Sometime during elementary school, I was chosen for the gifted and talented program. A test I’d unknowingly taken yielded an indication of a level of intelligence that was somehow above my peers. What I lacked in social skills, I more than made up for in a level of intellect, apparently.
Once a week, they placed me in a classroom with other children that did well on the invisible test and we enjoyed various activities and tasks. This is where I listened to the actual radio recording of War of the Worlds and talked about things like pentameter. I’ve forgotten more than I learned during those sessions. But, one day during the second or third year of these classes, I had an experience that changed my life.
My teacher, whose name I can’t remember, told us to gather around her in a circle on the floor. Once we were assembled, she said that our activity for that day was to tell each person in the class something about themselves. People said nice things about other classmate’s eyes and hair and surface niceties. And when everyone was done, the teacher said that she was going to participate also. She began to go around the room and give each student a nugget of information about themselves, as a person. I don’t know what she said to everyone else. But when she got to me, I was anxious to hear what she had to say. It wasn’t often that teachers gave feedback that wasn’t related to grades or performance.
“Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly” ~ Maria, 11Minutes
My teacher looked me in the eyes and she said, “Tonya. You are very smart and you are soooo serious. Everything is very serious to you. You should laugh more and have more fun.”
I was thunderstruck. I didn’t know what to say. Questions rattled through my brain: What do you mean? How am I too serious? What was I doing when you thought I was being serious?
Those words from my teacher began a filtering of myself and my personality that is still with me to this day. I think I lost a bit of my true self when she delivered what I’m sure she felt were innocuous words. It was one of many blows to my SELF esteem; how I felt about the person that I naturally was. It was no surprise that after that, out of my desire to always please and make others comfortable, I began to be way too silly in class and was often in trouble for acting up in gifted and talented sessions. Eventually, I learned to skillfully detect and inhabit other people’s expectations of me.
Decades later, I’m still doing the work of undoing those words and the word and actions of others that have altered my personality.
I’m leaving many things in 2014 and one of them is altering myself for the comfort and entertainment of others. I’m good at becoming what other people need me to be. This year, I’m becoming what I need me to be.
I’m taking the time I need to understand the impact of everything that has been revealed to me in 2014. I’m figuring out how to become the most authentic version of myself and not filter myself through the desires of others, like I started with my teacher all those years ago. I’m examining the motives of many decisions I’ve made and am making, including this space on the internet. I find great value in silence and observation. I plan to do a lot more of it in the coming year.
So, with all that in mind, this year Essplus will be much less about me and more about people and places that I encounter and allow into my space. What won’t be found here is the banality of daily life ad nauseam. No happenings of the day, no diet updates, no here’s what I ate, etc. The internet is full of that. I no longer have a desire to add to its volume. When I feel so led, I’ll share bits of myself. I hope to add value to the few minutes you spend with me. Let’s see where the road takes us, shall we?
I anxiously await everything 2015 will bring.
I hope you do, too.