I find that I write myself differently these days, and I’ve yet to figure out if this is in a good way or otherwise. Sometimes, like lately, I feel like I need to quit writing (negatively) about Stanford and my so-called horror stories here because to be honest, the reality is that my life here is mundane. That is all. I am not a terrible student, academically or disciplinary-wise. It’s not like I’ve never scored As during my time here, or suffer from poor grades one after another, or have absolutely zero friends such that I’m a social hermit – is this the image I am painting of myself? – because I am not.
I am just obscure.
A small part of me worries that I paint such ugly self-portraits of myself here that I come off as pathetic. I don’t actually think that about myself, but I’m aware, too painfully aware, that I don’t stand out. It has come to a point where I don’t even want to, because every time I try to do so – something disastrous, oftentimes embarrassing, happens instead. In fact, I find myself becoming increasingly awkward the older that I grow; my self-consciousness overwhelms and overtakes my being every damn time.
It is really a curious thing, the struggle to fit in and yet the need to stand out that students go through, throughout schooling life. I had thought I could put this behind me when I enter grad school but unfortunately, I think this is simply another reality check we’ve got to face and deal with in every new environment we enter.
Knowing and accepting that however, doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Because I don’t. I fucking hate it.
Granted, I have always had trouble fitting in. There is always something that is too little or too much about me; seldom enough. In high school, I was too loud and abrasive – too this, too that – and here, ironically, I am the exact opposite. It’s frustrating because if you ask me if this is who I recognize myself as, my answer is no. This isn’t who I am. I am quirky and an oddball with certain things yes, but no, I am not socially awkward or inept, the way I keep coming off here. I used to actually believe that I have a decent brain; I used to sometimes call it smart, but I no longer do. I used to represent my high school for public speaking competitions and was in charge of Monday morning assembly, the latter which means I was the girl you had to put up with because I ran the show. I used to stand on stage in a hall filled with hundreds of students and tens of teachers, at least once a week, for five years. Now I find myself nervous and shifty-eyed and at times the horror, mute, when I’m called to the front of a class of twelve.
What the fucking hell happened?
Sometimes I wonder if it is a curse or blessing, likely both, that I come from such a large family. If you didn’t know this about me – I’m the youngest of seven siblings, and I’ve since gained three sisters-in-law, a brother-in-law, two nieces and three nephews with one more on the way. Yes, we add up to more than a dozen – the current count is nineteen, once the newbie little guy joins us any day now. The thing about large families, especially one as massive and close-knit as mine – your support system is solid.
My support system is solid.
Which means I grew up knowing, never once doubting that I am, despite all my misgivings and flaws and imperfections, unconditionally loved. Being the youngest of seven only strengthens this belief; I am twenty-four this year but to be honest, if you catch me talking to Eldest Bro for instance, who is thirteen years older – I sound like I’m fifteen again. Dad still keeps a photo of my chubby five year-old self in his wallet. Eldest Sis carries my heart and soul in the same way she has since I was just a little girl, even though she is a mother of any-day-now-two. My mother still calls me my girl.
I wouldn’t say they smother me to the point of suffocation; if anything, they smothered me with the best kind of love — wrapped with a lot of trust, wisdom, and patience. But what this means for me, now an adult, is that I don’t know how to let other people in because sometimes …I just don’t see the need for them. My immediate circle is so large, so tight-knit, already so loving, that what is another presence?
Sometimes I also think that as a consequence, I never fully encapsulate the wisdom and life lessons from my mistakes and shortcomings …because my landing ground has always been, for as long as I can remember, solid. Eight layers solid.
Until now, for instance, I remember an incident from high school when I was the subject of malicious rumors that was going around the internet. I was called a snob and what-have-yous. I came back crying because of course, it was a close friend who started it. Third Sis, being two years older and therefore still in high school when I was, without hesitation, wrote an open letter in her blog because she, unlike me, has always blogged under her real name. She had quite a reputation even back then and her words, sharp as ever, were succinct but weighty. There were no traces of fear or smallness. She played the protective older sister role then, standing up for me before it even struck me what she was doing, and I have never forgotten that. And in their own ways, from young up to now, all six of my siblings continue to be my shadow and guiding light.
