a few weeks before school began my sophomore year, and I made a decision. Since it was clear that everything I had done in years past was not working out for me so well, I decided to do the opposite. I made a commitment to be kind, to give everyone the benefit even if they didn’t deserve it. To hang out with the kids I didn’t know well.
When I walked into class the first day of Sophomore year, I saw 1 and 2 in their typical corner spot. I smiled, waved really friendly, and plopped my 5’7 hind end in a desk clear across the room from them. Happily alone. It’s funny what happens when you stop letting others affect how you behave. They can’t stand it, you know. Especially if they’ve been in the wrong. My lack of action became a quick reminder to them of all the horrible things they’d done, a slideshow of their nasty attitudes and ugliness.
It was quite funny to see how quickly they flitted to my desk, asking how I was and why didn’t I come sit with them in the back. I just smiled quietly and said, “no, that’s okay, I’m good up here. Thanks, though.” I could see the utter shock on their rigid faces and it felt good. Good to know that I no longer needed them to feel anything. It was a moment of triumph for me as I sat there all smug, full of pride and assurance. It would take some time for me to realize that assurance was coming from the wrong place, a selfish one. And it would bring me back down to the mud before it was finished with me.
Other people filed into the room, and I just made sure to say hi to everyone. I didn’t try hard, but I didn’t shy away either. Within a few days, I had settled just fine into my place of hanging with new acquaintances. I had made no real friends, but I was okay with that. It felt right to depend on myself and none other. The first few weeks of school passed, and I felt very little hurt and somehow I made it through with no meltdowns or nighttime sob-fests.
During that time, I fell in love. The kind of love that happens when you’re too young. You say you understand love, you know it. But you can’t. I was thirteen, for goodness sakes. His name was M. And while he saved me from the ever present tension in my former friend circle, I couldn’t get it out of my head that he was just not it. I knew it. He knew it. We did nothing about it, staying together a year too long, giving away a million kisses that could have been saved for another. He wasn’t my first kiss, you know. That came at 12 to my first real boyfriend, B. He was insecure and clingy, and it didn’t take too much time for him to suffocate me with need I couldn’t fulfill. That’s when M came along and I felt alive. He was tender and sweet, and I did get all the goosebumps that come with young love.
I was still tall, and he was my height, which made it interesting, but not difficult to hug him, dance with him. To kiss him. I reference the kissing because it all leads somewhere. It’s part of the story. Part of the pain and part of the healing. I couldn’t know then what I do now. I should have saved those kisses for my husband. I should have saved those sweet gestures of love for Matt. I had no idea how much so until a year later.
To be continued…