From the Desire of Being Loved

I’m getting to be that age. You know, the age when you take a look at what you have (or haven’t) accomplished.

And it pisses me off so much.

It doesn’t piss me off that I’ve accomplished so little, as much as it pisses me off that other people have accomplished so much.

I wish we were judged more by how difficult it was to accomplish something rather than being judged by the accomplishment itself.

For some people, rolling out of bed every day is 100x harder than running a company would be for someone else.

For some people, earning their high school diploma is 100x harder than the master’s degree someone else earned.

We judge people based on the view from their position. Oh, you’ve reached the summit? What a beautiful view!

That other guy? He hasn’t even made it above the tree line yet.

What we don’t like to talk about is how the first guy had top-notch gear and a guide. The second guy had a pocket knife and a whole family strapped to him the whole time. And when he complained about his crappy knife, someone with expensive gear yelled down to tell him, “Well, at least you’ve got something. You should be thankful.”

Boy, do I ever want to knock those guys off the mountain.

I think it’s great that people are able to reach their goals. I really do. But there’s such a lack of self-awareness in most people. We have this idea that hard work pays off. And it does, but it doesn’t pay off equally.

I’ve always had this idea that eventually my climb would get easier. Maybe I’d get a cool parka or something. If I just kept climbing, I’d get rewarded. I’d get what I’m due.

I’d climb high enough to reach a place where people would see me standing up there. They’d appreciate me and give me a pat on the back for working so hard.

Most of the time, I’m invisible.

My high school had something called Class Day. It was a way of sending off the seniors. On that day, we’d all go into the gym and sit through some goofy prophecies and memories from the seniors. The seniors would have an opportunity to walk out into the bleachers and give gifts to the underclassmen. One year, I had some friends who were seniors. I didn’t expect to get any gifts, though.

I also didn’t expect all of my underclassmen friends—friends who weren’t any better acquainted with some of those seniors than I was—to receive gifts while I didn’t.

I didn’t want a flower or a bag of candy. I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted to matter.

When I’m being really honest, that’s still what I want. I don’t want to be the girl everyone forgot about. I want to matter.

I irritate people sometimes because I’m hard to compliment. I don’t want to hear I look nice or anything like that, but there are ways of fueling my ego, and boy do I want that fuel.

I want people to see me. I want them to think I’ve got something to offer. I want to be wanted.

But I don’t really deserve attention and accolades any more than the people at the peak of the mountain deserve them. We’re all just using the tools available to us. What’s so special about that?

If I’d had a more stable environment when I was younger, you bet your ass I’d have used that tool to climb higher and faster. And I totally would have basked in those back-pats along the way.

If those peak guys had been forced to drop out of college or had a genetic condition that can’t be fixed, you bet your ass they’d be right where I’m at.

I need to get over worrying about how everyone else sees me.

I know what I am.

I know what I’ve walked through.

I know that sometimes I had an easy and pleasant hike up, and sometimes I was barely hanging on by my fingernails.

I know that some people look at where I’m at and they feel like they haven’t gotten as far as they should have. That’s the kind of thinking that jolts me out of my little bitterness spell.

Because I don’t ever want anyone to feel less-than because of me. I don’t want anyone to feel invisible or unappreciated.

Honey, if you’re still on the mountain at all, you’re fucking amazing.

Life’s hard. People get buried in avalanches all the time. And most of those avalanches are completely random. Managing to avoid them doesn’t make you an expert climber. It makes you lucky.

I’ve avoided a lot of them, and I know it.

And that’s just it, though, isn’t it? It’s the knowing that matters.

If you’ve made it higher than someone else, enjoy the view. But also remember that it was partially being in the right place, at the right time, that got you there.  Sure, you had to make the climb yourself, but you lucked out a lot along the way too.

I bitch about where I’m at sometimes, but I know people who are way more ambitious, intelligent, driven, hard-working, and deserving than I am who are way down there still.

A few people tried to knock me off the mountain, but I didn’t fall off.

So, I have a good grip. B.F.D.

I started out with equipment an Oregon Trail farmer could’ve afforded. (Without the bonus points at the end.)

Who cares? Hell, I’ve got a lot more than a pocket knife.

It’s easy for me to forget I’ve dodged a few avalanches that have taken other people down. I fall into that same self-satisfied trap everyone else falls into. I think I deserve to avoid those avalanches. What bullshit.

Nobody deserves the fucking avalanches.

Nobody deserves the fancy starting equipment.