Of course I am grateful, extremely so. What blessings they are.
But I think herein lies the problem, the twist: I become too comfortable. I make excuses for all my mis-wired and defective parts. I settle for just enough, knowing good is great in their eyes. For the past five out of six summers, whenever I am home, they always make and free time to spend with me, even though it’s not always rosy. Any mentions of spending my long holiday productively with say, an internship, is always met with, “What for? You’ve worked hard for the last nine months!” Without realizing it, over and over, I take all the best aspects about their love – trust, protection, assurance – for granted.
Yes I believe I am brave, and yes I believe I am independent. I don’t believe I am completely incapable and unskilled on my own – I have come this far in large part, through my own hard work and determination, after all – but if I am being completely honest, there is a part of me that recognizes the contradiction that I forever am: while I have issues with the idea of settling, physically and figuratively, I have absolutely no problem with settling when it comes to myself. In the years I’ve been on my own and despite claiming self-sufficiency, the truth is, my safety net continues to be incredibly intact that it makes me risk-averse. Stagnant. Eventually, obscure.
Now an adult, I feel as if I am paying the price of these consequences.
I write this, terribly long-winded that I always am – forgive me – because I realized that it is the same way here on web space. Perhaps I am being too critical with myself all over again, trying to throw away a good thing. I’m not, really, it’s just… objectively speaking, like attracts like. You who end up (staying) at my blog finds a commonality with me, little or a lot, isn’t it? It’s the reason you retrace your steps back here.
In this sense, much like my real life, I’ve been extremely fortunate – life occasionally surprises me with unexpected comments from passerby or lurkers, they(you) shower me with kindness and express admiration towards me. You cut me a lot of slack here; overlooking my negativities. On days where I am unforgiving with myself and my anger and frustration wrap themselves in the words I use, you, whether you are a passerby or one of my bloggers/readers-turned-friends who I chat and communicate with regularly — you cut me so much slack. Leaving only words of encouragement and admiration that I don’t know what to make of and wary to believe, but you do it anyway. As if saying,
“If you can’t do it [forgive] yourself, I’ll do it for you: I forgive you.”
Three simple words that carry me to shore each time: I forgive you.
What have I done to deserve your kindness?
Maybe it doesn’t boggle you but as the one at the receiving end of your kindness, it constantly overwhelms me, this person who is technically a stranger to you. And the irony too, because none of the responses I have received on my Facebook, where I exist just as actively though without the veil of a pseudonym, have been as kind and patient the way it is here. I believe I am myself wherever that I exist, online and offline, but maybe it is true — I am my most authentic self here and how puzzling, bizarre even, that it is here, of all places, where I am accepted despite my defects and mis-wirings. This realization, to be honest, genuinely boggles my mind until now.
I don’t know if this constant turn-of-event is a blessing or a curse because I will always be too soft and lenient with myself as a result. You cut me so much slack.
What have I done to deserve your kindness?
I write this with no other intent except to be honest: I know I am hard on myself, especially here, and continually punish myself for my smallness and obscurity. I am not a lost cause, lest my entries foreshadow that, but I am no superstar either. I am not a standout and frustratingly I am, in all the societally expected ways, awkward. I am too loud and too abrasive, not gentle with my words and actions, and at the same time, in an annoying twist, oftentimes mute and bumbling in a crowd of living, breathing strangers.
I find that I write myself differently these days…
…but you, even now, write me in my best light.
What have I done, truly, to deserve your kindness?
These words are small and overused, you might doubt my sincerity with them, but I want to extend them just the same. I hope you’re aware by now that I don’t say things I don’t mean – not here at least, never here.
Sometimes I think, I guess I must’ve done at least one thing right in my life …because how else do I explain why and how that it is only the kindest of strangers-turned-readers who would turn up at my doorstep? I write myself poorly here, yet you keep insisting on writing me in my best light. What kindness; you are all such blessings.
For being, in your own ways, my shadow and guiding light: thank you.