Some childhood memories are never forgotten.
It is surprising that even what might seem like the most mundane, idiotic and immature of events can become such an ingrained part of who you become as an adult.
When I went back to college in September, I had mixed feelings. Here I was, a middle-aged mom who's been out of school for 20 years, going back, knowing full well that my class would most probably be filled with nubile young things who thought they were pretty darn hot, smart, and amazing. I was scared. Scared of what they might think of me, scared they would laugh at me. Just scared.
I was also very excited to be entering a new and very big part of my life, a part that could make me a much happier, more self-fulfilled person, something I have not felt for a long time.
But, try as I might, those feelings of fear and insecurity kept looming up, overwhelming the excitement that kept trying to keep its head above water.
What it came down to, I finally realized, was that I was trying so hard to fit in, to be "one of them", and I was finding it very difficult, if not totally impossible. And it was bringing me down. Why? I had no idea. Why something as superficial as this would seem so important to me was beyond my comprehension. I was more evolved than this, I would tell myself. Get a grip.
However, those feelings of ostracization lingered, until one day it occurred to me: these emotions were so strong because they were the exact same feelings I had had as a young child in school. I was always the shy, gawky kid who was too afraid to stand up and be counted. I was different, and I was too afraid to just be me. Instead, I cowered in the back, waiting silently for anyone to notice me. Usually, it was the teacher.
Oh, I had friends. A few, anyway. But it was always a struggle, a fight to try and remain "important" in their eyes.
Day-to-day living was hard back then. My home life was terrible, and I often wished to be anywhere but there. I had no safe haven.
As a result, I formed a sort of shell around my heart and soul, a tough skin that no one -- no matter how evil or rude -- could break through and hurt me. I decided to be who I wanted to be, and pretend the outside world didn't exist. That way, I could at least be a bit happy with myself, and not get hurt at the same time.
Of course, this type of plan is fraught with false logic. But it worked for me, for a long time. Years.
And that is how I survived. Through familial abuse, through loneliness and sadness, through depression. I had only myself, and I loved myself, although the self-doubt and fear were always looming in the background, always trying to scratch their way back in.
So, as before, once again, I survive. But, even better than that, I belong. I have put my self-doubts away in a back pocket, and I am fine to be who I am. And I am finding that that's okay. It's even better than okay. It's great. And I'm finding that, not only are my classmates accepting me, but I'm discovering that a lot of them feel exactly the same way I feel -- not belonging, wanting to belong, etc.
Small world, isn't it...