Tuesday, July 12, 2005

If you saw me walking down the street...

If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn't really know me. I would be this stranger to you; Someone you would form an opinion on based on my walk, my talk, my clothes and my hair.

You might see me walking with a slight confident step. I know its a heavy walk, like I command the ground I am walking on. This is probably due to my years of dancing where I was always taught to "own the floor".

My jeans are probably expensive but I am not decked out in head to toe designer. If it is a casual day most likely its jeans, a tank top and flip flops. Designer sunglasses....a must.

By seeing me, this is probably the picture you would paint. A south Orange County girl. Spoiled. Confident. Pretty but not overwhelmingly so. Normal.

This is what I think when I see most people. I have come to find out how untrue that is.

Not many people who read this blog really know much of who I am. I am not talking about what has happened to me or where I have gone. Rather, what made me who I am...

I figure if I am going to tell somebody all that has happened I might as tell everybody who chooses to listen. I am not special. I am not someone who they could make a TV movie out of their life. I am just an ordinary girl who did what she had to do.

My childhood was nothing special. I was born into a big upper middle class family. We lived in Orange County. My parents were dual income so I had a nanny, Cecelia was her name. However, not once do I ever remember my parents ever missing a piano recital or a dance recital. I guess that's better than most can do.

I wasn't an easy child. Countless memories involve myself kicking my brother in the nuts with my steel toed tap shoes on, burning his entire hand with a curling iron, and threatening to tell our entire elementary school that for three months I had to sleep in his room because he had read the Boogeyman by Stephen King and was from then on afraid to sleep alone.

It's funny to look back on life and see these tiny little events completely snowball and create exactly who we are today. I still cause trouble. I still cry when anything bad happens. I still remember people looking at me and telling my parents, "Wow she is going to have the boys lining up when she gets older."

Amazing how one sentence, when seen through hindsight can help us be who we are.

I was a cute kid. I was very short and tiny. I had a round face, big huge green eyes, and brown hair. I was like the Gerber baby. This might be great in theory but from a young age I noticed that that was just not good enough. I was cute. I would become pretty one day. However, what I was not was one of those model type babies.

I grew to be an child among beauties. It seemed (and my memory could have been bias) that none of my friends went through any stage where they felt like strangers to their own bodies. I had some baby fat. Where my friends didn't. They were taller and had tan olive skin and no freckles. I felt out of place among my dancer friends. I wish I could say I hit puberty and it got better. It didn't.

When I was 13 I got very sick all of a sudden. I, being already very tiny for my age, stopped growing. I couldn't eat and what I did eat came right back up. I looked like the walking dead and got very depressed. I hung out with the bad crowd (if that is what they are called in 7th grade). Once I had stopped growing for an long time and they figured I did not have the flu I was run through a series of tests I do not wish upon my enemy. They stuck things where they did not belong. They poked, prodded and stuck me with needles. I had a stomach problem and only hard core very regulated medications could make me better.

The medication was worse than the disease.

It is called prednisone and if you ever see a transplant patient where their face doubles in size and becomes "moon like" then you have seen someone on it. They gave me the highest dose they could, patted me on the head and told me, "many kids don't have any bad side effects." they were wrong.

In two months my blood tests had gone to normal. My stomach healed. Yeah!! Woo hoo!!
Except I felt worse than I had before. I gained 50 pounds of pure water weight (which looks like a puffy baloon). I lost all of my "bad" friends. The boys made fun of me. The one guy I had a crush on, who liked me before, told me he just wanted to be friends. I had to stop competing in my dance competitions. My clothes did not fit. My face looked like every one of my teeth got knocked out. It was twice its size. It was then I learned some values of real friendship. The lesson...kids are mean.

It took almost a year to lose the weight, my entire 8th grade experience was tainted by this steroid that I now considered my worst enemy. I managed to enter high school with my petite body again. Only I was short, and my puberty was late, so I looked about 12 years old. (if you don't believe me I swear I can show pictures I could still get in free at the swap meet).

I had lost all of my friends who thankfully went to a different high school so I was determined to get to the popular girl status by any means necessary. I was sick of not being the best. I tried out for cheerleading and made it. I tried out for the dance team and made it. It would be an understatement to say I was not in awe of these girls I was now surrounded by. Long perfect hair. Perfect outfits. They had flat stomachs and hips. They gossiped about their boyfriends and who was throwing the best party that weekend. I wanted to be them.

