The Girl No One Saw

Growing up, I had what I will call, an alternative childhood. I loved books and one of my greatest unmet childhood desires was to be read to. My mom and step-dad worked crazy hours and there was rarely anyone around to guide me or nurture me let alone read to me. Without a present parent, the circumstances were far from ideal. I did not have sleepovers or even a best friend. How could a girl have a best friend when she had no clue how to even be a friend? Now, as an adult writer, it is my job to not only write about what happened to me but how it affected me and how I grew because of it. Most importantly, how I managed to get through to the other side.

I’ll be honest. I made it through by stumbling my way along, picking up experiences as I went. I learned life-lessons from sharp comments and public humiliation. I learned how to laugh because of social ostracization. I learned how to do things by watching others from the sidelines of life. The perpetual wallflower. The fly on the wall. The girl no one sees. Finding better ways to be ignored rather than to be abused or humiliated was my central goal during my early years. During this period, I tried to make myself small and insignificant– to which I succeeded for the most part but also hindering my growth.

Also, my alternative childhood left me too scared to try new things, a problem which has continued to plague my adult life. I was not taught that it was okay to make mistakes because that is how you learn; I wish I had been taught that one. Instead, I was taught that not only was making mistakes a bad horrible thing but that I was only good at making mistakes. That was my everlasting teenage state. I was always wrong. I was born wrong into a world that would always see me as wrong, a single weed in a valley full of beautiful flowers.

But in a way, these turned out to be good experiences. I learned to entertain myself. I learned to embrace my weirdness and used it to create laughter when I could. I was semi-cautious and managed to stay out of trouble for the most part. However, I’ve struggled as an adult to learn all the things I missed out on as a child. I’ve found that as a writer, I must observe everything around me in detail, and in doing so, I also am able to shine a light on my own flaws. “To succeed in life is to be able to transform.”

I think this is why I like writing so much. I can write to my heart’s content. I can let it all spill out on the page. I can use what I find within myself, deep below the surface. I can take what I learn about myself and transform my ideas both on paper and in my mind. I can choose what I focus on and how I focus on it. I can find my own alternatives and develop positive action.

When I share what I have written, I am always surprised to find others who feel how I feel, have had similar experiences, or who share my perspective. It reminds me that no matter how alone I feel, I’m not. There might not be many people like me in the world, but there are enough of us that I can finally open to the world around me. I cannot change it no matter how much I want to. All I can do is observe and adjust my own sails. I will always come up with solutions. Being resourceful is how I have made it to my alternative adulthood. Growing is how I made it to the other side.




Personal Essay #42

During my childhood, I was starving to learn. There were no real books in our house and no one around to learn from as both my mom and my step-dad worked two jobs during those early years. I wanted to learn to work on cars, throw a ball, and climb trees. Instead, I was taught how to fold laundry, clean the bathroom, and do the dishes. I was rarely around people that I could really learn from and my life took on a very secluded and barren state. I wanted to learn to do real things. I wanted to grow.

I watched instead, longingly. I tried to watch and learn on the rare occasion that I was near someone working on a car before they shooed me away. I sat on the bench, watching others out on the field toss around and hit the softball with ease and grace. I watched nimble children climb trees. Even though I wasn’t the girlie type, I even watched the girls at school putting up their hair in pretty styles while I struggled to make the basic ponytail look good.

There are even more things I wanted to learn to do. I’ve always admired strong swimmers. I have never been one nor am I graceful when I do swim. All these things make me wonder, especially now that my own child has grown, why didn’t I learn these things? (I gave my son as many opportunities as I could afford.) Was it the opportunity? (I know I had few if any.) Was it just a lack of natural ability? (Please don’t throw me a softball as I am likely to catch it with my face.) Was it fear? (I’ve always been quite timid about learning new things even though I have a strong desire to learn them.)

I do have skills that I have learned over the years, many of them self-taught with minor instruction. Therefore, many of the things I can and do, are not done efficiently and most likely don’t fit into what is commonly taught. Although I do partially learn by watching, I also learn by doing and I have learned to do a great many things through trial and error.

The great thing about learning and about being self-taught is that I have learned to figure things out and to solve my way out of problems. I am rather successful at solving the majority of problems I have to face. I won’t lie, I still have plenty to learn, but I am done with watching things from the sidelines. I am halfway through my life and running out of time. It’s time to start doing.