There’s no correlation between what we have and what we deserve.

I mean, what exactly do I deserve? I haven’t done great things for the world. I haven’t cured anything or stopped any horrible things from happening. Why do I deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated more than some other person?

I usually try to do the right thing, but most people do. I’m not any more deserving of “my day in the sun” than anyone else.

I go to the Litany of Humility when I get like this. I came across it years ago and it helps reorient me. Instead of looking up the mountain, it makes me look down the mountain.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

What are we really supposed to do with our climbing equipment? I’m not supposed to use it to make my way up the mountain. I’m supposed to use it so we can make our way up.

But I can’t do that when I’m so worried about getting all the things I want for myself.

The only way we’re going to get to the top, and deserve getting there, is if we all climb up together. That starts with lowering some ropes and lending our equipment to the people who have a harder climb than us.

I can’t control or influence what’s going on above me, but maybe I can help dig some people out of the snow. Sometimes that means I have to climb down to do that.

And maybe I should get over myself a little.

Maybe if I’m forgotten, someone else doesn’t have to be.

And maybe that’s OK.

Survival Guide for Weirdos

 

Weird

Blessed are the weirdos, for they shall something, something… I don’t know, but I bet it’s pretty great.

There are two main things people who know me well will tell you.

I’m weird and I like it.

I’m comfortable with who I am, but I wasn’t always. It was a hard road and I endured quite a bit of bullying and deflated self-worth before I got here.

Lately, several people have asked me how I learned to own, and even embrace, my weirdness. Maybe it won’t all work for you, but this is what worked for me.

Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.

I didn’t know I was weird until I went to elementary school and the other kids told me. Dad used to teach me random words out of the dictionary, so I walked into Kindergarten spouting all those words and the other kids didn’t know what in the world I was talking about. And that didn’t change until I hit middle school.

I wasn’t any good at sports. I didn’t care about New Kids on the Block. I was more interested in dinosaurs than neon slap bracelets, and I couldn’t have cared less about the school’s popularity hierarchy.

I’m also severely lopsided. I’m the sort of person who’s really good at what I’m good at and not at all good at anything else. It was hard being around all those well-balanced kids who might not have excelled in any one area, but they didn’t tank in any areas either.

I was lucky enough to have weird parents. My dad’s overtly weird, while my mom keeps her weird a little more under the radar. But they’re both big dreamers and “creative types”.

My family doesn't build snowmen. We build snow alligator/unicorn/stegosaurus hybrids.

My family doesn’t build snowmen. We build snow alligator/unicorn/stegosaurus hybrids that eat children.

One night, I was really frustrated over cartwheels. I tried harder than anyone in my gymnastics class, but I just couldn’t do them.

Instead of telling me I was actually super awesome at gymnastics (which would have been a lie), my dad sat me down and drew two pie charts. (I told you he’s weird.) One pie was mine and the other pie represented all the other kids. The other kids had a pie that was evenly divided. They had a decent slice for sports. About the same sized slice for math, language skills, art… My pie only had a tiny sliver for sports. Because let’s be honest. I don’t have any talent and there’s no point pretending I do. But I had huge slices in other areas. In the end, both pies were whole pies. They were just divided up differently. And that’s OK. The world needs people who are extra good in specific areas. And you can’t be extra good in all areas. You’d run out of pie and running out of pie is the worst tragedy I can imagine.

It’s OK to be different. It’s even good to be different.

My parents and I had a lot of conversations about that. While they did try to curb some of my quirks (the stuff that was just obnoxious and served absolutely no purpose), they never tried to force me to be “normal” and they never encouraged me to just go with the crowd so I’d fit in. Instead, they encouraged me to find my own way. That wasn’t easy (see the comment about bullies, above), but it was right.

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Some people don’t like me, and that’s OK.

When I say stuff like that, people will usually rush in to say, “Oh, don’t say that!” or “Those people are just missing out.”

Nah. Some people honestly just don’t like me. Sometimes they don’t “get” me or misunderstand me. Sometimes they do understand me, and they still don’t like me. And it’s really OK. It doesn’t make them bad people or anything. I don’t click with every single person I meet either.

The thing about saying, “Not everyone is going to like me, and that’s OK,” is that it frees you up. It gives you permission to stop worrying, “What will the people think?!”

If they aren’t going to like you, no matter what you do, who cares what they think?

