Stories from a life in progress.

Old scars

I've said here before that my mind doesn't go backwards easily. I have to concentrate to remember what happened even a few days ago, let alone years ago. So I don't have a lot of cherished childhood memories, at least not without pondering it for a while or being prompted by someone with a better grasp on the past.

The automatic memories of my school years are the bad ones. The few moments that come to me easily are the ones that hurt.

There are a handful of specific incidents of other kids, usually boys, making fun of me for being ugly and awkward. I wasn't a pretty kid and I didn't wear cool clothes, and I was awkward, physically and socially. They had a lot of material, and they used it, and I still remember a few of those days, because of how badly they hurt.

The grownups didn't help, because the only advice I ever got was to "ignore them." I am not able to ignore people. I simply can't, and I really especially couldn't then, a geeky awkward little girl who desperately wanted acceptance and friendship, and had so little of it and had no idea where to find more. The best I could do was not respond. But that was like standing still and letting the other kids stab me even harder, because I didn't fight them off.

I didn't have an emotional refuge at home, except what I made for myself. The simple fact is, my parents express love by service, and I need to hear love in words and affection. (I don't know much about "love language" stuff, but I think my family and I speak vastly different dialects of it.) I never wanted for a thing when I was a kid, all of my needs were amply met, and I didn't even notice or think anything of it. But I wanted affection and hugs and to hear that I was loved, and I didn't. Maybe that was the worst hurt. The fact is, it is still easier to talk about hard emotional things on a public blog where anyone in the world can read it, than to my own family. That's a deep grief for me, and I think it always will be.

I protected myself by retreating into my mind and imagination, where I could have friends who liked me and trusted me. Any book I read, any movie I watched, any story that caught my interest was a potential source of friendship and adventure. I so easily imagined my way into those stories, and I was important there, important and needed and wanted. It was easier to avoid the real world than learn how to live in it, so I did. I hung on to my imaginary worlds for a very long time, long past childhood, still depending on them to meet deep emotional needs that were not acknowledged or received in the world around me.

One of the good times that comes back to me easily was the second or third weekend of April in my junior year of high school, 1994. It was a special trip to New York City with a music fraternity I belonged to, and walking around the streets and goofing off in a hotel room with a handful of the other teens, I finally thought with absolute recognition, these people actually want me here. They are glad I'm with them, not just putting up with me. I have actual friends here.

Junior year of high school. That's how long it took for a geeky, awkward girl to make some friends.

I know why I fear rejection so much. I know how much damage it did in a sensitive girl's childhood. I know how fierce the pain was, behind the old scars.