Last night, for the longest time in ‘I don’t know how long’ I spent about three hours on Skype with two girlfriends. We talked. A lot. About many, many things including social media and perception. As the conversation grew wings and took on varying subject matters, I listened to how they felt about perception, online identity and what people thought about them when the conversation turned to social media and being who you ‘post’ to be.
It occurred to me that I don’t quite have that struggle. I am confident in who I am as a person and woman. I am unrepentant and unapologetically and gloriously satisfied. That is to say, I have no issues with being identified by the content I put out for the simple reason that for me what you see is what you get.
I am who I am. I own my life, my past, my present, my future, my mistakes, my growth, my opinions, all of it.
It made me who I am today, and bittchh, if you think I got this far and worked this hard on loving and liking me to be ashamed of who I am, you are off your damn rockers!
Phases and Stages
I was a lanky and more or less scrawny teenager. I was the too skinny kid who was more often than not labelled stupid. The one who never asked questions in class, prayed constantly not to be asked and attached myself to wall seats trying not to be at the front, but not wanting to be at the back either. Even though my group of friends were well known, I still managed to insert myself in the middle of it, where I could wild and be myself without external attention. I disliked attention and tried like hell to blend. Now don’t ask me if it worked, I just know that’s what I preferred.
Society flourished in laughing and my flat chest, large kneecaps and no butt physique. Often I was the butt joke of ‘being hungry’ or looking ‘malnourished’. You see, even if you know these things not to be quite true when that’s what you hear over and over as a developing teenager, it’s hard not to believe there must be some truth to it.
Despite that, I had two things that I was bathed in and wielded as a weapon more often than not. My mouth and attitude. Often, it was my first and last defence. Sharp and unrelenting most people quickly learned that beyond everything else I was perceived to be, to overstep into my personal space resulted in a lashing of the tongue that was sure to cut you as much as possible and when needed, small as I was, I could throw hands and did when necessary.
I was always uncertain, my self-esteem was the size of a chickpea. I didn’t think I was ugly, but I certainly didn’t think I was pretty either. My short stint as a model, though it did wonders for me later began with me being a nervous wreck, having had to put my skinny self in a bikini and stand under the “professional scrutiny” of Kingsley Cooper. How I managed to stand straight up during that is beyond me. I shook violently internally, trying desperately not to have it obvious on the outside. I clung so tightly to the internal chaos that I nearly passed out. When it was over, I threw up and secretly hoped I wouldn’t make it. I did, and Lord knows how I managed from there.
Worse than that, I worried constantly people would find out these things about me and tried desperately to wear an outer coat of “okayness” (Yea, I know that’s not a word) that still follows me today. All too often, I’m treated as the one no-one has to worry about. I’m always okay. In fact, when my mother actually said these exact words to me a few months ago, I cried. The truth is, I ‘ve never felt I had too many opportunities not to be okay. I always felt I had to just suck it up and deal. So, I did. I thought I had the worse luck in life and if something bad was going to happen to one person in a crowd of a hundred people, it would be me.
As I grew up and had to take chances on myself, I realized that most of these thoughts and feelings had no basis but the root they had in my head. At some point in my late teens, I realized, that my headspace more or less didn’t help me. I wasn’t going to magically change and look any different. This was me. Klu-Klum-Klum kneecaps and all. So, I acted like it. I went after what I wanted and when I had curve balls I stressed and persisted. I fought through waves and waves of self-doubt, periods when I felt like the world might be better off if I wasn’t in it and when I felt like nothing but golden stature of exemplary failure.
And then I found it. Gratitude.
A wealth of gratefulness for what I did look like. The things I could do. The opportunities, resources and talents I did have. The things I did achieve. I learned to like each one and I learned to love them together. I learned to love Shandean. To not seek permission to be an adult and a woman. I learned to pour my heart and soul into me and not give a damn about how others perceived it or whether they understood it. I learned to love my need to cleanse my heart and mind without letting it fester. I learned to love my bluntness, and I learned that there are things about my personality that are too sharp for others to like or understand, and that it wasn’t necessary for them to. I learned to like that sometimes, to say what I need to say, most often requires a little more thought so as to not offend.
I learned to love my progress in bettering my life and myself, and to love that I am the sum total of who I’ve been, what I’ve done, who I want to be and the person that I need to be to get there. So, yes. I own that I am overly emotional and wear my heart on my sleeve. I own that I live in a world where I have to protect that and I do. I own that I don’t make friends easily, but that when I do I ride. I own my ability to love you and still cuss you out and/or cut you off. I own that I am empathetic. I own my passion, I own my right to be opinionated and express it. I own that I can be loud. I own that I am crass. I own my bluntness. I own that I am sexual and even leud. I own that I am a flirt. I own that I can be classy and rock a room with the best of them, and still stick my tongue out, bend over, twerk and be ratchet when I want to. I own that I am professional and grounded. I own that I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a friend. I own that not all of these things to everyone and more importantly, I own that I will not deny the existence of any set of characteristics to anyone. What you see, is what you get.
I am S H A N D E A N.