The familiarity of the woods remained there for me; a small conduit to something greater, something forever home for me, but my humanity still demanded that I make connections with my own kind, and explore outside my small family circle. I loved other children, and often came off as rather intense and overly forward, which alarmed some kids. Often their reaction to my overt friendliness would be a shutting down- a withdrawn glance when I wanted to connect, a backing away when I wanted them to come closer. This was hurtful to me, and spawned a sense of mistrust and bewilderment, which soon snowballed into social awkwardness and self-consciousness.
Realizing that you are not actually the center of the universe is a harsh lesson. Every child eventually confronts this reality, but for only children, the lesson comes a little later, a little more painfully. I suppose by then we’re pretty well established in our self-centeredness. We have settled into the comfort of having the belief; “It’s all about ME.” When we see our effect on others, the internal dialogue changes. When I realized that I was weirding out other kids, I became suddenly aware of the effect I had them. Suddenly, the opinions of the world began to matter. And the opinions hurt.
For whatever reason, my social intensity and nerdy, awkward blundering didn’t scare off Stacie, a girl who was assigned to sit next to me in fourth grade. Stacie was a pretty girl with curly light hair, a sparkle in her eye, and an infectious laugh. She was popular and easily liked. Where my interactions with others were often artless and floundering, Stacie seemed to get along flawlessly with kids from every social circle. She could laugh and chat, perfectly at ease with any group of people, and somehow she was able to charm the pants off of both children and adults. She was a natural social virtuoso.
I wasn’t sure why she liked me initially, but over time our friendship grew into a solid sisterhood. Stacie helped me to be somewhat less of a blundering dork, and helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin. She suggested clothes for me, did my hair, and taught me how to French roll my pants in the neon, white-washed denim age of the early 90s. We knew each other down to the very bare bones of our personalities. There was no bullshitting between us. We were attached at the hip, as my whole family became used to calling us.
Stacie went everywhere with me. Her home life was tumultuous, so she practically lived at my house growing up. If it was a weekend, she was sleeping over. She came on family trips and vacations with us for years. She coached me through my graceless social interactions, introduced me to her friends, and modeled picture perfect manners around adults, but behind closed doors we gleefully threw away our masks and let our dirty, obnoxious, hilariously raunchy true selves shine.
Our shared passions included seeking out extreme experiences to alleviate boredom. We were wild women in the making. We plunged into the icy Maine ocean waters in April, screaming from the rawness of it. We went on “night walks” and terrorized neighbors by ding-dong-ditching and stalking people in the shadows. We shared becoming women together, and played on Dad’s Xerox machine, taking photocopies of our asses for hours on end, laughing hysterically and hiding the evidence deep in the backs of closets. He never asked what the holy hell was happening to all his copy paper, bless'im.
My friendship with Stacie caused a huge shift in my perception of my world. She was the first person who I really bared my soul to. We fought like rabid cats, screamed obscene insults at each other, then met up to play Monopoly for 16 hours straight. I got jealous when my family seemed to like her better than me. We were sisters in all ways but by blood.
Stacie’s friendship and guidance allowed me to begin to relax, and stop trying so hard to say and do the least objectionable things. To my surprise, other people had started to find me charming and funny, even when I was being my usual intense and generally offensive self. My newfound acceptance by the other kids ironically made room for me to be more myself. I stopped second guessing everything I thought and felt, and began to let things fly off the cuff, saying things I felt like saying without filtering it all in fear of offending others. This fresh lack of pretense resulted in a general likability that I didn’t have before, snowballing my confidence further when it came to speaking my mind. I decided that I was going to be me, despite what others thought, and that was a decision that would set me up for incredible struggle and harsh trials later.
I knew this going in. I set myself up.
I slowly became someone who had no fear of consequence. The fear I had held before had paralyzed me, and I was learning to slough that off and plow forward. It’s not that I had no thought of the repercussions of my actions - more that I wanted to experience the consequences. I was willing to feel life’s pain and experience the struggle as much as I wanted to dive into life’s pleasant things. I wanted to feel the feather and the razor. I wanted to fly. I wanted to plummet.
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My compass has always skewed a bit in the wrong direction. I wasn't drawn toward the things that would improve my life or circumstances, but toward experiences that would peel back my protective layers and expose me to the raw intensity of life. All the pain of it, all the pleasure and agony and confusion and awakening I could find. Through it all, I wrote about it, and I am sharing it here.