I managed to make some friends. Some of them cheerleaders, some from my honors classes, all of them friends with each other before I got there leaving me feeling "outside" of the loop most of the time. I was into dancing pretty hard core, so I did not mind the lack of plans. I always had my dance friends and most weekends were spent going to competitions.

I still wanted to be in with this group of girls. They looked like women. They were popular already and even the junior and senior guys lusted after them. I never had even been kissed. I didn't even know how to flirt or date or anything. However, I was still determined. I kept wondering to myself, when I might start to become the beauty everyone said I would. I was still cute. Not a beauty.

It started to change the following year. I got a car and my license. I was the first one. I began to give the popular girls rides to parties. Deep down I knew they were using me because I was nice and had a car. I didn't care I was able to go to the parties. I was able to laugh when someone in the quad was joking about a guy who got soooo drunk the last weekend. It was starting to fall into place. I was becoming friends with the popular girls.

Junior year a guy transferred into our school who instantly became the most popular guy. He was the "hot" one and he knew it. Somehow we became friends. Best friends. Only I was in love with him (well as "in love" as someone could be at that age) and he looked at me like his little sister. We partied together. I became popular. I had my first kiss. I know now it was because I was willing to use my allowance on vodka for everyone and throw parties at my house when my parents were out of town. My once straight A grades dropped. I could not stand my parents. BUT I was popular. I was even friends with all the beautiful people which made me feel like maybe I was pretty too. Only I wasn't really. I was still in my cute phase, looking about 13 years old. None of the boys looked at me as girlfriend material. I was the cool girl to be friends with. I didn't care.

"Wow one day this girl will have the guys lining up after her."

Yeah, uh huh, when buddy???

I managed to graduate from high school and somehow start to look halfway pretty. I even had a few boys ask me out or hit on me. I still felt ugly.

It was not until I met this guy David that I felt like an adult. A pretty adult no less. People thought I was pretty. David thought I was hot. We went out for months. David was perfect. He was going into medical school. He was tall, dark and handsome, polite and nice. He was also very boring.

Next came Omri. Who would stare into my eyes and tell me I was the most beautiful girl in the world. He would ask my ring size and say, "soon." He told me he was in love with me after two weeks of going out and knew in his heart I was the "one." Being that I was so inexperienced and insecure I bought all of it. I ate it all up. Except Omri used me and dumped me when I was at my most vulnerable. I had just gotten back from backpacking in Europe. I had gotten assaulted and scarred. It happened as soon as I landed and something about the way he said, "It's not you it's me" made me realize that I really was not pretty enough. Or smart enough. Or good enough.

"Wow someday the boys will be lining up for her."

I got over Omri fairly quickly with some help of course. But I made a decision for the first time in my life to focus on me. I read every single self help book they carried at the bookstore. I listened to music to interpret the meaning of life. I studied philosophy to gain wisdom and read every piece of chick literature out there to help me feel optimistic ( no joke I was popping out about 5 chick books a week).
I studied Kabbalah, Jung, Toltec wisdom, scripture, Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius. I read Ovid and books of alchemy. I read all of Plato (who I don't like at all) and Locke.

I started saying no to my friends (the popular ones) when they wanted to go clubbing. I spent my time exercising, reading and writing in my journal. I made my own plans, said no to every date because really no one was good enough or worth it.

One day I looked in the mirror. I stood there naked and for the first time in my life, loved exactly what I saw. I loved my face, my hair, and my body. Maybe I finally really did become pretty. Maybe I always was. Maybe it was my mind that changed.

I respected myself. I respected my ability to say no, to fight back, to not be with a guy just because he was the one that asked first. I could make a choice and that was perfection to me.

"One day Rachel, the boys will line up for you."

It happened. Then again at that point I didn't care.

What was more important is that I finally believed it. "One day" was here and the "boys" did not matter whether they lined up or not. (thankfully the right ones did hehe)

What mattered most was I got there.

I was beautiful.


Steve said...

Great post Rach. Can't picture you NOT being beautiful

deanne said...

Rachel, that was a *great* post -- I think you captured how a lot of teenagers under 'normal' circumstances feel about themselves -- but sometimes, they just don't come out on top, and stay stuck seeing themselves that way for ages.

You came out on top gal - nice one.

ethank said...

At some point I will do my spleen vent post, and you will all be bored to tears.

For the record, I left the house at 18, Rachel was 16 or so, so I missed a lot of this.