At 28, I’m struggling with feeling like a Problem. No one’s telling me I’m a problem. In fact, all signs point to the opposite. I have all “benchmarks for success”: a college degree, a home, a career. I am loved by many amazing people too.
This Problem thing is a daily struggle—it’s one that has robbed me of friendships, intimate relationships, personal fulfillment and plain old joy.
I can’t point to one thing from my childhood that went wrong or was said or wasn’t said. It just isn’t that simple. I know these things: I was born with a strange soup of chemicals in my brain and I grew up feeling like I didn’t quite fit in to my surroundings—at home, at school, or in my community. I also know that the more perfect and in control I tried to be (or others asked me to be), the less things worked.
I remember the Problem thing starting when I was pretty young.
When I got squirrelly at “grown-up events” that demanded my mouth be zippered shut and my bum be glued to the seat, my Dad would entertain me in the best way possible: with drawings.
It was our secret.
I shared his dark sense of humor and admired his controlled, straight lines. They were so controlled in fact, it was if they were drawn with a ruler.
My lines didn’t look like that. And like a baby duckling does, I tried and tried to mimic his freehand razor-edged control. Only, my lines looked nothing like his. At some point, I began to see this as a Problem to be fixed.
Those architectural straight lines extended to our household too. Dad, Mom, Brother and I lived in a very hushed white house with white cars and white dining table and chairs. They were very peaceful. I was very loud. By age 7, I was a kaleidoscope spilling and uncontrollably leaking my Technicolor spectrum all over the nice white things. I was me. And I felt like big a Problem.
Sometimes so much energy would surge through my little body that it felt like my circuitry would blow if I didn’t get it out. NOW. I had multiple ways of coping with this (and most involved blowing other peoples’ fuses, though that was never my intention): picking on my little brother, exploding on my parents, immersing myself in creative projects and unleashing my wild thing outdoors. My tools were limited and now, looking back, I feel very sorry for that little girl. While she was going off like a Roman candle, she was oddly enough very much alone in the dark.
As hormones entered the equation, I tried to reconcile the uneven tidal waves surging through my brain, rocking me to and fro. It seemed the more that I tried to contain myself and obey pleas to “just be sweet,” the more things just oozed out.
There were a lot of grown-up attempts to control me and bulldoze my highs and lows. I wish that there had been equal efforts to tell me it was o.k. to be me—that it was o.k. to be a squiggly line.
I know you’ll join me in thanking my guest blogger. Not so far from childhood herself, she articulates how many kids must feel. Her writing makes me resolve to not only “allow” squiggly lines to be themselves, but to also delight in them! Don’t forget to hug the Problem at your house today!