I've never been much of a stand out student, or stand out person for that matter.
To this day, one of the most paralyzing moments of my life was during my high school graduation. It was a windy day, I was focusing on not letting my cap fly off of my head while trying to sit and look pretty for the event photographer who was taking snaps at the most random moments when Alec, our male class speaker, went up to the podium. He went on to make a great speech, as was expected of Alec, and during one portion of his speech he started pointing out our classmates and what made them "special", what they were good at. It seemed as though basically everyone was named off in my class except for me. "Oh, Kat's great with animals.....! Myrthe's going to be great in the sciences!" On and on the list went, and I kept hoping that there was a distinguishable quality about me that was worth pointing out. These people had been going to school with me for three years, maybe they would find something special. Apparently there wasn't, as Alec continued to move on from speaking about my class and delved into the cliche portion of every graduation speech that goes a little something like "Things are gonna change when we move away from here and move on with our lives..." Everyone else moved on like it wasn't a big deal, and in retrospect it shouldn't have been. Alec's manner in which he brought it up was meant to be encouraging and positive in the way he was directly addressing my fellow classmates, but I was sitting in my seat for the rest of the ceremony, too enthralled with the fact that I had been spending most of every day of 9 months for three years with these people, and they couldn't find a distinguishing quality about me. It scared me. Oblivion wasn't just inevitable for me, as Augustus Waters was so worried about in The Fault in Our Stars.....it was already happening. I hadn't even officially left the halls of my high school as a graduated senior, and I was already forgotten about.
I know for a fact most people would not associate the word "perfectionist" with me, but the truth is, I have a very strong perfectionist streak that runs through me. I didn't even notice it until recently when one of my professors pulled me aside after class one day and pointed it out to me. "Alex," he stated as he sat at his desk with his feet propped up and beckoned me over, "I know you have probably spent your whole life being told that you have amazing potential. Really though, I think you would be more satisfied and less continuously frustrated if you applied yourself more. I've seen you do it at this point now, and have noticed you're almost obsessive about doing whatever it is that you're setting your mind to perfectly. Do you ever think that you so often just give up before you even try a first time because of this overarching fear of failure if you don't have control over the situation completely or simply because you shrink at the slightest sign of discouragement? You don't apply yourself most of the time because you don't believe in yourself."
Well, it would certainly in a sense explain most of the nightmares I've been having--nightmares that have included a guy breaking up with me because I wasn't the best or prettiest girlfriend, nightmares of me getting back my LSAT score and finding out I had failed, nightmares of my first day in law school, my classroom filled to the brim with people from my past who were ever discouraging or mean to me, nightmares where I got dropped from my modeling agency because I had gained too much weight.
It all suddenly hit me like a swift slap to the face, and all I could think to myself was, "I guess he's right, but dammit, this asshole barely knows me and he just psychoanalyzed me. Cool, now I'm going to be his signature 'work in progress/pet project' for the semester and he's not going to lay off my case at all. Great. Just great." This isn't the first professor or teacher that's taken an invested interest in me. I understand it is a teacher's job to go out of their way to help develop their students, even if it means chipping in more hours off the clock. I just really don't think I'm someone worth spending extra time on.
I really have never thought I was anything special. People say my writing and my eye for fashion are two of my strongest attributes, but I think my writing is especially mediocre. I get sidetracked extremely quickly and often have a case of going over something someone else wrote, and when they make a great point or have that one strong defining sentence that really hits a nail on the head, thinking to myself, "Why couldn't I have written that myself? I wish I had." My blog is merely one out of millions of others written by enlightened people with strong epiphanies that were worth sharing, or were traveling the world and needed to share the details of their growth while abroad. What makes my blog so special, what makes my writing so special? I'm just a beyond confused 21 year old girl trying to figure out my greater purpose in life is while trying to tackle my day-to-day tasks and relationships. Which sounds a lot like the plot of a John Hughes movie, minus the invested love interest I end up with in the end and the awesome 80's soundtrack.
My taste in fashion is something I find fun but also very shallow, at least in my approach towards it. I don't feel I give other people joy by dressing nicely. It doesn't give me much of a personality, it doesn't give me the depth that makes me someone worth knowing. People spent years telling me to go into fashion journalism because I'd be "good at it." A part of me was extremely flattered, as fashion writing and fashion magazines have provided much solace and temporary happiness and have proven to be a great pick-me-up on bad days. They were my form of escapism growing up, when I couldn't leave the house or travel. However, a much greater part of me strongly thought to myself, "That's it? That's all you see me doing with the rest of my life, other than supposedly being a great mom? You don't expect something greater of me?" I realized if I had continued to follow down this path in life that I would quickly develop a strong case of Betty Draper housewife syndrome. Which just sounds sad. I knew my heart wouldn't be into fashion 100% had I continued to pursue it, and I would've been miserable.
To those boys and girls that grow up getting told they'd make great doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, or well....anything that's considered a "respectable career" by traditional standards, you are so lucky. So lucky. I am jealous of you. I get told I'd be a great writer. You know what most great writers do? They write, go crazy isolating themselves physically and trying to mentally isolate themselves from all the crazy thoughts running through their minds constantly, and then about eight times out of ten, they kill themselves in some theatrical manner. This is what career life I get told I should run into. Cool! Life is a treat! Either way (see that whole "getting sidetracked" thing I was talking about?!) I'm jealous that someone has that much faith in you to put the highest of expectations in you. I hope you find encouragement in the standards people expect from you. It must be nice.
