Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Unbeaten Path

    The passage of time can lead to many things: wisdom, fear, growth, weakness, strength. In my case, time has manifested as comprehension. After all, hindsight is twenty-twenty, wouldn't you say? Details from the past year years of my life now startled me as they came in to focus. I was pretty miserable at my previous place of work. A place I spent every weekday of the last three years trying to thrive. How is it that an unwarranted misery so apparent now in times of happiness was so disguised while it was happening? In some ways, I figure I sunk that sadness down to the bottom of my brain and instead associated my sadness with the unfamiliarity I had with working situations in general ("Isn't everyone this lost and melancholy when they first start working?"). But now that I'm away from that job and the people who tried to make me feel unsuitable for my own skin, I am finding so much clarity. 

     In the spot I'm currently standing, a place that feels like higher ground in many ways, I can see that there are things that happened at my previous place of work that made my eyes swell and my teeth sore, but what sickens me most was that I had really brought this upon myself my entire life. And it had happened because I valued the opinions of others more than I valued my own.
     Letting other's opinions affect my behavior in settings I had less confidence in had become an unwelcome habit of mine since I was a child. I often became compliant, submissive and lost in certain situations when I should have been confident and unconcerned.

     This morning, I awoke abruptly to a dream illustrating these thoughts. It was still dark outside and my jaw felt tight as I opened my mouth to yawn. I have the tendency to clench it during my sleep when I'm dealing with unresolved emotions. I slid my feet around and dangled them over the right side of my bed as I took a sip of water from the cup on my night stand. As I drank, I thought about the dream that had woken me.

     I had been dreaming about the fifth grade. It was a time when I had started taking interest in basketball and the Boston Celtics. Why would a vertically challenged child born in Laker country be drawn to basketball and a team clear on the other coast? It was because my teacher loved basketball and the Celtics, but she did not love me. I figured if I could show an interest in the things she cared about, then she would start caring about me.

     Each recess I played basketball, melting my tree climbing shoes on the hot asphalt hoping that she would be watching me. When we went on vacation to Boston I begged my dad to buy me Celtics gear I could take to school to show my teacher.

    This is my first recollection of other’s opinions acting like my own personal kryptonite.

     In my dream, I had been playing basketball. My teacher was the referee and after every play I made, she blew the whistle even though I hadn’t been doing anything wrong. Instead of telling her off I told her “You’re a good referee.”

    As my bare feet hit the wood floor of our bedroom on this September morning, chills ran up my legs. This dream had awakened me in a curious way.

    Instead of silencing my own voice I needed to do the opposite; speak up! Express my own truth! True, not everyone was going to agree with me or even like me, but that was already the case anyway. By finding my voice and expressing myself honestly at least I would be pleasing myself.

    Walking across the floor I could feel that summer was slowly transforming into fall. On this particular day I knew change was coming.

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