a girl remembers (part 1)
I didn't wear pink or play with dolls. I don't remember princess parties or sparkling tutus. I didn't play mommy unless there was a make believe daddy involved if you know what I mean...I never had a Barbie or closets of dresses. I didn't wear my moms heels (she didn't wear them) or try on lipstick until I was told by my parents I couldn't wear make-up until I was 15... Then I did it out of rebellion or if I was in a play, caked thick with theater make-up. I, in fact, don't remember liking very many girls, except the ones who climbed trees, rode bikes, and were totally willing to punch that boy if he was being a bully. I wasn't a bully or unfair. I wasn't mean or scared of much. I was just me. Some would say a tomboy. I say an athlete. I liked to run, play basketball and organize tag, hide and seek and how to get the most out of summer days. It wasn't until my 30s that I discovered how much I loved skiing, so during the winters, I actually wanted to read a book by the fire, write poetry, and act out plays and songs I invented or borrowed. I was confident, charismatic, and bright. I wanted people to like me. I wanted them to see me for all that I was. I was a lot.
I was empathetic and shied away from the group but wanted to be included and felt the conflict of not succumbing to the norm and yet wanting to be normal. I had a lot going on in my head. I was hyper aware of social dynamics, not incredibly sure of the educational systems or why we were made to do busy work or follow (what felt like) arbitrary order. I laughed out loud and yearned for attention. I wanted boys to like me the way they liked the pretty girls but would rather compete for the most free throw shots than wear a dress or let them know how much I wanted to impress them. The more I tried, the harder school, socially, got. Instead of excelling at homework or trying to outshine kids in the classroom, I kept with sports. I was tall and strong. Once I tried out for cheerleading and knew I would never be able to be on the sidelines or a fan in the stands. A bit clumsy and wild in my style, I was not quite on the starting lineup nor a bench warmer... But a strong defensive player with an offensive vision of myself. I never quite knew when to step forward or back and often got in my own way.
School and sports had a secondary priority to my attention and focus because really I wanted to be an actress. I loved the theater, the characters, the ability to escape reality and enter a zone of personas and make believe. I struggled in between age and ensembles and being made fun of by people who resented my out right distain for social games. I was left out of the inner circle and I looked to adults to recognize and praise my efforts. I was in fact a bit of a (excuse the cliche) black sheep.
My junior year, I got lost in school changes and district rules around sports and lost varsity momentum when I transferred. With little grounding and new faces surrounding me during a pinnacle time in life, I found drugs were an "in", a way to distract myself from the pain of being misunderstood, scapegoated and shunned. I figured boys would accept me and let me ride around in the off-roading adventures that girls didn't seem to take unless they were trying to make a mark or get a guy or do the things that I hadn't tried so much, until I realized that attention of any kind felt like affection even if it was destructive and sometimes unkind.
Divorce and life was taking its course leading me towards reeling in self-loathing and a confusing time when the blurred lines of teenage anxiety and poor choices would land me without a diploma, no varsity letters to speak of and the declaration of being done with acting: "I" didn't even exist anymore. It didn't matter what I wore, I didn't belong. It didn't matter what I said, I was so angry and lost. It didn't matter who I was friends with, it all felt very wrong.
I had to get out, I had to get out of this small town. I left without many goodbyes. I hurried my way to a community college in CA to try...something different, something on my own. I found yoga. Hatha yoga in a small dance room, led by a retired dancer, as an elective to an associates degree that I would almost complete before my high school diploma came in the mail... And I was encouraged by an activist, multi racial, equality-writing advocate, professor; she harnessed my rebellion and shaped my writing voice. And a roommate, a pagan witch would shake me up and insist I make better choices, like stop smoking pot and wake up to all you've got! I found the ocean and swam all year. I climbed the mountain in the back yard of a house that created a home for orphans and seekers and believers on the edge of the redwood forest. I found prayer and ritual. I found music and dance, and a freedom to take a chance on believing in myself. I shaved my head and found women not as weird, feminine competitive entities, but as beautiful sexual and inspiring half of the species.
I came out. I got proud. I put a rainbow on everything. I stopped being angry at my mom and focused my frustration on the system. I wrote. I spoke. I found a community. It was on the edge of turning too far down a path that would ultimately would end up on the side of a road, buried in self shame and regret. Instead, I turned right, into the edge of something bigger and fuller and more complete than my fears or self doubt. I kept turning into a righteous being, full of hope and conspiring feelings of doing things better, not just for myself but for the whole. I wore black combat boots and dated girls. I produced art shows and marched; I wrote speeches about equality and made justice sound like poetry. I went back to smoking, lingering in the bohemian trail of new cityscapes. A another school transfer and a move to the city made me rearrange myself into a gal who thought she could handle school, social, seeking and started forgetting what she had found so easily in the ocean.
I almost didn't finish the bachelorette degree, comprised of so many unfocused things that it finally it described itself as a multimedia something... I found my way back to sports, as a coach and a leader in after school programs, hoping I could find that feeling of making that three point shot, or preseason training or the belonging that comes with being on a team. Children were such a good audience for me. I loved my role, my three-striped Adidas costume and persona of being together, even though somewhere inside I was slipping. I was missing something. I couldn't figure out where I had left that girl who practiced yoga and danced on the beach and sang to the trees and believed in fairies and magical things. I decided to move across the country. I had always wanted to live in NYC. No job, no real leads... Just me, a pick up truck and a dream.
...to be continued...
remembering a girl