I’m sure many of you can relate to this tale: There once was a girl who did (almost) everything right. She got excellent grades and she was involved and successful in as many extracurricular activities as she could squeeze into her schedule. Her friends were wonderful influences, and her parents never had to worry about her getting into any sort of trouble. No one had to tell her what to do; she had already thought of it, done it, and done some more, just to be sure.
This girl thrived on working hard and making everything perfect. She enjoyed it, because people seemed to like her more for it. She’d never admit it, but she also enjoyed it because it made her feel superior.
But, the truth about this girl is that deep down she hated herself. So very much.
You know those people who peak in high school? That was me.
That’s not to say I was “the sh**” in high school. Yes, I was in student leadership. Yes, I had many good friends and very few dramas. Yes, I was never bullied (thank goodness!). I was very lucky to have friends who cared and who were “good” themselves. But I was by no means part of the cool group. I was in band—marching band, even—and drama. Two pursuits in and of themselves that automatically excluded yourself from the popular kids at my super cliquey high school (a high school that I LOVED and still do). But, I knew my place in that little world. I knew I was a “good kid,” and I thrived at it.
Most kids are SO READY to leave high school. I was so NOT ready.
I didn’t even pack until the morning of moving out to college and I cried the entire time. I was leaving a place where I felt successful, admired even. (That is embarrassing to type, but this is me trying to be honest.)
At BYU, I quickly learned that the things I loved to do and had worked hard at (flute, ballet, performing), were not going to work out. I tried out for various programs and was just not quite good enough to be accepted; some programs I was far, far from good enough.
Oddly, I don’t remember being super sad about not being accepted. Because deep down, I never believed I was talented enough anyway. I was too scared to keep trying, keep improving, and auditioning again, only to be turned away. So, without much hesitation, I quit the things I had loved the most for the longest time. This makes me sad now, because now I really believe I could have done it, that I could have made one of those programs with more effort. Fear got the best of me.
Instead, I focused on school—something I knew I could still be great at—and being a straight-A student was my new obsession. That and being thin, but that’s another tale, a looooong one at that and for another day.
So, I tackled school like I was out to prove myself to the entire world that I thought was watching. I never missed a class, and I studied around the clock. A’s were the norm. (Embarrassingly, my worst grade at BYU was a B+ in BOOK OF MORMON, of all classes. I basically failed at my own religion!) I met with professors for fun, and picked their brains on how I could pursue academia as my career. I was a research assistant, I was a teacher’s assistant. I wrote papers like you wouldn’t believe. I applied for research grants on the side. I loved it. All of it.
I was also certifiably insane. As in, severely depressed, anxious, and riddled with eating and body image disorders. I was incredibly good at hiding all of this—I should have won an Oscar for my acting. Behind my happy and successful mask, I still hated myself.
I hit rock bottom in ways I’ll talk about later. Just know, it wasn’t pretty and it’s still not over yet, ten years later. I somehow (therapy!) managed to claw myself out of the well, fell in love, graduated, and engaged to a great guy—the only guy to know all of my troubles and love me anyway.
I still left BYU feeling like a success. A PhD was next on my radar.
We moved to CA right after we got married. Then I had a young mid-life crisis. Brad came home to me crying over my identity as a woman almost daily. Suddenly, I felt like my fate was made for me. I was a young Mormon wife. I was supposed to be having babies, not pursuing my dreams!
Yes, I knew women who did both; but I was still fragile. Extremely fragile. I knew having kids while doing a PhD would not mix well for me. Behaviors I had worked very hard to improve on were still apart of my life, always lurking in the wings. I knew I’d slip right back and I was scared of being at the bottom of the well again. So scared. I made a the decision then at 21 years old, that I wanted to be a stay at home mom not just for my kids, but for me and my sanity.
So, I had two options: 1) Pursue a PhD. Get in a world of debt. Graduate 7-9 years later. Then have kids. Or, 2) Become a teacher. Have kids in a few years. Do the PhD later.
Option 1 would still end with me not wanting to work while the kids were young; so essentially, it would be 7-9 years of work and debt for seemingly nothing. Option 2, it was!
That’s when I really became a quitter.
Now, I don’t think I made the wrong decision in any way. I am so glad I was a middle school teacher before having my kids; I am a better mom for it. I am so glad I didn’t put off kids for 9 or more years. I am so glad that I didn’t get in a world of debt. That was the right decision for me and for my family.
What was wrong was how I perceived myself. I adopted the “quitter” mentality. I was trying so hard to not be a perfectionist (with bad perfectionist habits), that I became a passivist to my own life. If I couldn’t be an ultra-achiever, I would be a “normal” quitter, and just not really try anything. I’d never really be good at the flute again; performing was a pipe-dream; and academia was off in the black hole of “will-I, won’t-I?” I adopted the attitude about not-caring for my old dreams because they were so unrealistic, but really that attitude just masked a lot of sadness, anger, and embarrassment for not amounting to anything.
For the past eight years, every single day I’ve thought about pursuing something in some way, wondering what I would pursue, and how. Every single day, I have thought of a reason not to. I’ve become the ultimate quitter, because I’ve quit before I’ve even started.
For one, my dreams have changed a bit. I’m not even sure if going back to school is what I want in my future. I still want to be home when my kids are home, so I only want to work part time when I do work again once they are in school; that actually makes teaching difficult, too. I love new things now: interior design being one of them; blogging being another. (I love blogs. So much! It’s taken me a while to finally admit that without feeling stupid.)
But the real thing holding me back is that I’ve been way too afraid of imagining possibilities that disrupt my life as a wife and mother, which is a role I deeply value. I’ve been convinced that it's all too much work to be worth it, and that I’m no longer smart enough. I’ve let my fear win over and over again, that fear of failure, of not doing things perfectly, and right away.
That’s where this blog comes in. I’ll admit, I am highly embarrassed of it in its current state. The design is shoddy, at best. I don’t know how to fix any issue without a lot of googling. I do not have good photography skills. I am truly skittish about all the posts I have in mind. I’m still that teenage girl who wants everything to be perfect so people will admire me.
Enough is enough. My approaching 30th birthday gave me some courage. I finally decided that I didn’t have to have the perfect name, the perfect design, the perfect game plan for this blog. I didn’t have to finish the illustrator and photography classes I signed up for in “preparation” for creating this blog. It didn’t need to be the “exact right time” for my family (and this very much isn’t, with three young kids at home). I just needed to start and not give any more thought to the likely failure of it.
What do I want out of this blog? For myself, I simply want to try. I want to test myself every day in doing something that scares me. (This seriously scares me.) For others who may read this blog, I want them to feel like they can try too, because we cannot let our progress (and happiness!) be smothered by fear. We cannot let fear dictate where we are headed.
Writing will be a big part of that for me. Readers or no readers, I’m trying. And that’s enough.