Despite the fact that I had at six years old written in my diary (then full of pages about how someday I was going to get married to the kid that played Draco in the Harry Potter movies and how I hated Hilary Duff SO MUCH for being able to kiss Aaron Carter on the Lizzie McGuire Christmas special--my first recorded incident of jealousy) that I wanted to be a lawyer so I could help fix people's fights, and my parents saying that I could do whatever I set my mind to.....that didn't stop all the incredulous looks and strongly defined smirks when I began telling people I wanted to go to law school. Conventionally, I guess, only super standout star students really are considered for that path. In other words, not me. I still remember my old roommate rolling her eyes at me and telling me I was "too nice" to be a lawyer. I even more so vividly remember the time she accidentally butt-dialed me while telling our other mutual friend at the time that I was so very stupid, I had no brain cells, and was too dumb to be anything more than a housewife that bends over for her husband whenever he wants, because at least I still had the pretty thing going for me. You may not realize it, but when you are discouraging and condescending and mean towards others, it sticks with them forever. They will never forget your smirks, your cruel words, your discouragements. They will never forget because it's what's going to fuel them to continue to work for something better for themselves.
I had started to tell my friends that were declaring pre-med, pre-vet, biomedical engineering, etc. as their majors that I wanted to become a human rights lawyer when they asked what I finally decided to do with my life. As I was declaring the news to them, I found my voice constantly cracking in to a high-pitched tone, scared of the response I'd get in return. I still can't bring myself to tell a kid I used to talk to last year, who is currently in law school, that I too want to be a lawyer for fear of being judged even more harshly than everyone else since he's currently the only one actually experiencing it.
I can sadly name off over a dozen isolated moments where I have been told to my face or behind my back that I was dumb, not capable, inconceivably stupid, and only a pretty face with a nice set of legs and hundreds of sundresses, and that was all I was meant to be. (For the record, aspiring to be only a housewife is not "lowly" or should be looked down upon. I can't wait to raise kids and help take care of a home someday. I just know I would never be happy only doing that.)
But you know what? I'm tired of people only knowing me that way. So what if YOU think I'm not good enough for something or am too dumb to be a certain type of person?
Some things you have to freaking do for yourself.
My path isn't by any means straight and narrow, but at least I'm the one paving it with God. I'M paving it. Not you. Not your opinions. Just me, my hands, God's will, and my hard work.
The other day, over Bible study and some coffee, Katherine, my campus minister, and I were discussing what it means to glorify and praise God. Conventionally I had thought about singing worship songs and making speeches in favor of God and all the wonderful things He's done for us, but then it got brought up that many a time, it means doing something and working towards something that you know will make Him happy and praise Him, because it makes you happy too. I know for sure that going into fashion would not be MY way of glorifying Him, at least. I just remember at the Jubilee Conference back in February, meeting a lawyer for the Department of Defense (one of my dream jobs), stating that he found he could practice his faith in his line of work by helping not only those who had been abused, but also by providing help to those who perpetrated the abuse. Even though they're overlooked and did something evil, that doesn't mean they don't need help, as I was reminded surely that day.
I want to be a lawyer so I can help better prosecute sexual assault and rape cases and provide the counseling and help needed to survivors to help them move on and fight back, as I have tried from my case for the past almost two years now. I don't want assault and rape cases to be given a case number, I want them to be given a story, I want them to have the happy ending of justice for those who have been hurt and those who need help to keep from hurting others again. I want to make sure that in war zones, refugees are given human rights to travel safely without fear of being abducted and raped. I want to stop sex trafficking domestically as well as abroad. I want to be a lawyer because I know it is my way of glorifying the person I believe in, who most believes in me, because He created me. I want to help other people because I want to remind them, that despite these awful things happening in the world and the awful things that have happened to them, there is a reason to keep believing in something, whether it be God, yourself, your potential.....just, anything.
Don't you dare ever tell me I'm too stupid to help other people.
Don't let anyone tell YOU that you're not enough of something to do what you are passionate about. Your passion is enough. You are enough.
I was re-reading one of my favorite John Green books yesterday, Looking for Alaska. The book centers around a fictional boarding school in the South and a student who was, especially regarded at his old school, to be a nothing, someone not worth remembering. The story is molded around finding himself and realizing he is someone worth remembering, famous last words said by people who are now deceased, and a torrid love for the rambunctious Alaska Young.
There was one part of the book that particularly struck me (well, one of several....it's a great book, and I highly recommend reading it.) At one point, the narrator, Miles, who has an obsession with memorizing famous people's last words before they passed on, said, "Francois Rabelais. He was a poet. And his last words were "I go to seek a
Great Perhaps." That's why I'm going. So I don't have to wait until I
die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.”
My "great perhaps" is law school, my path to becoming a lawyer and continuing to fully develop myself. My "great perhaps" is becoming someone who is able to help repair others so that they can eventually continue to repair themselves, and perhaps becoming someone worth remembering in that time lapse. Like Miles in the book, I too do not want to wait until I am passed on to seek this "great perhaps." Notice it is not worded as "my great guarantee", because nothing in life is guaranteed. Who knows, law school may not work out, whatever you, person reading this, is working towards may change. Professor, you may have been right that I have a perfectionist streak that stops me most of the time before I even start trying. I think most people are like that actually, not just myself. We all have a little bit of a control freak in each of us, and all of us wants to know our future and a solid path to get there. However, I'm going to not stop myself anymore and just keep pushing forward, despite the inevitable bumps in the road, despite self-doubt, despite other distractions and discouragements. It may not work out for us in the end as we intended it to, but things will most surely work out. At least we can say in the end that we tried.
Which, in my opinion, is always something worth remembering.