The Story I Never Tell Part 9
Every day when I stop writing, I know exactly where I want to go in the next installment. But then people contact me to tell me different stories and things they are going through themselves. These stories give greater breadth to my own thinking, and I chew on the concepts a little longer. You all are helping me a lot. I am very humbled and grateful that I might be helping some of you too.
A friend of mine texted me this morning to tell me that she was gaining inspiration from this blog because she has been catching a lot of flack lately from some people regarding a very powerful, bold step she just took. The move serves her perfectly, it makes her immensely happy and it does no harm. The decision was hers to make and she made it. However, her owning her own power and making a decision that serves her best has made other people uncomfortable. There are many people judging her vocally and behind her back for doing what she needed and wanted to do for herself. It can bring a body down.
As I was texting with her, a different perspective shone clear: this judgement is fantastic news! The judgement of others coming up into the open air is the fucks rising from the shadows. Once we see the fucks, our dragons can burn them to ashes. Until they present themselves, we might not even know they are there. How can we fight the fucks we cannot see? So this is what we are going to do, my dear ones: we are going to welcome the fucks. We are going to be our truest selves, we are going to pursue our dreams, we are going to be exactly what God intended us to be, and when others confront us with judgement or castigate us for our choices, we will think, “YES! A fuck has emerged and now I will burn it to ashes with the dragon in my heart.”
We are in this together. We are not to be pulling anyone down. We are not here to insert our judgement. We are not here to superimpose our desires onto others’ lives. We are not here to make ourselves smaller so others feel bigger. We each get to tell our own story. We need not mold our stories to fit the guidelines and parameters put in place by others, and we need not concede our stories to be told by others while we play the parts they write for us. Those are not the rules. And it doesn’t make sense anyway. We can’t do a good job of living under those constraints, can we? We can only offer a small fraction of our gifts to the world if we are trying to flourish in a story written for us by others. My parents thought I would be a good doctor. Wanna know why? Because I have a super sensitive heart, as in, I cry a lot. Outstanding reasoning, I know.
So I get to UVA and my dad had made me sign up for the pre med Chemistry. He said, “Oh, you will love it! It will be much better taught than the basic Chemistry, and you will learn so much more.” And I said, “Daddy, that is a very bad mistake, I am terrible at Chemistry.” And he and my mother said, “What do you mean? You got an A in AP Chemistry!”
Little did they know that I, and every other girl in AP Chemistry, got an A because Logan the Lech liked teenage girls. And he would stand behind us and put his hands on our necks and then down the backs of our shirts while we squirmed and flinched and did backbends to peel our rhomboids from his gropey fingers. I imagine he went further than that with others, but I can honestly say that’s as far as he went with me and my bench partner Chris (as in Christine). The following year I got an A in AP Physics because I washed Mr. Toney’s coffee pot. Anyway, I signed up for that class knowing better and it remains to this day among the most shameful experiences of my life.
My partner’s name was Julian. He was half Asian and half White, handsome, strong, and his face is emblazoned on the forefront of the crate in which I hold my shames. He was so smart and really patient and nice to me despite the fact that I was the worst Chemistry partner in the history of the world. Literally, the world has never seen a worse Chem partner than I was. I was clueless about every single thing, and I began failing from minute one, like when they explain the lab equipment. Once the experiments started I was useless. I used to cry in my goggles. When you cry in your goggles, they fog up. When you are crying in Chem class, it only gets worse. You didn’t understand to begin with, and then as class proceeds, there ensues a calamitous comprehension breakdown, and that is only made worse by the fact that you are crying so you can’t see, and you’re crying, so your heartbeat is in your ears so you also can’t hear. Then there was the patient, kind, yet woeful face of Julian who had to do the whole thing himself while also sort of trying to carry me while I sort of tried to keep up, when we both knew this was a lost cause. On top of all this was the ever present rolling thunder of shame that followed me around everywhere I went. And that was lab class. Then there was recitation, where you went to go over all the homework, and lab write-ups. You know how in Chemistry there’s “moles.” Ya.
Our section TA was young and from some Eastern European country. She was so disgusted with me. Rightly so. I didn’t understand anything, and I hadn’t understood anything from the 11th grade on, and I couldn’t ask for help. You know when you are so far gone you can’t ask for help? That was me. So before too long, I just stopped going to class. I just stopped.
Among my great shames is that when I was 17 and I got to UVA, that I didn’t have the grit, or the confidence, or even the smallest clue how to handle this situation. I told my dad I needed to drop this class and he said no, that it would get easier. I was so ashamed of myself that I didn’t insist, and I didn’t go to a counselor, I didn’t ask my RA what a person did when they were in that situation, I didn’t do anything at all. I just stopped going to class. And I failed Chemistry.
This of course is not my dad’s fault. This is entirely my own fault. But you know what it’s a really good example of? It’s a really good example of what happens when you are playing a part in a story someone else wrote for you, rather than writing your own story unapologetically and suffering no judgement against you being exactly who you are. That was 32 years ago and I’ve been dragging that shame along with me in my giant, bulletproof, lead-lined, steel-reinforced crate of shames with Julian’s face perma-sealed to the front all this time. That box is open now, and I’m burning the shames one by one. Shame #1: I went to the University of Virginia and failed Chemistry.