Whether people like me or not is more a reflection on them than on me. Maybe their personality just doesn’t mesh well with mine. Maybe their sense of humor is different than mine. It doesn’t automatically mean I’m doing something wrong when someone doesn’t like me.

(Though, let’s be real. If most people don’t like me, maybe I’m a jerk. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.)

Also, people don’t care about what you’re doing nearly as much as you think they do. They’re all too busy being anxious or embarrassed about their own stuff to put much effort into thinking about whatever you’re anxious or embarrassed about. If you act embarrassed about something, that’s a signal to the people around you that this is something to be embarrassed about. If you don’t act embarrassed, people will usually go along with that signal, and assume it’s not something to be embarrassed about. Really. I’ve done some of the stupidest things, and as long as I shrugged it off and laughed, everyone else went right along with me, whether they were my friends or not. (One time, I spilled an entire mug of coffee on myself during an interview for a job I wasn’t even qualified for. I laughed it off and got the job.)

I was embarrassed to drive the family wagon around in high school. A friend called it a "beast" because it growled going up hill, so I wrote THE BEAST on the back window in shoe polish and started bragging about my car at school. Three kids asked if they could drive THE BEAST around the parking lot. If I'd acted sheepish about it, it could have been a different story.

I was embarrassed to drive the family wagon around in high school. It was pretty beat up. A friend called it a “beast” because it growled going up hill, so I wrote THE BEAST on the back window in shoe polish and started bragging about my car at school. It caught on and kids would stop me in the hall to ask how THE BEAST was doing. Three of them asked if they could drive THE BEAST around the parking lot. If I’d acted sheepish about it, it could have been a different story. When you act like something’s awesome, it becomes awesome.

Here’s a tip: The less you care about what people think of you, the more people tend to be attracted to you. Almost everyone wants to be all indifferent toward other people’s opinions, but most people aren’t. Those people like to hang out around people who don’t care what other people think of them.

It’s OK to Fail

People who are different are so used to being judged that it can make taking a risk extra scary. Not only do you risk failing, but you risk hearing about what a weirdo failure you are from other people.

Years ago, I decided that being labeled a weirdo was a strange sort of gift other people had given me. I’m already a weirdo, so if I fail, how can I be any more of a weirdo than I already am?

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I recently launched a new blog. It’s backdated to the late 90s and written by my teenage self. If that’s not weird, I don’t know what is. And don’t think I didn’t consider what people might think. What a narcissistic thing to do. Who cares about your life, Kristy? Why would she do this instead of saving all this material for a second memoir?

People aren’t always going to understand why I do what I do. I’m not going to let that stop me.

And if I try something and it doesn’t work out, I’ll just try something else. Win or lose, I’m a weirdo anyway.

I know several people who I’d say have “vision”. People who don’t have vision aren’t going to understand people who do. And they often try to box those visionaries in and bring them down. If you have a vision, don’t let them.

Being weird is a gift.

Do you know what’s super rare? The ability to make people feel comfortable around you.

Do you know what makes people feel comfortable? When you’re weirder than they are.

Because, honestly, everyone’s a little weird and everyone feels self-conscious about their own weirdness. When I’m out there, being all weird out in the open, it helps people feel like they can share their own stuff with me. And they can. Because how can the woman who impulsively jumped into a fountain just to make someone laugh, not realizing it was full of really smelly algae that would stain her favorite jeans, judge someone else?

I used to hate my crooked teeth, my ridiculously long arms and legs, and my very Italian nose.

But you know what? Nobody feels comfortable around a perfect person. It’s my imperfections that draw people in. I’d much rather have a warm and friendly smile than a perfect smile. My long limbs are good for a laugh and my big nose is a great bullshit detector.

Use a little common sense when trying to make people feel comfortable.This might be taking things a step too far.

Use a little common sense when trying to make people feel comfortable. This might be taking things a step too far.

I’m Horace Slughorn, except less Slytherin-y.

I’ll be friendly with pretty much anyone who’s willing to tolerate me. I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they aren’t valued or accepted, so unless you’re actually a homicidal stalker, I’ll almost definitely hang out with you.

But I do take a special interest in some people and I try to keep a circle of people around me that I consider exceptional in some way (and a lot of them have no idea how special they are). Some of them are people I can look up to and get advice from (because, hey, I don’t have all this totally figured out either). Some of them are people I want to help in any way I can because I see so much potential in them. I think it’s a real gift to be able to watch someone grow into their strengths.

There are so many amazing weirdos coming up behind me. I can’t wait to see where you all take us.