Joyful Memories Blurred by Time
As a teenager growing up in a newly established suburb of Los Angeles, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting on someone’s front lawn singing songs from the last decade or so in loud and joyful abandon. It didn’t really matter whether we got all the words right, or sang on-key. We were an accepting bunch who valued passion over accuracy anyway.
Hearing some of those songs today when I have my Pandora station set to music of that era brings back memories of friendship and an easy, carefree life without the teenage angst I know existed. In short, the joy remains, and the pain fades into a distant past which no longer has the power to elicit emotion, much less what surely felt like the end of the world at the time.
My friends and I grew and thrived in a world which we’d soon discover was far less critical than the one we’d move into when we left our idyllic nest for college, the military, or the work force. I’d like to think the people we came to believe held our fate in their hands were at one time as accepting as we were. But I know that’s naive.
A Suburban Bubble of Naivete
We were in a sheltered nook away from harsh realities like poverty and blatant prejudice. I’m not saying such things didn’t exist around us. I will say a large portion of my high school’s population would be considered privileged, both by standards then and now. We were predominantly white middle class with a large enough Jewish population to make us one of the few Southern California school districts at the time to close on major Jewish holidays.
With such a rarefied upbringing, I look back and wonder how I allowed others to take qualities of inclusion and acceptance from me for decades. When I look beneath the surface of those carefree days, I find answers I kept buried as deeply as the feelings I’ve only recently learned to share.
Despite the inclusiveness I remember now, I put a great deal of effort into fitting in where I was never meant to. I tried to fit in with the actors and actresses when my passion for theater leaned more towards the technical aspects. I was happiest building sets and exchanging insults with my mostly male classmates, or learning how to texture a stage from professional associates of the drama teacher’s husband. I wish I still remembered some of the makeup techniques I learned which led to wearing a beard I’d created around campus for a day.
Setting Low Expectations
Then again, my expectations were set low by a woman who’d navigated the perils of the UCLA theater department, yet saw fit to only give positions like stage manager, lighting and sound heads, and prop master to boys. Girls were relegated to make-up and costumes. Heaven knows several of us girls climbed ladders to hang lights, spent countless hours building and painting sets, and many late nights ensuring the shows came off without a hitch.
Though I doubt it was her intention, she helped me set my expectations lower than I deserved from the start. When I got to UCLA myself as a theater major, I lasted barely a year. I couldn’t handle the rejection at all and was ill-prepared to play the political games my high school teacher had learned to navigate in her time there. Perhaps her own biases were the only way she thought she could prepare her female students for what existed in the outside world.
I ultimately left my love of theater behind to knock my head against the wall of another male-dominated profession; accounting. I’ll never really know why I chose the harder road nearly every time, but it continued to be my pattern until I learned to accept myself as I am, and stopped trying to fit in. Perhaps that was the lesson all along.
Fruitlessly Trying to Fit In
I watched my mother try to fit in frantically, desperately, and all too often, fruitlessly. She worked harder than anyone to keep a beautiful home, support charities, stage elaborate parties with incredible food, and clean up her own mess to do it all again. In her mind and heart, she failed until she gave up in the most indelible way possible. In a way, perhaps that’s what finally convinced me to stop trying to be what I’m not.
One of my greatest qualities or flaws, depending who you talk to, is stubbornness. I’ve held onto ideas, things, and people far longer than necessary because I didn’t want to feel like I’d given up. No one ever taught me it isn’t necessary to hang onto something which no longer serves you, or that letting go isn’t the same as failing. I realize now my early influencers didn’t know the difference either. You can’t teach what you don’t know yourself.
It didn’t matter if it was a mismatch of a career path, an ill-conceived marriage, a job with no future, or an idea which had long since been proven faulty. I hung onto them all with dogged determination of a person facing a life or death decision.
Learning to Roll with the Punches
Needless to say, changes were more often than not forced upon me as the Universe knew I wouldn’t release my death grip unless I had whatever it was ripped from my desperately clutching arms with the crushing finality of a tsunami. I suffered for it each time, all the while assuring myself it was for the best.
The funny thing is, I started believing the losses and changes which happened to me instead of being my choices meant there was something better coming, and I needed to clear space. It wasn’t long before those expectations began to be met. Slowly, and with baby steps I moved away from the place where I’d reconciled myself to be underutilized and unnoticed to where I could shine my own light in a way I was meant to in the first place!
I’m still learning to believe I deserve far more than I can see right now, but I am no longer fighting the idea. Somehow, in the process, I’ve moved full-circle back to the carefree, inclusive, accepting girl I once was, and who laid dormant inside me until I was ready to be my true self, and not aspire only to fit in.
Finding the Perfectly Imperfect Me Who Got Buried Under Life
It’s taken most of a lifetime to discover who I was again, and to see I was and am perfect. I don’t need to be anyone but who I am for my friends to love and accept me. It doesn’t matter if someone can’t relate to me and keeps their distance. In fact, I’ve come to love the fact that I truly am an acquired taste.
None of us is meant to gel with everyone. Some do it better than others, either because their corners are less sharp and they can ease into situations more smoothly, or because they have yet to learn, like I did they don’t have to fit in everywhere. Those may still be learning to accept themselves as they are, but though I hurt a bit when I see one of them struggling, I know it’s not my lesson to teach, but theirs to learn.
I had to experience a lot of bumps in the road before I figured it out. If I hadn’t felt the pain of rejection and the frustration of never pleasing anyone, I wouldn’t have come to appreciate my own unique self. I’d never have shed the masks, torn down the walls, and stepped out in all my own bright, gaudy plumage, with a voice that might at times break glass.
I’ll never fit anyone’s idea of normal and that’s perfectly all right with me. I’m a happy little weirdo who attracts a lot of wonderful, quirky, unique people. Life among the people who are their own unapologetic selves is never, ever dull.
Grateful for Every Bump in the Road, Every Universal Head Slap
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the bumps in my road that taught me being my unique self was perfect.
- I’m grateful for friends who don’t expect conformity.
- I’m grateful for the people who held me back, and ultimately propelled me forward.
- I’m grateful for all the times the Universe has drop-kicked me out of a stale situation.
- I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, uniqueness, imperfection, challenges, lessons, rewards, new roads, old memories, friends, family, peace, harmony, health, prosperity, and philanthropy.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward