I recently had to write a short biography for a reviewer who was reviewing my book and I called a friend to get her opinion on it. When I was finished, she commented, "Ive never heard you talk about yourself like this. It's great!" First, I wondered if she meant the bio was great, or the fact that I was looking at myself from a different perspective. That got me thinking.
I realized I've never seen myself before. I mean I've looked in the mirror and seen my reflection, but I've never seen myself through my own eyes. I've always seen myself through other people's.
I saw myself as the ugly kid because that's what they called me.
I saw myself as the nerd because that's what they called me.
I saw myself as the faggot because that's what they called me.
I saw myself as the child responsible for his parents' divorce because they separated.
I saw myself as the abandoned child because my father left and rarely contacted me.
I saw myself as the child who was never good enough because I could never live up to my stepfather's standards.
I saw myself as weak because I never learned to stand up for myself.
I saw myself as the mediocre teacher because my students weren't always understanding my lessons, and doing poorly on the standardized tests.
I never saw myself as a decent writer because I never made the connection that the writing I was learning in school could lead to publishing, or that the adventures running around in my head were good enough to write down and perhaps even publish.
In his song, "Outlaws of Love" Adam Lambert sings the line "Scars make us who we are."
Some scars heal easier and more quickly than others. I can barely make out the one on my wrist from when I changed a manual transmission! That was quite an accomplishment! I am very proud of that scar. All of the other physical scars I have came from injuries, hardly something to celebrate. Yet, none of them proved fatal.
The emotional scars above have not proven fatal, either. Still, I have not come to accept or celebrate all of them.
My nerdiness I have embraced as a gift. I love useless knowledge, and foreign languages. In fact, I am such a language geek, one year in high school I went directly from my German class to my Latin class to my Spanish class. In some of my language classes, if the teacher graded on a curve, my work was taken off the curve as not to skew it unfavorably for the rest of the class. In another class, when one student scored 1/2 a point more than I did, the class went into shock. I mean it was a careless error on my part, but the fact my test wasn't perfect astonished them. And that's who I am. A nerdy geek!
I have learned the truth behind my parents' divorce. It wasn't my fault. Okay, let's move on. My father didn't always call me, and I saw him rather infrequently as we lived all over the western half of the US, while he was somewhat stationary in Southern California, except for the short amount of time he lived in Oregon. I've learned my mother wasn't the quickest to get our new address to him when we moved. So, it wasn't his fault completely. I'll work on this one.
As for my stepfather, even his own son, my half-brother, couldn't live up to those standards. My brother later rebelled, I retreated into my room and read. And while he never berated me for not meeting his standards, perhaps it was his praise I was seeking, which was not as forthcoming as I felt it should have been.
As for the faggot comments, maybe they were aware of something I wasn't back then, but later came to accept and celebrate. Maybe now that the issue of full marriage equality is threatening others, the new bullies are spewing forth their hateful diatribes and that has stirred up some of my internalized homophobia and self-doubt many of us gay people still have. Or perhaps I'm finally accepting my singleness and stepping into a community I no longer recognize or feel I fit into which has me nervous and fearful. I'll take baby steps.
In terms of the writing, it is all very new to me. Writing is emotional, the author exposes his/her emotions and creativity to complete strangers. I have always been more logical in my approach to life and emotions can be frightening. I've never had a class in creative writing, I've never learned how to be creative, or how to structure a story. So, in my mind, how can I just be good if I never learned how? Yes, there are books to read and classes to take so people can develop a writing style and learn story structure. Right now, I don't have time or money to pay for classes or read more books, so I need to trust in myself. Not an easy thing to do.
Accepting compliments for me is not always easy. As a society we are all too often looking for the negative, when we should be focused on the positive. During this new stage of my life, I've been focusing on positive quotes and inspirations. I try to keep this idea in my head:
When people are trying to bring you down, it means you are above them. (And they don't like it!) [Parentheses mine].
So, how do I see myself now:
I see myself as a kind man, a good person -as I try to treat others as I want to be treated.
I see myself as someone who likes to nurture his brain, they say it wards off Alzheimer's.
I see myself as a gay man, and if you don't like it, you don't need to be in my life.
I see myself as a gay man who is striving not to be a WeHo cookie cutter processed clone longing fit in to some subgroup, but choosing to stand out on his own.
I see myself as a survivor because of the tribulations I have overcome.
I see myself setting my own standards, and living up to them. If I don't, it's not the end of the world.
I see myself as a person discovering his strength as he learns to speak up.
I see myself as a teacher who tries his best to bring his students to the learning, but, unfortunately I can't make them think. I may not be the best teacher to reach that child, and can only hope my best has been a foundation for further progress.
I see myself discovering my gift of writing as I continue, and learning to trust that it is good to those who tell me. All that matters is that I like it. If others do as well, that's extra. Just as I'll never reach every student, I won't connect with every reader. I'll just have to learn the mechanics as I go; after all, isn't that what editors are for?
I see myself learning to balance my emotions and my head, and if I can validate my nerdiness and language abilities as a gift, isn't writing a way of working with language? I see myself as a man learning to trust his emotions. And they're just fine.
I see myself as someone coming to terms with a lot of change at once, and learning to adjust to a new life, one step at a time.
After all, isn't life one big learning adventure?