Recently, my ex and I had teacher-parent conferences. Rowan’s was the same kind of wonderful review she gets every year – accelerated in math and reading, kind, genuine, a good friend to all. Imaginative and well-rounded. Nova’s was similar – very, very bright, remembers instructions from a few months back and sweet in groups. But her teacher was concerned that she doesn’t like face-to-face talks and avoids eye contact. Well, of course. She’s an introvert, and I’m not that old that I don’t remember what that’s like. I even asked Rowan what she thought about that comment (she was there with us for Nova’s teacher conference). Rowan said, “Oh, I totally understand. I always get nervous when I talk alone with a teacher, like I’m in trouble.”
I got a little annoyed at that teacher, though I understand. I want my children to do well–yet, my mama-bear protectiveness doesn’t like it when someone insinuates that my kids need to change in order to do well. I felt a bit offended that Nova concerned the teacher because she is an introvert, yet I agree that it can be a liability if too pronounced. After all, I was a terrible introvert as a child, and I have worked very hard to become more friendly, more extroverted–because I am happier that way.
That’s the cruel realization of life, isn’t? It may not be enough just “be yourself.” What the heck does that mean anyway? I can be kind, and I can be selfish. I can be my best self and I can be my shallow self. We all know that there is a difference between our dark side and our enlightened side. So what do what do we feed? What do we encourage? The black wolf or the white? What we choose ends up choosing our friends and our life for us.
I was not a great person growing up. Sure enough, there was a spark of goodness inside me, but the fear and anxiety and the sadness suffocated what could have been great. I was desperate to be loved, and that desperateness made me awkward and off-putting. It took me a long time to understand that people reacted to what I hoped to hide. Until I could love myself and accept myself, shadows and all, how could I hope for someone to accept me?
And then came the randomness, joy, and light of forming true connections to people and their true souls. I was not good at choosing people in my inner circle, I was too confused to know what I really wanted and really needed. So fate favored me by randomly selecting people that would help.
A long time ago, when I was miserable and wished I was dead every day, I came to the conclusion that “being yourself” is not necessarily enough to be happy. Being “your self” may not be enough. There are consequences, doors that open and close for every choice we make, and our paths are often not clear. A true guiding star is needed. For me, that is being able to stand by my choices in the moment there are made, knowing only what I know at the time, knowing that I may make mistakes and yet everything is fixable. Being grateful for all the players that come onto my little world’s stage, the big headliners and the bit parts, enjoying what is and trying for a destination, but being flexible and knowing that life can change in an instant.
There is a connection between the observed and observer. I can see with rose-colored glasses or through acid-filled rain, and the very lens I choose changes the outcome in both subtle and obvious ways. When I was an introvert, I feared people, yet now humanity fascinates me–and heals me. I want to be seen as I really am–naked and accepted in that, and yet I fear someone with clear eyes will find me wanting. I fear I will not be good enough. But the fear is the challenge, letting go and knowing I may not be brave on the inside, but I can make my actions otherwise. And if I practice the actions of who I want to be long enough, I will eventually be that person I can be proud of.