When I think of adjectives to describe myself, confident, articulate, and skilled are not the first things that pop into my head. That’s not my tape; that’s not the dialogue that plays. So when I hear it, I don’t always know how to respond. True or not, it isn’t the norm.
I am ugly.
Today, I cried. So many reasons.
I am stupid.
I was sitting in my literature class today taking a reading quiz. I got done early, because I always do. My mind was wandering, and as I looked around the classroom my eyes came to rest on the bulletin board three feet to my left. There were several posters. Two of them were out of date. But one was new and had never been there before. “If you’ve ever been the victim of sexual assault, family violence, or a violent crime, there is help.” And then it listed all sort of hotlines.
I understand the measure, I really do. Some people need these things; some people would write this information down and even use it. But I already have this information, because I have used it. At the first opportunity, I snuck over to the bulletin board and turned the poster around before tacking it back up. I stared at the blank side for the rest of class, because I remembered the words from the other side.
Sexual assault. Rape.
I am broken.
There is something wrong with me.
I met with my advisor yesterday about the classes I was planning to take. We discovered that I only need three classes to graduate. Among the three classes I had put into my enrollment shopping cart was my advisor’s Shakespeare course. I’ve been wanting to take this class since I was in my first year of undergrad. I have always liked Shakespeare, and I’ve already read quite a bit of him. This class has interested me not only for that element, but also because I have only been able to take my advisor for a lower level course. I would love to have her as a professor for an upper level; she’s brilliant, I adore her, and I really want to get a solid A on a paper for her.”
“I need to be honest with you,” she said when I told her all these things, the reasons why I wanted to take her class.
“I’m going to shoot myself in the head taking this at the same time as Senior Seminar?”
“No.” She leaned back in her chair. “There’s a lot of work that deals with sexual assault. Graphic scenes of rape, and we will be discussing these things in class.”
I twitched at the mention of the word rape.
“Spousal abuse. Titus. The Taming of the Shrew. And I’m not sure this is the course for you.”
I looked out the window. I had been excited minutes before and suddenly found myself sad in a way I didn’t know how to deal with. Because it was still interfering. Always interfering. I wanted to cry.
“Why don’t you take Eco-crit instead?”
Because I wanted this. Because I wanted Shakespeare. Because I wanted to be normal, just once. Just one time.
I am never going to be normal.
Never going to measure up.
Never going to be okay.
In psychology today, the professor greeted us before opening with “So, how many of you are parents?” She followed this up with “How many of you aren’t parents?” After this, she asked “Why have you chosen to not have children?” And she called on me, of all people. Me. I walked out of class before I started to cry. I leaned against the wall outside the classroom that led to the courtyard, debating going outside but recognizing the fact that it was much too cold. I sat down on the floor in between the two sets of doors and I watched the trees blowing back and forth and the sun shining and I let tears fall.
I am a failure.
It’s hard to lose someone you love. It’s even harder to lose everything at the same time. And that’s what happened to me. I lost it all. The hardest part for me has been the not knowing why my son died. Why my marriage broke. What I did to deserve the acid rain that made my entire life disintegrate for so long. It is in my nature to blame myself. That’s the tape; that’s what I have been told my entire life.
I am not good enough.
I am always amazed to learn what other people actually think of me. In that over the edge moment today, at just the right time, I read beautiful words that someone I deeply respect had written about me. And my brain had a moment in which it clicked.
I am not broken. I am not a failure. I am not lost.
I cried again. But because for that moment, that awesomely wonderful, fantastic and beautiful moment, I could see what this person saw.
I am strong and powerful and awesome, and not just on the days where I feel good. Every day. I am these things even when I don’t remember. I am these things, because other people see them in me. Other people see me.