Recently, I was chatting with one of my other auntie's. (Not Hawaii Auntie, but NJ Auntie) NJ Auntie said something really profound to me the other day. She suggested I write it down, so that whenever I feel unsure about myself, I can read it and remember.
For a long time I've had a terrible habit of comparing myself to other people. I think when my mom died and then I merged into a stepfamily, I lost a lot of my self-confidence. Before, I knew my place in my family. I was the only girl. I was aware of what I liked, what I didn't like and who I was. There was no questioning Katie. There was no uncertainty. When women suddenly surrounded me, I was completely thrown off balance, through no fault of their own. My stepmom and stepsisters seemed to know so much...more. I endlessly, secretly wished I had the answers they seemed to have. They had a lifetime pass to Girl World and I had yet to discover my membership card. I wore t-shirts and jeans everyday, my messy long, blonde hair in a ponytail. I had knobby knees and bony elbows. I secretly still loved being surrounded by my mountain of stuffed animals. I had lots of friends who were boys, but boyfriends were a long way off. I did okay in school, but not stellar in anything that didn't interest me.
My stepmom and stepsisters were all well groomed, tall and beautiful. They wore nice clothes. My oldest stepsister was graduating college, moving out and starting a new life. My youngest stepsister was beginning her college journey. I secretly wanted one more year of high school so I could find my footing. Suddenly, everything I'd deemed okay about myself before was put into question, and I pondered on things I had no clue about.
How DID you put on makeup?
What colleges would I apply to?
Did I even want to go to college?
What the heck is this Express store?
Would any guy look at me the way they look at her?
Was I pretty?
Add having CP thrown into the mix and I unexpectedly had a very hard time accepting who I was. In my mind, being Katie was no longer acceptable. I wasn't normal. I was different. I was defective. I felt like felt like a human being that needed to be recalled. No one else realized this. I couldn't dare tell them what I really thought about myself. They knew me as strong, my dad especially.
In my late twenties, the questions changed. I now knew how to put on makeup. I knew what Express was. I've had (some) men take notice and I've been in a relationship. I thought I'd caught up. But just as I caught up, friends and family moved ahead. As I happily congratulated couples on their engagements, marriages and the births of their children, that ugly voice loomed inside me once more:
Would I get married?
Would I have children?
Would I be successful?
Would I ever land a job I enjoyed?
I didn't have the answers and I hated it. I was also very anxious over it. Throughout my twenties I tried on different identities, different jobs and different majors, but nothing felt right and nothing worked. After my talk with Auntie, I suddenly know why. Nothing worked because I wasn't being me. I was only being a false version of "me." I was being the "me" I thought was expected.
I was my own worst enemy.
You know that saying you'll never understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes? That applies to you too. Sometimes, you need to walk in your own shoes. Auntie said that I was so busy trying on everyone else's shoes; I'd lost my own pair. I realized that no matter how many times I tried to be like my stepsisters', my friends or their friends, it would never work, because their shoes would never fit me. Only I could be Katie. I needed to allow myself to enjoy Katie as she is and not who she tried to be.
After our conversation, I read a few blogs to unwind. I came across this entry at one of my favorites, Tune Into Radio Carly. It was a Godsend.
At first, I didn't think much of it, but I as read on I realized the entry was everything I needed. Francesca Martinez was a comedian, an actress, a young woman in her 30's, successful...and she had Cerebral Palsy.
In her interview she discloses that, although she was a secure, happy child, she'd lost her footing in high school and suddenly, she no longer felt okay as herself. Her latest comedy tour in London highlights her journey to acceptance. She doesn't use the term "CP." Instead, she has christened herself as "wobbly." I decided I liked that. As I was reading further something she said stood out at me: There is no normal. That's when I realized the race to be normal is like a race to nothing. We're all different. The sooner I realized that, the sooner I could (finally) begin anew. The weight would be lifted. I would be free. It wouldn't be an overnight process and I might take a few steps back from time to time but I could see now. I've begun to practice walking in my own shoes.
And yes, a bit "wobbly."